AROUND LA WITH AVA®: FULL COSMIC CYCLE

Ava by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Full Cosmic Cycle

Around LA with Ava®

Did you map your way to the path of totality of the eclipse this summer? Did you plan a special event, a meditation, perhaps on this unique first total solar eclipse that traversed America in 99 years? Are you in awe of interstellar happenings, looking to the heavens instead of downward at your daily steps, nose to the daily grindstone, your back hunched into your device, ruled by apps and emails?

Maybe it is time to look up more often, to be mindful of our place in the universe as nature takes its course.

Have you ever wondered why you ended up at a particular place you had not planned on? You could call it serendipity or “sattuma” in Finnish.

I personally was reminded that it was exactly 30 years to the date of the eclipse: the year was 1987, the date: August 17—the date of the “Harmonic Convergence”. That was the date that I learned later all the planets were supposedly aligned. That date my life took a dramatic turn that would last the next almost 30 years That magic date when all the planets were aligned and in a strange unavoidable force brought me to the place of a joyous path where oddly and unexpectedly the great love of my life would appear.

the year was 1987, the date: August 17—the date of the “Harmonic Convergence”.

Serendipity and “sattuma”– every day is full of wonder and unexpected surprises. The control freaks can try plan all you like to make things the way you want them, but a greater power may have other plans.

OK, truth be told in my personal situation, the friendship took 2-3 years before it turned to that OMG love. Those years took to reveal the character, integrity, intelligence, loving spirit, honor and work ethic of a man who would also become a hero to me and my children and entire family for the next 30 years.

Many of you who know I lost the precious “wind beneath my wings” this year. Our 30 year circle of life together was a blessing in every way on this cosmic anniversary. Like they say life is what happens to you after you have made other plans! So true, thank God!

If you have not already, dear reader, may you find your soulmate-hero on your joyous cosmic path!*

*(more happy endings in Finnish Happenings)

Is Mother Nature trying to tell us things?

The Eclipse

The Eclipse madness brought a full feeding frenzy with millions traveling to the area where already more than 12 million people were living in the “totality path”. The commercialization and hype of the event went beyond belief: t-shirts, mugs posters, iPhone cases to say nothing of the windfall for hosted home stays (some Airbnb properties went for as much as $7,500 a night).

Thank God the excited Americans made their way to be near the joyous event of the moon’s total eclipse of the sun that darkened 14 states for two minutes.

In only a matter of days after this celestial wonder and celebration later Mother Nature brought us to our knees with the horror and devastation of the triple-whammy of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. We are humbled at the fury of the natural world and left helpless in its cruel wake. As much joy as there was in the joyful communion of spirit of the solar eclipse across this land, the coming together of kindness and charity of the human spirit in helping ones fellow man was, and continues to be, on full display from every region of the United States. Kindness begets kindness and life comes full circle in the circumstances of our lives.

Things to Ponder Category

Have you ever wondered why Finns love and are so in tune with nature? One answer is obvious: Finland is such a breathtakingly beautiful country. The other may be that during the cold, brutal and dark seasons when nature wreaks its fury, the individual bows down to the inevitable to show reverence and respect for the elements and learns to live honoring what he or she cannot control.

Finnish Happenings

A wonderful Midsummer celebration took place at Suomi Kerho this past summer: musical performances, a sing-along, makkara and accoutrements (and comedy) courtesy of Miska Kajanus. A joyous feeling of a circle bringing us back to childhood brought out the inner child in all of us. Well done, Suomi Kerho.


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-Decorated as Knight Order of the White Rose of Finland

On a personal note, a full cosmic circle with a joyous celebration – It was like yesterday… young girl untimely taken from extended family and beloved homeland, waiving what she thought was the final goodbye from the bow of a ship in Eteläsatama as her parents took her to life in a new land.




Full circle: a supreme honor bestowed by that beloved homeland in this special year, Finland’s 100th –Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland! For the little girl who never stopped loving Finland so much! So humbled and so honored….Thank you.

It is so interesting how after years go by something happens to complete the “circle”, “tie the bow”, cross the “t” or dot the “i” so things make sense or give closure to us mortals.









This is often peppered with what I call serendipity.

History cycles

My grandfather, injured and full of shrapnel from the war had been a life career military officer. He had been shot down from an observation tower by the enemy. Most of his time he had to spend on the front lines away from his wife and small children. He was always reticent to talk about his experiences as were, and still are many of the remaining Finnish war veterans. We all think about what our ancestors and family members went through in the most sisu-challenged times imaginable. To think of their PTSD (post-traumatic stress): no drugs, no therapy, just sisu,”suck it up” and move on, with memories, some too painful to deal with.

What a full circle gift on this Suomi 100th for our family’s future generations- like found historical treasure!

Recent full cosmic circle: A bundle of actual letters (kenttä-posti) from my Vaari at the war front unearthed in my late Aunt’s files ! Can’t wait to read, translate and share with readers who may be interested. What a full circle gift on this Suomi 100th for our family’s future generations- like found historical treasure!

7/29 or in the Finnish: 29.07

7/ 29 brings back the wonderful Finnish summer memory of celebrating my dear friend. Päivi Viren’s birthday. Päivi, a fantastic Finnish cook gave me the new edition of Keittotaito the seminal Finnish cookbook. I have the original 1948 version someone gave my Mother as a wedding gift. Though it never got used by her, the pages are yellowed and it looks like a wartime relic! On Päivi’s birthday by the Finnish lake, she showed me how to make muurilättyjä. (Great memory).

Lasse Virén

Speaking of full circle, Päivi and Lasse Viren were here for the 1984 Olympics. It has just been announced that the Olympics are coming to LA once again 2028 and we will look forward to hopefully having the Virens visit again. By the way, it is possible here in L.A. to make muurilättyjä on our own local Califonia barbeque grills (look for a feature in an upcoming edition of Around LA with Ava)

7/29 Helsinki 2017

During their recent visit (see the last Around LA with Ava column), Dr. Pertti Rintahaka and Diana Covius were encouraging, almost pleading that I come to Finland for their joint 120th birthday party. You may remember from an earlier Finntimes edition Pertti’s romantic proposal on the way to the Presidential palace on Independence Day. Their insistence seemed to have another level I was trying to sniff out. Obligations and issues kept me from attending their 7/29 event at the Kamp Hotel. They came “full circle: You guessed it: it turned out to be their surprise wedding! Congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple.

Former LA resident and Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Dr. Pertti Rintahaka with his lovely Diana, visited while in Southern California for a medical conference.

Another happy event7/29 in LA

A birthday celebration just few blocks down the street here in L.A., Virpi Sidler hosted a party for her Bill Russell’s big birthday. (Both are former Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board Officers-President and Treasurer) Many in our local community were in attendance including Tomi Hinkkanen, Jonny Kahleyn, and Mirja and Ernie Covarrubias.




Serendipity (sattumat)

Whether it is cosmic happenstance of just a fun coincidence (I vote for the former) it seems we are tied in with connections that just appear in our everyday lives. Just as an example speaking of our Helsinki newlyweds, I went to have something engraved on their wedding gift. As I love to hear people’s stories, the Swedish lady behind the engraver’s counter started telling me about her life. She told of memories working as a waitress long ago. As it turned out it was the very same restaurant owned by Anja and Eino Nurminen (The Nordic Inn) in the valley many decades ago. Just another one of these “it’s a small world sattumas”)

There is probably no better time ever than now to learn about Finnish history and culture. Wonderful compilations are available (English as well) in many Finnish newspapers and periodicals). The Embassy and Consulates website has published a series of Finland through the decades in English. I have been saving to make into a personal scrapbook I know my future generations will enjoy reading.

Another “sattuma” I just happened upon. One day glancing to see Finnish news I opened the Ilta Sanomat website only to see Olli Kivioja on the front page. His story was one of 100 the publication is featuring for the centennial. It shows him as an 18 year old being thrown into the reality of battle from day one. We who know him here in LA honor him for his service.

Olli Kivioja

Recently Olli sent information of the wonderful celebration of the Kivioja family clan at “Marskin Maja” Field Marshall Mannerheim’s Hunting Lodge that has been restored for celebrations and gatherings. The website provides an interesting historical description in English. Check it out and plan a visit next summer. http://www.marskinmaja.net/english/index.html.

There is no better time than now to open you heart and home to share the culinary delights of Finland with your friends. Maybe closer to Independence Day we can discuss Vorschmack, (Mannerheim’s favorite dish)

Dinner Time

Did you participate in the Global Happening called “Finnish Your Dinner”? People were encouraged to host dinner parties in honor of Finland’s Centennial. This simultaneous cosmic happening took place in cities around the world. I wish they would have called it Your Finnish Dinner instead. “Finnish Your Dinner “sounds like an order from stern parents signed on to the “clean plate club” style of parenting.

For decades I have enjoying hosting Finnish dinners for friends and family.


Hopefully you will keep this kind of tradition to share regarding your heritage. For decades I have enjoying hosting Finnish dinners for friends and family. A summer party outdoors with a nature theme and a bonfire- sometimes even a sing-along has been great for our Los Angeles climate long into autumn. (As I write this it is 95 degrees F at 3 p.m. ). A Finnish winter dinner with themes such as Fire and Ice, the King’s Road, Eastern and Western Finnish dishes as well as traditional favorites have been much enjoyed by newcomers to Finnish cuisine. (A cookbook is in the works)

The recipe featured below will serve you well in any season.

OmaMaa 100 Everyberry Bites (a.k.a. Berry Totality)

Oma maa mansikka Muu maa mustikka* This old Finnish saying begs the question why not share the berry joy with everyone?

In developing this I tried to incorporate as many as possible of the Finnish flavors of summer for all those longing for the long summer days around their isomummi’s coffee afternoon repast. The inspiration was the home-baked goodness and hand-picked deliciousness from her own garden, plus butter and milk from the neighbor’s dairy farm…. (Mrs. Hasala always used browned butter in her baked goods)

*One of the things that Finland shares with the world are these nutrient-rich berry superfoods that grow in the woods for all to pick and enjoy.

While fresh berries and rhubarb are a summer delight, this recipe incorporates preserves, frozen and even dried fruit which makes it a year round treat. This little taste of Finland is perfect to give your friends and family at a dinner party any time of year.

These little treats freeze well for unexpected company. Once defrosted, a sprinkling of powdered sugar “snow” is a nice touch.

For a “knock your socks off” presentation cut into rounds with a cookie cutter. Heat each plate in microwave until slightly warm. Place small ball of vanilla ice cream on top. Drizzle decoratively with cloudberry sauce from a squeeze bottle. (1/2 jar cloudberry preserves boiled with ¼ cup water. Let cool. Strain to remove seeds. Cool and refrigerate strained sauce until use.

I think we have covered every sweet Finnish berry, except the Mesimarja (brambleberry). If you can score it, a little Iittala shot glass on the side with mesimarja liquer will take you full circle!

Berry-butter layer

3 T European butter (of course Finlandia if you have it)

½ C. blueberries

 

 

½ C. fresh chopped strawberries

1 c. chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

1/3 C dried cranberries.

2 T/ brown sugar

Place butter in baking dish and put dish into hot oven until the butter bubbles and becomes golden. Carefully put mixed fruit brown sugar mixture over butter.


Have cake layer mixture prepared to put over it:

Cake Layer

1 & ½ sticks softened butter

1 C. white sugar

2 eggs

One Tablespoon Lingonberry jam

A dash of vanilla sugar or tsp of extract

1 &1/2 C flour

1 tsp baking powder

Sprinkle of salt

½ C. milk

4 Tablespoon lemon juice

Mix butter, sugar and eggs together; then the rest of the remaining ingredients.

Spread over fruit. Bake


Cool in pan for 10-15 Minutes. Flip pan onto tray. Let cool then cut into bars



As we experience fires, storms, hurricanes and even worse things that are out of our control as humans, finding goodness in ourselves and one another is important. Like we have witnessed in Texas and Florida, now Nevada and the giving spirit of those around us, let us be thankful. As small as we are in the cosmos and cycle of our lives, kindness counts.

Around LA with Ava®: Shades of May into Hues of Blue


Around LA with Ava®: Shades of May into Hues of Blue

A children’s ditty goes: “Spring has sprung, The grass is riz, I wonder where the flowers is?”

The traditional logic is that there are no seasons in Southern California. It is generally nice all the time. For those who insist on defining our City of Angels as having seasons each year  they love to repeat “May grey, then June Gloom” as the official weather report. Yes, while in certain years spring has been somewhat overcast and bland, that has not been the case in 2017.

We have had “hues” (of color) and “floral profusion like never before. If you live here you have noticed the intense displays of color everywhere or your seasonal enjoyment.

We have had “hues” (of color) and “floral profusion like never before. If you live here you have noticed the intense displays of color everywhere or your seasonal enjoyment.

Because of the vast amount of rain we had this season, the intensity in colors has been breathtaking. Like they say you have to take the good with the bad. The rain, wind, fallen trees mud, rockslides and damage, not to mention tightening fire department regulations, were a bit more extreme this year but Mother Nature’s color display brought shades of beauty not seen in drier years.

The normal May in the first week brings the periwinkle blossoms that appear as giant clouds on the Jacaranda trees.

The normal May in the first week brings the periwinkle blossoms that appear as giant clouds on the Jacaranda trees. You virtually do not see any leaves, only the stunning colored flowers against their brown crusty trunks. As the blossoms fade and fall to the ground they create billowy carpets against the street’s black asphalt almost inviting one to come and dance in the petals under their canopies. (The small blossoms look lovely sprinkled on a table setting, especially for those of us having a Finnish celebration. The Agapanthus (Lilies of the Nile) also bloom this time of year at the same time as if to say a quiet “me too” with their identical color. Theses long-stemmed beauties are spectacular arranged in a long glass vase, but their blossoms can also be sprinkled to decorate a pretty party table or serving platter. What is nice is that they hold out for the Fourth of July.

The Agapanthus (Lilies of the Nile) also bloom this time of year at the same time as if to say a quiet “me too” with their identical color.

The start of the summer here is always chock-full of special garden tours, design showcase homes and floral festivals, but this year is special for a couple of reasons.

The air has been clear, the sunshine here each day bringing spectacular lighting and the growth of nature especially flowers due to the overabundance of rainfall has blessed us with an amazing display of hues and colors with the spring blooms. It has been almost a Hollywood “technicolor” extravaganza of color in every neighborhood.

Bougainvillea all over town

We LA locals call them boogies (phonetically “buugies”)—not boagies. There was only one “Bogey” (Humphrey Bogart). Have you heard the song lyric; “We had it all, just like Bogey and Bacall”? It just would be the same with the name “Humphrey”  !

They say you can’t kill a boogie-it grows like a weed, but unfortunately, my brown thumb has proven this adage wrong. The colors have been traffic- stopping this season causing some abrupt stops for photos Orange, purple fuchsia, red, white and striated all are calling attention. I am particularly happy with the pink specimen in the corner of the yard that is finally coming into its own to serve the purpose for which it was planted, not only to be spectacularly gorgeous but to serve as a fearless but strong Wonder Woman protector from bad elements trying to scale over fences. Those thorns are there for a reason! (A trip to the emergency room was required for a family member when one of the large spikes pierced a body part. Please note to wear a contractor’s helmet and gauntlet gloves to avoid any “Game of Thornes” gore.

Look around town; beautiful boogie blossoms are everywhere and they are around long-term! Various conservancies around LA have boasted of the “superblooms” for viewing in their venues. Would you believe even the keeper of the infamous “corpse flower” was promoting viewership after what has been a ten year hiatus of this foul smelling bloom. Go figure!

Tour de Pier Annual Event

May starts a time of parties, dance recitals and celebrations.  A wonderful “raising money for cancer research” event called the Tour de Pier takes place each year.  Dozens of stationary bikes set up in front of the Manhattan Beach pier are pedaled and money is raised for charity. It is a wonderful festival for a good cause.  There is a Team Kory each year named for a young man I used to hold in my arms when he was a baby who succumbed to brain cancer a few years ago. This event makes goodness in the world from of his untimely death.



Mother’s Day and Birthdays

The birthstone for May is the emerald. No green jewelry needed for me—the delicious emerald green Thai crab soup followed by Hamachi crudo with avocado at a window seat at the Strand House restaurant with my eldest was good enough for my celebration!


A brunch at Spago preceded this on Mother’s Day with a multi-course feast/multi generation morning of wonderfulness. Veal tartar served in marrow bones as a starter…need I go on?

 

Finns in LA and Special Happenings

We Finns have a special hues of greens and blues happening this year to celebrate.

I hear the official word from Finland that “the birches are wearing mouse ears. No not the Mickey Mouse Disneyland kind (thought that is a funny visual) “Koivut on hiirenkorvella” is always a big announcement of spring as the first (tiny rodent ear shaped size specks of green) appear in the lovelies shade of green) Finns are so eager for signs of the end of winter that even during Easter, tiny pots of real grass are part of the promise of rebirth that signal hope of the long awaited spring and summer.

“Koivut on hiirenkorvella” is always a big announcement of spring as the first  appear in the lovelies shade of green.

Drs. Perttii Rintahaka and fiancée Diana Covius make a “House Call”

Former LA resident and Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Dr. Pertti Rintahaka with his lovely Diana, visited while in Southern California for a medical conference.

Former LA resident and Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Dr. Pertti Rintahaka with his lovely Diana, visited while in Southern California for a medical conference. Not to let Finland with its Big Birthday this year take all of the spotlight, the two of them are celebrating the “120th” joint birthday with a big bash in Helsinki this summer. A visit to the beach and Fisherman’s Village in Marina Del Rey watching to boats come in was a fun excursion.

The next night Heidi Crooks, former Chief Nursing Officer for the UCLA Medical system was to join us for dinner. I served a “blue plate special” on the new dishes with a big blue flower I just had to have, for this year’s parties ready for Finland 100 get togethers. Sometimes one needs a pair of shoes, sometimes an outfit, but in this case something festive to dress a table this celebratory year, besides, the price was a steal!

.. I served a “blue plate special” on the new dishes with a big blue flower I just had to have, for this year’s parties ready for Finland 100 get togethers

LAFF-Los Angeles Chapter of Finland Foundation

The L.A.F.F. meeting featured the Pasadena Sister Cities Program. The organization has several sister cities around the world including Järvenpää, Finland, the home of Jean Sibelius. Angie Gomez gave background on the organization’s work, and told of their group trip to Finland on this Centennial summer. We had a chance to meet a young lady going to Finland as part of the exchange program. The next time I went to the Paloheimo Mansion to catch up with LAFF, there was an artist on his knees rendering a huge portrait on the cement in front of the steps that looked like a huge comic book version of Wonder Woman (and no, no, I don’t think it was a portrait of Eva Feynes Paloheimo ! There was a local festival going on, not a regular LAFF meeting though Ellen Harju was there dedicated as she is, giving tours of the Tupa.

The Finnish church – Santa Monica, California

Coincidentally in 2017 the Los Angeles Finnish church also has its 100th birthday centennial this year.  The May service It was quite the celebration with congregants in Finnish attire and National Costumes, a majestic processional of the choir, ministers including Bishop Guy Irwin. A bounty of delicious cookies, pulla, homemade donuts, and cakes made it a true “groaning board” as they say here in the U.S. My contribution was the voileipäkakku.  I should have skipped that second cup of coffee in the morning; my hands were shaking trying to form the zeroes in the “100” decoration made from little fresh peas on top of the cake!



Another Special Milestone

The same day the Finnish Church in LA celebrated its 100th, Jonny Kahleyn Dieb fans celebrated his birthday. Jonny, who recently confirmed his percentage of Finnish ancestry through a DNA search, was celebrated by friends from near and far. We all already knew he must be Finnish by his creativity, work ethic, humility and modesty.

Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Jonny’s background has included information technology at UCLA Transplantation Services, and now, Occupational Health in addition to his film production, and photography.  Above all….. (I am so excited as writer of this column, to actually use the longest palindrome I know in either Finnish or English; Here it is He is a saippuakauppias!! He is a soap seller. He is actually the entrepreneur behind the La Vie en C Brand you see advertised in the finntimes pages.  Congrats to a true Renaissance Man!

A Marriage Milestone for Erkki andI llona Kanto (40 years)

Shades of grey (smoke that is) along the way from LA

Erkki and Ilona invited me to their party. Inspired by the colorful flowerbeds on the Sunset Strip median, I made mousse-filled flower cups to bring to the party. Heading north on the 405 a glance in the rear view mirror was cause for alarm. Smoke was rising rapidly from where I had just left my neighborhood as I ascended into the Santa Monica Mountains. Turning on the traffic news, that comes on every six minutes, confirmed that indeed it was what would turn into a large fire. All the rain that brought beautiful flowers to us also brought dangerous amount of flammable vegetation. a fire. It was like déjà vu all over again. There was no choice but to head back home. The last time this happened I could not get home to my family which then included my bedbound mother (described in a previous Finntimes column). Fortunately the fire department did a good job and were able to isolate the fire to the west Side of the 405 freeway. It turned out to be over 30 acres!

 

Ilona and Erkki were kind enough to invite me for a visit the next day. I had their company all to myself and we had a delightful time. They still seem like newlyweds and were planning their summer which will include time in Finland and Pakistan. Ilona loves to cook and had made gluten-free mämmi for dessert. Now truth be told mämmi is not the prettiest of desserts (in fact it’s pretty much the end of the scale on visual) but it was quite delicious.

Things to Ponder Category,

There are so many birthdays in May and June, including a three week period on my calendar with each day marked. My theory is that in counting back nine months, people (especially Finns) have been inspired and motivated at the end of the summer, to as my dear and funny late father would say, people decide to make new people!

Finnish Ladies Night

Speaking of birthdays, Heidi Crooks got a Finnish serenade from the Finnish Ladies group. We were meeting the group gathered at the bar at Pancho’s in Manhattan Beach. Unbeknownst to most the others the bar was packed to the gills because of the NBA finals. Manhattan Beach is extremely sports-oriented as many Sports celebrities live in the area.

Panchos

If you go to Pancho’s, make a left, take a step up and look to the right: there is photo on the wall in the bar on the north side of a couple fishing.  (The family owns the restaurant)Talk about Wonder Woman—the woman in the photo (my dear friend) caught that fish!!!  It is bigger than she is! It would be fun to see how she does with her skills on a Finnish lake.

Pancho’s is really one of the prettiest restaurants in this area. Each step you take down the stairs is like descending into a secret lush green garden of a private Mexican Hacienda with twinkly lights and aromas of the special night to come. For decades it has been a destination spot for celebrations… We certainly got the attention of the place when 30 of us began singing. It was a fun festive Finnish night and what a joy to meet such great and accomplished women.

Downtown Hues

On the theme of explosions of color and overgrown things, the Wilshire Grand, the tallest building now west of the Mississippi River, has just opened. It will be featuring enormous (most likely fender-bender inducing, driver-distracting lighting displays. Remember when the construction was going on and this column described the largest construction concrete pour celebrated by a parade by the USC band? More to follow in the next ALAWA column.

Wilshire Grand

Hues and Blues

Ah yes! Finland.

As we move into the Suomi Summer let us move to hues of greens and blues. Think of the lovely blue/green jigsaw puzzle you see below, the lakes and the forests, welcoming you upon landing over Finland as seen from your airplane seat, truly natural beauty of the planet’s most incredible. How is it for you upon landing? Does a tear well in your eyes as your inner voice starts to sing Maamme Laulu? Does your mind think about how  soon you can get to that lake you love that is calling you, ready to sit and take in the in the beauty of silence, to float in a rowboat, to eat blueberries?

We all are dreaming of the colors and hues of a Finnish lake even if we may not have that experience this year.

But since it is Finland’s 100th….. Making this will make you think you are on the edge of a Finnish lake in a little (white rose petal boat) soutuvene in our homeland’s aquamarine waters.  Pretend you are the blueberry (after more than one of these, it will be your virtual reality)

This is LA and cocktails are created by mixologists (what they used to call bartenders) like chef’s specialties. And especially for huge things, like perhaps a 100th birthday????

The Suomi Centennial Sip

2 ounces blue Hypnotiq liqueur

2 ounces Pear Vodka

White sanding or pulla sugar for frosting the rim

Garnish: white rose or tulip petal “boat”, blueberry

Wet rim of glass and dip into sugar. (May be done ahead; may take two coats) Put ice cubes in cocktail shaker with the alcohols. Shake and pour into a blue or white martini glass. Garnish with your little rowboat petal and blueberry passenger!

Note: You can make this a nonalcoholic “mocktail” by substituting a blue juice or sports drink.

Party on like it’s 1917 !

Kippis!

 

Around LA with Ava® DEFLATED IN LA

Around LA with Ava® DEFLATED IN LA

Ava Antilla

A deflating and inflating spring in LA

Do you ever feel like the wind has been kicked out of you? If you are the Goodyear blimp, that is literally the fate you have been handed. The deflation of the last of the fleet has had the helium let out. A rip line was yanked, opening a section of the gas bag of the blimp. It crumpled to the ground in only minutes to look like a beached whale along the 405 freeway.

If you are the Goodyear blimp that is literally the fate you have been handed

This was a metaphor for how spring came in for those of us in LA this year. Many of us were feeling unable to catch our breath as life here sped along in the fast lane. Sometimes even in the grip of grief and struggle, life flows on without a speck of sympathy allowing you to gain your stride. Feeling like a deflated balloon as spring begins seems to be currently universal for many here.

Feeling like a deflated balloon as spring begins seems to be currently universal here.

The unbelievable historic rains this year brought havoc and damage even the dogs couldn’t figure out. One even came to church for comfort at the last Finnish church service.

The blimp

Anyone visiting LA and headed to San Diego or Orange County on the 405 has seen “The Goodyear Blimp” as it is parked right by the IKEA in Carson on your left heading south.

Anyone visiting LA and headed to San Diego or Orange County on the 405 has seen “The Goodyear Blimp” as it is parked right by the IKEA

If not there it has been hovering over our beaches, golf tournaments, football games, Rose Bowl, Rose parade, and LA Open for decades. Like a balloon and not like most forms of transportation in LA it has glided sweetly and silently over our City of Angels for many important events. If anything big was happening the blimp was hovering over it.   Sometimes you could just suddenly be in its shadow, look up and see our “mothership” doing her rounds. It was an oblong oval with rounded ends, kind of like a cucumber (not the European kind, but the shorter squatty California variety that requires peeling). At its bottom was attached a small basket-like structure, that is kind of like the metal drainer in your kitchen sink, called the gondola, open on the sides, just hanging on as an appendage for what was only very few people.

Did you ever wonder, who the heck is in there? Well, I do not have all the answers to the secrets, but I know one thing—it was not going to be my parents. A very kind, well-connected friend of theirs from their aerospace days, knowing it was about to be their 50th wedding anniversary, thought it would be such a spectacular gift to make arrangements (requiring all sorts of special permits) to surprise them on their special day.   She was ready and able to make it happen. What a thoughtful idea she had. But, then it was a good thing she asked me before making the plans. I had to tell her that getting Raija on that thing was not going to be a pleasant experience, neither for Raija nor her gifter. Just to get my mother on a commercial airline to visit her grandchildren required “high octane fortitude (her favorite: Harvey Wallbanger” put in baby formula bottles.

Deflation of Tires

The Goodyear Company also makes tires, other inflatable objects with air in them most of the time. With the recent weather, there has been a truckload of tire trouble, alignment and other car damage for many.

The Goodyear Company also makes tires, other inflatable objects with air in them most of the time

The pothole problem

Holes in the pavement on LA streets are the bane of existence for many on the roads. The number of potholes has tripled in the last year in LA. An example, heading East on Sunset by UCLA, the right lane is so full of potholes driving is almost like skiing the downhill slalom avoiding holes on your right and sideswiping drivers in the lane next to you on the left. Phew!

The number of potholes has tripled in the last year in LA.

It takes what seems like forever to get the local city governments to fix these potholes. There was one that was so bad that it needed to have a fence put around it. It had not been fixed for a year. So, the people in that neighborhood decided to have a one year birthday party for the pothole! They gathered around, decorated the fence with balloons and celebrated!

Damage from weather after a record amount of rain this year could cost California $860 million. Road repair costs just in our City of Angels is estimated at $55 Million dollars. Governor Brown just got his wished-for tax hike legislation passed. Now we will have a gas tax and fuel will go up 12 cents a gallon starting next January.

Bucket list reboot

Big problem for Big Sur

For many visitors to California, a must on their “bucket list” is a drive along the coast between LA and San Francisco along Highway 1. Yes, it is spectacular. Personally, it is preferable to be on that road headed north where the pavement hugs terra firma rather than hanging out over the ocean on those sweeping driver-distracting curves.

A big problem developed along Highway 1 in Big Sur where the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was destabilized after a mudslide. At least $26.5 million will be needed for that repair. So, if you are making plans, better to check road conditions. It may take a while (October estimated) to fix.

Big Sur where the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was destabilized after a mudslide.

Even the animals did not get a break this spring

Deflated dogs and whales

Californians love and coddle their animals like family members, especially their dogs. These California critters are not the hardy Finnish pystykorvas or huskies of Siberia facing the elements without batting an eye.

he whales, though, are having some difficulties this year including one that is still caught in a metal fishing frame.

Sohvi koira tried to figure out why the hillside slid down and the winds decimated the yard. Even more, she wondered where her master and best friend went. Her little Beagle nose is still sniffing around for clues. This is whale watching season and a late afternoon visit at Terranea with family sharing grief in a beautiful setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean brought comfort for this homo sapien. Catalina Island, making a rare appearance this time of year was even visible driving down the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The whales, though, are having some difficulties this year including one that is still caught in a metal fishing frame. A third one was spotted off the coast in the last three weeks in the same predicament.

Finnish Community

Our local Finnish community took breathtaking losses in recent weeks:

Ahvo Linnala

Ahvo Linnala

Ahvo was a leader in the Finnish Community, a businessman and President of Hauli Huvila for several terms. The service for Ahvo was literally “standing room only” as he was so beloved and respected. Ahvo served in the US Air Force and was husband to Liisa Linnala, the current President of Suomi Kerho and father to Laura Linnala. Ahvo was not only warm, charming and helpful to all, he was a real “man’s man”. He loved golf, sailing, fishing, cars and riding his Harley. His sendoff to heaven was in quite a unique urn pictured here.


Seppo Hurme

Seppo proudly served as President of the Veteraani Tukiryhmä here in LA for the last few years. He is predeceased by his wife, Seija. I shared this sad news with Olli Kivioja recently because they had developed a friendship since Dr. Kivioja’s visit to California.

Seppo Hurme

More about Olli Kivioja below.

Pauli Uskali

Sad news came from Finland that Pali (Pauli) Uskali had passed away. Pali, along with his wife, Marja were stalwarts in the Finnish community here for many years, first with Polar Design on Robertson Boulevard near Cedars Sinai hospital and then Design Finland, a showcase of Finnish inspiration and goods at the Pacific Design Center. They proudly featured Finnish design, and hosted events with Finnish masters. We in the Finnish community all enjoyed and appreciated their work here. Pali’s memorial service in Finland was appropriately on Friend’s Day (Valentine’s Day) in Finland.

Huge personal losses included three family members and four friends including my oldest “BFF” of 42 years in a matter of weeks. The wind was certainly knocked out of this writing windbag! “March Madness” is where college basketball games (67 of them) take up a whole month of television coverage. Every year in March I was a just what they call a “sports widow”. Now it is the real thing.

Olli Kivioja: an Exceptional Veteran of Interest

A tip of the hat to Dr. Kivioja, a remarkable veteran with a Southern California connection.

As we continue to honor our War Veterans in this column, the reflections of Olli Kivioja are here for your viewing as he was recently interviewed on Finnish television on the Day of Finnish Independence.

Dr. Olli Kivioja

Dr. Kivioja a remarkable Finn in many ways graced our local War Veteran’s event as a special speaker a few years ago here in LA at our Suomi Summer Seminar honoring the veterans. He is a former pilot, a published author, and the former Surgeon General of Finland. He served as president of the Pilvenveikot (Brethren of the Clouds) the Finnish Air Force Veteran’s organization. In to his 90’s Olli is an active and accomplished athlete, skier, marathon runner and smoke sauna enthusiast.

Dr. Olli Kivioja

During his visit to LA his appreciative audience included many of his remaining Los Angeles contemporaries-Veterans and Lottas who fought against the Soviet Union to preserve Finland’s Independence. Dr. Kivioja spoke specifically of the activities of the Pilvenveikot, types of fighter aircraft used in the Winter War and the Continuation War, as well as, events in Finnish military history and their effects on the current world situation including Finland’s role in the European Union.

We thank you for sharing your experiences with us here in Southern California and honor you on your service on this, Finland’s 100th year.

Inflation, Enlargement and Bulges

If Inflation is the opposite of deflation then spring has definitely sprung in our neck of the woods here in the City of Angels.

Have you looked at the LA skyline lately?


Even the buildings in LA seem to be bulging outward as the area has its burgeoning downtown. Have you noticed that the skyline is not just going up, it is bulging out in curvaceous forms while doing so?

The sweetest thing ever in springtime is the renewal of life epitomized by the beautiful baby bumps you see around town that signal spring. Gone are the days of the “tent dresses” as maternity wear. Here in Hollywood the female form, as female as it can be, about to bear a child is fashionably celebrated in every curve-exposing clinging fabric.

Spring Baby Shower

Attending a dear friend’s daughter’s baby shower tea was a joyous note in an otherwise sad spring.




A gathering of prominent LA families showering a lovely mother-to- be with love and gifts in the most gracious and fun event was just the antidote for a guest’s respite from grief.

As I write this I get the news: a sweet baby girl has arrived!

Inflated and Bulging

Have you ever been to more than one IKEA location? Once inside, you could be in Carson, Atlanta, New Jersey or even Vantaa in Finland and everything is the same; well except at the Vantaa store, you can order a beer with your meatballs.




You will not believe how the Burbank store has “inflated” itself. (Actually it has moved) .The restaurant there seats 600 people! This Burbank Behemoth takes up several blocks, has 500,000 square feet of retail space and room for 1,700 cars in its parking not. It even has its own street name: IKEA Way! It is the largest IKEA in America. You can really experience life in LA with the restaurant  window “view” seating featuring tall banks of widows where you can watch the freeway’s endless stream of cars whizzing by.

Good Goodyear News

Thought the last of of the blimps has been deflated of helium, there is good news: the flight program will continue with new semi-rigid dirigbles.The new draft will be 246 feet long and 50 feet longer than the old blimps. It will be able to fly at over 70 mph and will be able to take off and land like a helicopter. So the new aircraft won’t go flat.

As the last iconic blimps is deflated by Goodyear, the future is in its dirigibles which will take their place over LA skies.

If you are feeling like a deflated balloon like many of us these day, just remember to take a deep breath. Vappu right around the corner. You need to fill your heart and your lungs. You will need it to inflate those festive balloons and your spirit for Finland’s big celebrations.

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Around in Circles

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Around in Circles

It’s here! Welcome to 2017, Finland’s 100th year of Independence. The collective excitement is palatable and unbounding as this year opens and we begin celebrating, learning and remembering.

Finland Centennial “101”

While this column usually focuses on quirky and sometime irreverent everyday life in Southern California, let us now also focus on making this year one of revering and honoring Finland in its 100 year glory.

Many in the Finnish community, including Sirpa and Teemu Selänne, are on board to honor and show our local remaining Veterans and Lottas how much we appreciate them.

One example of Finnish greatness here locally I would like to introduce you to through some photos is Lotta Elma Maisack. Elma, along with the amazing Sirkka Toth are the Lottas here who are still with us. Mark Salo and Veikko Kautiainen are among the Veterans we cherish.


It is appropriate that we celebrate Elma. Coincidentally, she shares a birthday with Finland: December 6th! You can imagine her level of Finnish pride!

Elma’s son Gary is often see wearing a T-shirt that reads “Finnish Air Force” as he attends events with his mother. Imagine yourself living Elma’s life as you view this photo montage and consider how a young woman faced what she did as a proud Finn “back in the day”.

Elma and her son Gary

With the current innovations and the heights of human achievement in so many fields, we are so impressed by Finland. But, let us remember Finnish independence is grounded in the dedication, determination and sacrifices of our Veterans and Lottas like Elma, who, during their youth gave to their homeland, where our greatness was born and still resides. Never forget.

The Circle of Life

Looking back to where Finnish Independence started and viewing circumstances to the present day is now timely. We are now closing the circle of 100 years from Finnish Independence and are many degrees and miles around the globe from our homeland here in our city of Angels. Perhaps it will bring perspective and insight. Though Finns of the younger generations may now say we don’t look in the rearview mirror; if ever there was a time to do so, this, the 100th year would be a good one for recollection.


Though Finns of the younger generations may now say we don’t look in the rearview mirror; if ever there was a time to do so, this, the 100th year would be a good one for recollection.

Goings On

The whirlwind of activities in the Finnish American community brought joy to young and old in December. From the Suomi Koulu fundraiser, Suomi Kerho Christmas party, LAFF Pikku Joulu and FACC gathering we all enjoyed our holiday Finnishness. At home this year after an epic Finnish prune tart and cookie baking session and dinner with the Haavisto family, Finnish Joulu pukki must have known about all the Finnish children in the house. He decided to actually stop in for a visit. Katja, Tapani and Rony joining our family made for a joyous Christmas Eve for us all.

…Finnish Joulu pukki must have known about all the Finnish children in the house. He decided to actually stop in for a visit. Katja, Tapani and Rony joining our family made for a joyous Christmas Eve for us all.

Suomi Koulu fundraiser with Finnish visitors, the Lius and Jukka Vuorenmaa.

All eyes on Planet Earth seem to tune in on our fair city and the beautiful Rose Parade over New Year’s. People camping on the sidewalks, bleachers at the ready since Thanksgiving, Christmas friends and family living the dream here in sunny Southern California our city felt like the center of the universe for its shining moment.

The Rose Parade was particularly fun to watch as my dear friend Mona (whose daughter in law is of Finnish heritage) and her family were honored guests riding in a rose covered carriage!

The Rose Parade was particularly fun to watch as my dear friend Mona (whose daughter in law is of Finnish heritage) and her family were honored guests riding in a rose covered carriage!

Driving Around LA recently

Driving North on La Cienega from the 10, the Hollywood Hills were shining bright with the sun’s reflection ahead. I had just left the hospital relieved that my sweetie’s surgery had gone well. At that very moment it seemed many things within blocks of my drive were happening. To my left Debbie Reynolds had just been taken to Cedars Sinai Hospital with a stroke. Straight ahead on Hollywood Blvd. a makeshift memorial was burgeoning on the sidewalks on the Walk of Fame for Star Wars’ “Princess Leia”, Debbie Reynold’s daughter, the actress Carrie Fisher who had just passed away. To my right, passing Lawry’s restaurant there was a gaggle of news vans with satellite antennas and hordes of autograph seekers for some event. Serious life and death issues all around but what was that going on at Lawry’s? Oh yes, it was that annual crazy LA tradition called “The Beef Bowl”. Just another quirky LA happening, this vegan-averse carnivorous carnival features the team members that are competing against each other at the upcoming Rose Bowl football game on New Year’s ‘eating unspeakably huge amounts of prime rib roast at Lawry’s, the restaurant that has been famous for this dish for decades since the 1970’s.

What was that going on at Lawry’s? Oh yes, it was that annual crazy LA tradition called “The Beef Bowl”.

This brought to mind an old high school classmate. There were three of us admitted to Berkeley that year; one was anointed (maybe it happened here at Lawry’s) with the nickname “Baby Beef”. This football player, whose real name is Loren, ended up playing for the Pittsburg Steelers and has at least one Super Bowl victory ring, if not more.

News vans, mini-skirted cheerleaders, paparazzi, the Trojan Band, and autograph seeking sports fans were all on hand for this testosterone fueled beef bacchanal, while most civilized westsiders were having a light spot of tea with chamber music playing in the background in one of our lovely hotels at this hour of the afternoon.

Broken Heart syndrome

While no one has announced an official cause of death for the mother/daughter duo, it is believed that Debbie Reynolds’ demise was caused from the Broken Heart, medically known as stress induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo syndrome, a condition that can strike even those in good health with no previous heart conditions.

The emotion of losing a loved one can trigger this medical condition, one that affects women more than men and can even be fatal. I was thinking of this while driving by Cedars Sinai Hospital where, in a matter of hours, Debbie Reynolds would succumb and join her daughter in death.

This sad Broken Heart scenario had just played out in my own family where my dear aunt Pirkko, recently lost her husband and within a couple of weeks, declined in health herself as she was missing her beloved husband. You often hear about people in long term relationships where the surviving partner follows in death in less than 6 months.

Having felt the pain of a broken heart must not have been new to Debbie Reynolds. Years ago she lost her husband to another woman whe when he left her for Elizabeth Taylor in an epic Hollywood story. Many were not aware that Debbie and Eddie Fishers’ offspring, Carrie, would end up as everyone’s heroine, Princess Leia, in the Star Wars saga years later.

Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds.

The pain of loss, stress and heart- related problems has been a part of Finnish heritage for many families, through evacuations out of Karelia, the loss of the fallen who fought for independence, and other sacrifices made. The rewards are of peace, love of friends and family, devotion and honor. When we have those things and feel the epitome of joy it is time for our souls to rejoice As Finns, the proud times in our personal as well as collective lives with the everyday gifts we have been given engender reflection and reverence. Perhaps that is why Finns revere their silence.

You have heard of long term couples who are so close “they finish each other’s sentences”. Then there are those who are so symbiotic, so telepathic and so connected to each other that words are not even needed between them to communicate. (Yes, it does happen)

Karjala (Karelia)

Did you hear that Norway had considered giving Finland a mountain for a 100th birthday present last summer? Halti Mountain sitting on the border with its peak on the Norwegian side was part of a proposal of moving the country’s border about (130 feet). What a sweet kind and neighborly thought that was of the Norwegians.

Halti Mountain

Gift to Finland suggestion

For all whose families came from Karelia, who fled on evacuation wagons from their land…A nice gesture in honor the Finland’s 100th from the eastern neighbor: how about a little payback border adjustment? What an awesome show of goodwill that would be in this political climate. Then there is the issue of that missing Super Bowl championship ring President of the Patriots, Jonathan Kraft never got back… Let us call it a draw.

Karjalanpaisti

This much loved iconic Finnish dish is a must for anyone’s culinary repertoire as we start Finland’s centennial. Like Finland itself it is simplistic beauty and perfection even for a novice cook.

Paisti means roast and Karjalan means of Karjala. It is actually a layering of assorted cut pieces of various meats with Finnish spices (peppercorns and allspice) covered in water or broth left to cook covered in an iron pot in a slow oven for many hours.

In Finland, the residual heat from baking ovens was the source for many wonderful dishes including jälkiuunileipä(“after oven bread”) and Karjalan paisti. Many casserole dishes that benefited from the long warmth that not only warmed Finnish homes but brought delicious life to the stars of Finnish cuisine that live on. In Finland nothing was wasted not even the waning heat of the hearth or oven.

People talk about “love” being an ingredient for a cook as he or she prepares a meal for someone. There are some dishes, Karjalanpaisti being one, which we make because of the love and connection we want to experience and share about Finland. There is a joy in the ceremony of taking down the Finnish Timo Sarpaneva iron pot, bringing out my favorite knives with handles made of birches from Karelia to trim the meat, the layering of spices and meat all the while thinking of Finland and its history while making it.

Ingredients:

4-5 lbs beef, pork or lamb, cubed.

Whole peppercorns 10-20 or so

Ground allspice

Salt

Layer meats with spices and salt between in a Timo Sarpaneva or other enameled iron pot. Add about 1 C water or beef broth down side of the pot. Put on lid. Bake 3 to 3 ½ hours at 300 degrees F. Do not stir. The topmost morsels should have a slight “crust” peeking through.




The topmost morsels should have a slight “crust” peeking through.

Serve over mashed potatoes with the broth. Garnish or serve with a side of dill pickles and beets. Lingonberry sauce is a nice accompaniment.


TO HAVE LOVED SO AND TO HAVE BEEN SO LOVED IS A GIFT FROM GOD.

It is Friday afternoon again in LA traffic heading up La Cienega with the Hollywood (now defaced to read “Hollyweed”) sign in view just like earlier, leaving after a visit with my loved one in the hospital. I am making “the rounds” going in the LA Friday circle of traffic again. A quick stop at the post office for mail.

Usually there is a big stack of mail; today there is only one envelope. Arriving home there is voicemail relaying the awful sad news from the hospital of the passing of my beloved. I opened the envelope I had picked up; it was addressed to him. It was from the hospital, a “customer satisfaction survey letter” asking him what he thought of the latest experience he had just had there!   Talk about “things to ponder” This could almost be funny if it was not so sad.

Life can be so cruel sometimes, but then again this is the circle of life we all experience.

TO HAVE LOVED SO AND TO HAVE BEEN SO LOVED IS A GIFT FROM GOD

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Gratitude

Ava Anttila

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Gratitude

There is a restaurant in Larchmont Village, CA called Café Gratitude.  This vegan establishment definitely has the “LA vibe”.  The menu heading is in large letters I AM…  and, the food selections listed are adjectives such as Comfort, Present, Who, Magical, Bountiful, Giving … .  And, supposedly, when the server brings you your order, the food is presented by saying: YOU ARE..,  (whatever adjective you ordered)!  For example, You are as liberated as your plate of Pad Thai Kelp when your plate of noodles with kale and sunflower sprouts is put before you.

I have the Menu, but I have not worked up the courage to place an order …or to taste the food, yet.

Sometimes the most important time to find your inner gratitude is when life hands you some challenges.

For many I know, it seems like the planets have been aligned in a way that has brought unwelcome news and struggles of late.  Being GRATEFUL for GOODNESS around is a good antidote for SADNESS or GRIEF –even if that relief is just to live in this wacky, wonderful City of Angels!

YES that is a naked man strutting on top of a bus pretending he is a model on a ‘pretend runway’ blowing kisses; YES that is a real fighter plane blocking traffic on Hollywood Boulevard for the new Star Wars movie premier; YES you can make an on-line reservation to sit on Santa’s lap via your cell phone, and YES you can see plastic snow fall twice a night at the Grove if you want to feel like it is winter!!!

And, YES there is a Santa Claus because someone has brought us real butter all the way from Finland!  Finnish foodies rejoice!!  FINLANDIA BUTTER has arrived here ready for your holiday baking and cooking!!!  Gelson’s carries the delicacy!!!!

And, YES there is a Santa Claus because someone has brought us real butter all the way from Finland!

We are at the pinnacle of the year 2016.  In writer’s syntax, the climax is coming; followed by the dénouement, calendar wise.  It has been an extraordinary few months for me.  Most has been fun, with a slight sad edge this year.

Fall is a favorite season for most people in our City of Angels: the raging heat and fire season subside; the smoke blows out to the west over the Pacific Ocean so the particulate debris reflects the setting sun producing spectacular sunsets!

Fall is a favorite season for most people in our City of Angels: the raging heat and fire season subside; the smoke blows out to the west over the Pacific Ocean so the particulate debris reflects the setting sun producing spectacular sunsets!  The dreaded fears of rampant fires, pollutants, and the ‘dog days’ of fall heat are replaced with crisp air bringing a renewed energy to get things done, to keep things moving,  and to make things happen.  The anticipation of the rewards of great success from action on many fronts energizes our preparations for the wonderful celebrations on the horizon.

As Daylight Saving Time ends and what I like to call Daylight Wasting Time begins, we sink into darkness all too soon.  It is nice to have our American Thanksgiving, Finnish Independence, and traditional Christmas preparations on the horizon.   They each provide something pleasant to look forward to where we show our loved ones our gratitude, express our love, and rejoice with gifts and time spent together.

This year things were just a bit different.  My dear Aunt lost her husband of many years.  Upon his passing, I was able to find a fine facility minutes [vs hours] from my home for her care.

Somehow, in the midst of all of this turmoil, the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation announced that I was to be named their Honoree of the Year.  Such a great honor put a nice smile on my face—until I began to consider the possibility that no one would attend the banquet scheduled!  [I know, that is so Finnish!!]  In fact, everything worked out nicely.  The hall was full, the celebration was very nice, and I did not spill my soup on Sirkka Toth’s Finnish National Costume she gave me to wear.  My own personal National Costume was worn by my 7 year old granddaughter—the same age I was when I first arrived in the United States.  Both of my sons were present, as was my very special aunt Pirkko Liisa.

One of my ‘forever memories’ of Pirkko will be seeing her released from the fog of dementia long enough to rise to her feet with arms raised triumphantly and cheering for her niece when the Honoree Plaque was presented.  The unrestrained joy of her smile was so reminiscent of the enthusiasm with which she introduced me to the wonders of being a Finnish American girl, young lady, and young woman as I went through those years with my worldly-wise—and really fun, younger sister of my mother.

Many of you will remember Pirkko as a long time employee of the Finnish Consulate here in Los Angeles.  Yes, she was as nice as she seemed!!!  Pirkko passed peacefully not long after returning to Los Angeles.

Thanksgiving

One of our fun traditions through the years has been to invite the staff of the Finnish Consulate offices in Los Angeles to experience an American Thanksgiving.  I seriously considered ‘passing’ on the event this year—too much happening.  Then, it dawned on me that there was always “…too much happening”.  In fact, that is why Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday—there is no other purpose of the day except to say “thanks” to those who have been nice to us in the year past.




So, as “Black Friday” was becoming “Black Thursday Evening” as the commercialism of Christmas escalated, we fed our friends and thanked them for all they did for all of us and for being part of our lives!

Finnish Independence

For Finns in America, Thanksgiving is followed the next week by Finnish Independence Day.  An overwhelming feeling of gratitude builds as I prepare the multiple dishes of our Thanksgiving Feast that continues for the few days following before Finnish Independence is celebrated on December 6th.





As I write this, I reflect on reverently lighting two candles, one white and one blue, at 6:00 PM [18:00] as I headed out for the 99th Finnish Independence Day celebration at the Consular Residence.  I shed a tear for my Veteran and Lotta parents, my Lotta aunt, and all of those others who served Finland so valiantly during the Winter War and the Continuation War.  Beginning with the 80th Anniversary of Finnish Independence and continuing through the next several decades, I was fortunate to know and to honor so many of our heroes and heroines.  I was blessed to be able to learn their personal stories and recollections.  I heard their reflections first-hand.  I saw and touched their personal mementos as they touched my soul.  I have been present for the passing of a phase of Finnish history that will not be revisited except in books.

What an honor.  What a thrill.  What memories.

AUTUMN GOINGS’ ON

Los Angeles Fnlandia Foundation

I was so honored, humbled, and grateful to be named Honoree of the Year by the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation at their Annual Meeting on October 16, 2016.  Thank you L.A.F.F!




The next LAFF meeting in Pasadena was to have a keynote presentation by Al Jokela.  Mr. Jokela had fallen ill, so President Harvey Eidenoff gave a talk detailing his recent meeting with other Finlandia Foundation chapter heads in Washington, DC.  His group had a tour of the famous and fantastic Finnish Embassy.  They were addressed by Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi.

Finlandia University

Philip Johnson (President of Finlandia University in Hancock, MI) came to Los Angeles for a visit.  A Pastor himself, it was a nice serendipity that his visit coincided with the Finnish Lutheran Church service conducted by our own Pastor Jarmo Tarkki.

Philip Johnson (President of Finlandia University in Hancock, MI) came to Los Angeles for a visit. A Pastor himself, it was a nice serendipity that his visit coincided with the Finnish Lutheran Church service conducted by our own Pastor Jarmo Tarkki.

President Johnson shared news and developments from the campus with the Congregation.  He told of a 2017 Finland Centennial event to be held here in LA in October by/for Friends of Finlandia University.

Dinner with Education Forerunners

While Dr. Johnson was here from the MidWest, we were able to have a dinner with Professor Heidi Harju-Luukkainen.  Professor Harju-Luukkainen told of her work with Professor Tiina Itkonen of Cal State University on a project for Finland 100.  The upcoming project will include a photographic exhibition and seminars.  President Johnson expressed interest in bringing the exhibition and seminars to Finlandia during the Centennial.



Biotech Plaza

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce hosted a Breakfast Meeting with the researchers and leaders of Biotech Plaza.  Each person in the international traveling entourage introduced themselves and their field of expertise.  Their search for funding partners continues.  Howy Jacobs, CEO, bid a warm welcome for us to come visit the center in Helsinki and to continue this initial positive contact and interaction.  It was heartwarming to meet and get to know the brilliant minds doing the amazing medical research for the most challenging issues in medicine.  Thank you, dear visitors.  We will continue to do our best to advance and promote your exciting work.




Finnish Diplomatic Talent Posted to Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Finnish community bid farewell to JP and Tuula Markkanen who gave so much of themselves to us for Finland and the Finnish community here.  We express our gratitude to our Homeland for sending the best and brightest here to be leaders among us.

We are excited to have a “dynamic duo” such as Heidi Harju-Luukkainen as an education expert and her husband Senior Trade Commissioner Aki Luukkainen helping Finns and Finnish companies.

LA’s new Consul General Stefan Lindström

Pia Helin and her talented family [husband Jorma and sons Henri and Lauri] have brought delight, pride, and good results to us all.

We are pleased and proud to get Finnish diplomatic superstars here in Los Angeles.  Stephan Lindstrom will be coming soon for a return posting –now, as our new Consul General.  Tervetuloa!

Finnair

Kickin’ it and rockin’ it like nobody’s business.  SLUSH in Helsinki—the global hi-tech annual highlight warrants special flights by Finnair from Northern California.

We are happy to have regular Finnair direct flights coming up from the City by the Bay soon, too.

American Election Season

We cannot let the topic of the recent US election go untouched as it was a monumental part of the autumn season this year.

Normally, once the ‘noise’ of the electioneering ends and the ballots are cast, Americans go about their business as if nothing had happened.  If your ‘guy’ won you boast a bit—but move on to other things.  If she lost, you sulk quietly—but move on to other things.  The silence comes because we are tired of all of the ‘prattle’!

Post 2016, there is silence because, apparently, no one knows what to say!

All of the media (including the Lifestyle Edition of the LA Times) danced lightly around the subject.  The Thanksgiving holiday issues focused on “…how to –or not to, talk politics or what just took place in the election to prevent breakout family fights.”

Back in the day, the rule was at a dinner or social gathering, the verboten conversations items were the triumvirate of politics/sex/religion.  With the Internet and social media, the world has changed and all three topics are on everyone’s radar.  The election this November brought out everyone’s feelings, but no one wanted to talk about politics or their candidate of preference.  One’s leaning on a Presidential candidate was kept to one’s self.

Not a peep from anyone from family or friends or at any social gathering was heard.  Even now, it seems everyone is exhausted, defensive, evasive, relieved, and grateful to go back to their daily lives in peace.

Go figure!!

Back to Important Matters

I anticipation for Christmas Finnish preparations always includes a “Joulusiivous”.  That is, your home must be ‘spic and span’ –‘clean as a whistle’.  Furniture is moved –no dust bunnies allowed!  Everything is washed and polished until it shines!  The Finnish concept of cleanliness may be a little obsessive.  Some even say that Finnish children do not get enough dirt exposure because of this cleanliness compulsion.


In the spirit of Finnish Clean-Tech, my Recipe of the Month is for Make It Yourself Window Cleaning Product.

Window Wonder

2 Liters warm water (about ½ gallon)

3 Tablespoons potato starch* (perunajauho) or cornstarch

Apply to glass with sponge and scrub

Dry with old newspaper or rubber squeegee to  make it sparkle.

*Potato starch may be hard to find.  In LA, I have found it in oriental markets –of all places.  Once ‘supplied’, you can get your windows clean while making your luumu kiisseli!!

 

Happy cleaning and Christmas Preparation !

 

AROUND LA WITH AVA ®: Spooks and Saunas

AROUND LA WITH AVA ®:  Spooks and Saunas

Ava Antilla

Ava Antilla

The Sauna; Part 2

Celebrating saunas and the Finnish sauna culture should be a fun adventure in this year leading up to the Centennial of Finnish Independence in 2017!

While writing last month’s column about Michael Fyffe’s exhibition and seeing that Risto Matti Ratia (son of the founder of Marimekko) was in attendance, I ran across Mr. Ratia’s web store featuring wonderful designs for sauna related products.  The site was so appealing that I thought: if you don’t have a sauna, you will want to build one just to have his cool robes, towels, and accessories.  Then, I smiled a subtle Finnish smile at the Hollywood fashion consideration and ‘hubbub’ so far removed from the Smoke Sauna world which begins with nudity and ends in peaceful solitude.  Rodeo Drive and the birch forest really are pretty far apart!!

Ristomatti Ratia bathrobe

Ristomatti Ratia bathrobe

Still, it amazes and amuses me where Finns find places to have saunas such as on gondolas, flotillas, and the like.  [If you have not seen Miesten Vuoro (a fine film), check it out.]  The last time I was in Finland, there was a big Ferris Wheel erected in the Marina where the Viking and Silja Lines base.  There was a “White Star Champagne Cabin” that could be reserved for special events.  Now, that cabin has been replaced by an actual revolving sauna!!  Yes, you can book it privately for a ‘reasonable’ fee per hour.

Film poster for Miesten Vuoro

Film poster for Miesten Vuoro

Other unusual saunas that seem to tickle the Finnish fancy include a ski gondola sauna, a travel trailer sauna, and (coming soon) a sauna moving around the US to honor 100 years of Finnish Independence!  These creative sites for saunas always seemed natural to me since my Uncle Jaakko, a Professor at the technical university in Finland, made a sauna for his sailboat that he sailed to and spent time in on the Mediterranean.  Real Finns are never far from their sauna!!

A DIY Saunalautta Raft

A DIY Saunalautta Raft

For those who are several generations from Finland, don’t be “spooked” about the sauna.  There is nothing scary about it.  We should get ready for the Centennial Celebration and the Centennial Traveling Sauna with a little ‘sweat equity’ of our own!

If you know someone with a sauna, ask if you can try it out.  No dedicated Finn would turn you down.  Most home saunas (like mine) take about 40 minutes to be fully heated, so some advance notice is helpful.   Burbank Spa on Magnolia Avenue in North Hollywood is an excellent, authentic commercial alternative.  If you can find a member to host you, there is a nice set-up at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

Sauna at Burbank Spa & Garden

Sauna at Burbank Spa & Garden

October: What Season Is It?

The calendar year in our City of Angels does have seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and “…more Summer”!  Today, there is a drought and the warm/hot Santa Ana winds are blowing.  Even though Fall is about over, the thermometer is scheduled to exceed 100º F.

Today, there is a drought and the warm/hot Santa Ana winds are blowing

Today, there is a drought and the warm/hot Santa Ana winds are blowing

Don’t you miss those crisp, fresh Finnish, East Coast, Midwest, Upper Peninsula, New England Autumns that yield the European Oktoberfest vibe?

There are ways to kindle that nostalgia and kill two or more birds with one stone!  You could turn on the air conditioner full blast and I will share my recipe for authentic Finnish sauerkraut (Hapankaali) from the Asikkala region I picked up from the local newspaper decades ago.  Unfortunately, that recipe begins with a call for ‘about’ 40 heads of cabbage!  Maybe by next year I will have done the math to make the ‘making’ manageable for both of us!  But, the immediate solution for your Finnish/Euro Fall experience may be just a visit to LA’s own Alpine Village. They have homemade sauerkraut, award winning sausages, and wait for it…–a treasure trove of Finn Crisp.  They also have fresh quark.

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LA’s Alpine Village

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One of my father’s favorite soups he continuously asked me to make for him since I was a child was Siskonmakkarakeitto (translated: Sister Sausage Soup–I know, go figure why the name?).  It was one of his childhood memories and many other Finns’ favorite, too.  The closest sausage to the Finnish featured makkara I have found locally is the Bavarian Weisswurst (veal sausage).  SSS has much of the same ingredients as your traditional lihakeitto, with sausage instead.  My father insisted [“se täytyy olle suurustettu”] a slurry of milk and flour needed to be added to thicken, making almost a makkara chowder.  It is tasty, comforting, and kid-friendly.

LA Happenings

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There is so much going on in LA right now. Halloween is everywhere.

There is so much going on in LA right now.  Halloween is everywhere.  The Halloween phenomenon has gone out of control.  Supermarket ‘shelf space’ has been taken over by Halloween superstores.  Investigating what these ‘super’ stores held inside, I found some child costumes, but the stock was mostly adult items for dress up parties and costumes, scary decorations, and exotic props like fog machines.  With such additions yielding more ‘coin’, over 6.9 billion dollars will be spent on candy, costumes, decorations, and the like this year!

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[It seems like Halloween is becoming bigger than Christmas which the secularists may be trying to wipe out.]

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In Los Angeles, it is easy to attribute the rise of Halloween because “…this is Hollywood”.  As the center of the film industry, we are used to seeing people in crazy, outlandish garb—with or without ‘star trailers’ parked nearby.  We do live in a constant world of make-believe.  I thought nothing of seeing two women dressed as ‘pirates’ walking down the street in early September.  Maybe they were pre-Halloween celebrants, extras off to a movie shoot, or just plain ‘wackkos’ —of no never mind, it is all part of what we love about our City of Angels.  It is OK to be whatever you want to be!!

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Actually you cannot be what you want to be or do something that ‘offends’ if you command too much attention.  For example, all the major amusement parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Knott’s Berry Farm put on special events and features for Halloween.  Haunted houses are competitive features done professionally with ‘homegrown scary things’ coming out to scare people.  The scariest entry draws the massive target market of kids.  This year, Knott’s Berry Farm had to close their top attraction down because the scary, deranged man-figure that jumps out was considered to offend the mentally ill!  This was not “politically correct”.  Protests followed.  The feature was closed down.  So—the concept winner lost the $ race.  Business can be a bear on the scary market!

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[To me, what is not politically correct is the millions of mentally ill living on our streets or under our freeway underpasses and bridges, having altercations with citizens and the police, going in and out of the jail system, and not receiving the care proper to their condition.  California used to have a large system of hospitals for the study and treatment of the mentally ill.  Perhaps someone should create a competition for the system design and funding for their proper care!  The ‘prize’ would be shared by so many!!  And, serious progress could be re-made on a really serious scary problem!]

Speaking of Politics

Is the 224 page California Voter Pamphlet for November 8 thicker than the Helsinki phone book?

Tthe biggest item stuffed in mailboxes this fall may be the Nov. 8 statewide voter guide.

Tthe biggest item stuffed in mailboxes this fall may be the Nov. 8 statewide voter guide.

Finnish Community Happenings

LAFF Monthly Meeting

A lively meeting of the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation began with a showing of the movie The Cuckoo.   Imagine a movie with three characters not speaking one another’s languages with us (the audience) in the same predicament watching them while having a film experience of human connectivity.  Such is a metaphor for the current global situation, n’est pas?

'The Cuckoo'

‘The Cuckoo’

Jeff Neff (Coordinator of Development and Culture for LAFF) brought the film.

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Next month Al Jokela will be the featured speaker!  Don’t miss it.

Friends of Finland Meeting

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The regular gathering of Finnish community leaders was enthusiastically ready to hear all of the exciting news of each other’s organizations, as well as, of the programs developing for the Centennial.  I know you all have been excited about the Traveling Sauna.  Just as this column was going to press, I had an update from Risto Sivula.  Here is his website: www.finland100usa.com.  Please check it out.

However, the big news of the meeting was the announcement by Consul General Juha Markkanen that he will be leaving us.  The veteran group of Finnophiles was used to the natural turnover of government postings.   Still, we all felt that JP, Tuula, Juha, and Maria ‘just got here’ which is the supreme compliment for the wonders they did for Finland and California relations.  They won our hearts and inspired us to go forward with JP’s enthusiasm and call for togetherness.

Consul General Juha Markkanen

Consul General Juha Markkanen

Consul General Markkanen, you have done wonderful work here.  The Finnish American community appreciates your significant contributions and support.  We wish you well on future postings.  May they be as successful as your stay here.  We look forward to welcoming you back whenever you visit.

Back to business: Heidi Luukkonen presented much information of coming events including announcing of the Finnish Golden Globe and Oscar entry of Juho Kuosmanen’s movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki which was just named the Best International Film at the Zurich Film Festival.

Juho Kuosmanen movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki

Juho Kuosmanen movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki

There was true excitement in the room as plans are coming together for the Centennial.  It was like a beehive of brainstorming.  What a joy to have Sirpa Selänne there sharing Teemu and her dedication and support for the pending plans.  A big hug and thumbs up for Sirpa on proposing a special event honoring our remaining Veterans and Lottas [‘stay tuned’ for an announcement when/if the details can be worked out].

Sports

I always try for a sports update when we are able –and Selänne equals sports to California Finns!

The proliferation of coverage has honored a retiring Southern California sports media icon –beloved Dodger Sportscaster Vin Scully.  His farewells and goodbyes were about as long [but well deserved] as his broadcasting career as The Voice of Dodger Baseball for 67 years.

Finns are often overshadowed due to their modesty and shyness, so I want to note the simultaneous retirement of the great Finnish sports broadcaster, nationally acclaimed Dick Enberg.

Finns are often overshadowed due to their modesty and shyness, so I want to note the simultaneous retirement of the great Finnish sports broadcaster, nationally acclaimed Dick Enberg.

Finns are often overshadowed due to their modesty and shyness, so I want to note the simultaneous retirement of the great Finnish sports broadcaster, nationally acclaimed Dick Enberg.  He had a long and illustrious career—just not quite as long as Vin Scully’s!

Finnair

Finnair non-stop flights between San Francisco and Helsinki begin in November for Slush –with Summer flights beginning in June.

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Suomi Kerho Anniversary Gala

A beautiful, elegant, monumental, and warm celebration was put together by Suomi Kerho in honor of its 60th Anniversary at the Courtyard Marriot Ballroom in Sherman Oaks.  What a warm, poignant event: a display of the history of Suomi Kerho, its Charter, a celebration of its original members, recognition of its past, and an appreciation for the current awesome team brought people from their seats in applause and reaching for their hankies with nostalgia!

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President Liisa Linnala brought the history of Suomi Kerho to life as she recognized the major players who have contributed so much to our Finnish American History in Los Angeles.  All in the audience sat proudly, basking in praise of the historic and present accomplishments and achievements.  All were warmed by the remarks from Consul General JP Markkanen about the state of Finnish American affairs here in LA.

Many thanks and kudos for the wonderful service and fellowship Suomi Kerho provides for our community.  We are especially grateful for the Finnish Club’s continuing support of our Veterans and Lottas’ meetings.  Let’s all get involved to learn, support, contribute to, and enjoy the offerings of our Suomi Kerho.  

Finnish Church

October 2 was the Saint Michael’s Day worship service which featured the Holy Baptism of Henri Alec Rodriguez.  A joyous congregation of over 50 were there for the first Fall event of the season for the Finnish Lutheran Church.  Dr. Veli-Matii Kärkkäinen delivered the Sermon.  It was wonderful to have Katrierrilli lead Pirkko Satola-Weeres welcoming everyone.  [We wish her well on her ankle surgery on October 26.]

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A real show-stopper that brought spine chills was the rendition of Amazing Grace by Lauri Helin, son of Pia and Jorma Helin.

What a treat it was to have Pikku Lotta Pirkko Liisa Mishenko (sister of Raija Anttila) in the Congregation with her caregiver Rhonda for the service.

Finnish treats and bites were enjoyed by all after the service

Tricks and Treats Redux

The traditional American Halloween involved little children in costumes and masks going to their neighbors holding a basket or plastic pumpkin seeking candy.  Upon the ‘target’ opening the door, the little ones squealed the traditional phrase “trick or treat” –meaning: give us candy or we will play a trick on you.  [The tricks threatened were like ‘soaping your windows’ or decorating your tree with toilet paper.  Tricks were mischievous, not malicious.]

Since this was not something Finland participated in in my youth, my first Halloween in the US turned out to be a real trick not just for me, but for every trick-or-treater who came to our door. Looking back, what we did do was really pretty diabolical (and not very nice).

I had been sick in bed with a case of the chicken pox –my face covered with big red pustules which, in turn, were covered in pink calamine lotion to prevent itching.  My Dad told me to put on my mother’s Marimekko (one with the classic pink dots on a red background pattern that matched my face).  My assignment was to answer the doorbell every time it rang and to pass out the candy.  What a nice way for the immigrant family to get to know their new neighbors, give them a ‘candy treat’, and ‘trick’ them with a case of contagious chicken pox!

Since that experience (even now), Halloween is my least favorite of the American holidays. There is an undercurrent of evil and bad guys run amuck.  Enough with the creepy clowns and their ilk.  I am always so happy to turn the calendar page after October 31 to the wonderful holiday month of November.

November features the beautiful and loving traditions of people coming together, immigrants and natives, helping one another in a new land with gratitude and sharing.

A Real Treat for You and Yours

One of the most fun days of research for Around LA for this Ava was my pilgrimage to Olson’s. This historic stalwart of Scandinavian goodness has been around since 1948 in Los Angeles.  What was, still is!  Olson’s continues on with new leadership and a new spirit.

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Yes, it is now possible to use a credit card, although I do miss those old cash-only registers that so added to the old world aesthetic.  Otherwise, you will not be disappointed.  Quite to the contrary.   Jill can answer every question you may have.

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My lucky day there began when I walked in the door to find myself in a ceiling high birch forest!  In answer to a question about Finnish candy, not only did they have Fazer Blue Chocolate Bars and Finlandia Jellies on hand with other Nordic treats, but Jill told me she had another large shipment on its way.  Check them out before holiday time.  They are aware of the Finnish Centennial celebration and will stock up on things Finnish.  We must do our part by patronizing this grand re-casting of an almost 70 year old Los Angeles ‘secret’.  There are some Finnish gift items there as well.  Stop by Olson’s on Pico near downtown for some early Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping.  Go to www.olsonsdeli.com for more information.

While at Olson’s, I was lucky enough to meet Caroline Nilsson, Scandinavian pastry chef.  Her business [www.swedcakes.com] sounds like something neat and sweet missing for a long time in LA.

Let the Festivities Begin-  a Sauna night, Spooky night or any time Suomi!!!

 

 

My dear, late mother used to say Finns will celebrate anything.  [Vaikka kissan ristiäiset = even a cat’s christening]

Start planning your celebrations –or be spontaneous.  Whatever your style, please put a smile on your face and feel love in your heart.  Enjoy your life, your family, and your friends —do something nice for someone you do not know!!   (e.g.:  I just secretly delivered a tureen of this soup to my neighbor and left it on her stove while she was sleeping—she calls me the “Food Fairy”.   Finnish Food Fairies unite!!!!

 

Triple S SSS Soup

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Sister Sausage Soup

Siskonmakkarakeitto Arin Tyyliin

Sister’s Sausage Soup Ari’s Style

 

8  cups water

1  ‘package’ of Finnish type soup combo of vegetables: parsnip, celery root, rutabaga, leek, and onion in equal parts (approximately ¼ lbs. each ingredient).  We are not measure here people—it is soup for goodness sake!

4-6  Yukon Gold [closest I have found to real Finnish] potatoes peeled and cubed

3  large carrots peeled and cubed

2  bay leaves

6  whole peppercorns

6  whole allspice berries

1  small vegetable broth cube

1  large beef bouillon cube

4  veal sausages (weisswurst)

 

1  cup whole milk

¼  cup flour

Parsley, chopped for garnish

 

Put first eight items in a large pot and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Peel casing from sausages and drop spoonsful into boiling mixture.

Mix flour and milk into a smooth slurry.

Mix slurry into boiling vegetable mixture until thickened.

 

Garnish plated soup with chopped parsley.

 

Serve with ruislimppu  rye bread or  Finnish crispbread with European butter to complete the experience

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: The Sauna Starts In Southern California

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: The Sauna Starts In Southern California

A benefit of being on Planning Committees is that you hear of lots of neat things before they happen.  Sitting on the Committee helping with plans for Finland’s 100th Independence Anniversary Celebration, I have learned that there are plans to introduce America to the unique Finnish Sauna Culture by sending a Sauna cross-country during 2017.  The launch point will be right here in our City of Angels.

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Realistically, many things could de-rail the Sauna launch.  All kinds of things could potentially quash the plans—natural or manmade disasters, controversy, a strike, politics, …!  Still, I think it is such a good idea that I would volunteer my own Sauna for the journey.  My Sauna was named the “traveling Sauna” by my parents who bought the Sauna shortly after emigrating from Finland to the US in the late ‘50s.  It was one of the first major ‘household purchases’ they bought once here.  The Sauna feels permanent, but breaks down into six pieces—and it moved with them through the years.  They moved many times!

When my folks retired, they left their prized Finnish possession in my care when they returned to Finland and Spain for their Summer/Winter bases.  My Sauna is electric, so we would need a really long cord for a cross-country trip!!

Sauna Secrets-Pondering A Local Conundrum

Because of my family’s ‘traveling Sauna’, I grew up as children do in Finland.  The Sauna is a natural part of everyday living—and a weekend without a Sauna is not a weekend!  The silence of the warm Sauna, the aromas of the vihtas, the bracing cold water ‘splashes’, and the peace of being alone and at home at the same time knows no national boundaries and flies no special flags.

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In a word: the Sauna is Finnish—not a natural part of local generations’ experience

One surprising secret I have discovered in much of the area Finnish American community is that there is hesitation, misunderstanding, embarrassment, and even trepidation about the Finnish Sauna.  In a word:  the Sauna is Finnish—not a natural part of local generations’ experience.

 I asked myself how many of my local contemporaries had actually had been in a Sauna—to say nothing of having the peaceful, cleansing ritual as an integral part of natural existence. The answer has to be: far fewer than I thought!

I asked myself how many of my local contemporaries had actually had been in a Sauna—to say nothing of having the peaceful, cleansing ritual as an integral part of natural existence. The answer has to be: far fewer than I thought!

As I pondered this ‘secret’, I asked myself how many of my local contemporaries had actually had been in a Sauna—to say nothing of having the peaceful, cleansing ritual as an integral part of natural existence.  The answer has to be: far fewer than I thought!

A Personal Revelation

Then, I recalled attending a special dinner party shortly after becoming a newly single years ago  where a popular producer/bon vivant properly attired in his velvet smoking jacket played host and his trophy wife orchestrated magnificent food courses.  A bit nervous at being “…out and about” in my new status, I had to think long and hard on how to answer the host’s provocative dinner party conversation-starter of a public question of the evening: “… what has been your second most pleasurable experience in life?”

… what has been your second most pleasurable experience in life?”

… what has been your second most pleasurable experience in life?”

I gave my truthful, heartfelt answer to the dinner guests.  I described a Finnish Sauna with the beauty of the lake, the silence (except for the occasional fish jumping), the warmth exuded by the rocks, the light scent of the birch switches soaking in the water bucket.  Sitting on the beautiful hand-made/hand-loomed laudeliina watching the never-ending sunset over a mirror-like lake on a perfect midsummer night, the exquisite beauty of nature at that very moment spelled perfection to me—and still does.

I described the memory of a 10 year old sent alone to visit my homeland for the Summer with Uncle Jarmo and Aunt Kaija. 

The conversation that night stopped except for the many questions about the Sauna, Finnish nature, and how that ‘Maslowian’ peak experience became my retreat and antidote in moments of sadness or stress.  I may have subverted my hosts’ evening conversation plans, but many “Finnfans” were born that night—many of whom subsequently reported positive experiences visiting Finland and having a Sauna in the Finnish countryside by the edge of a beautiful lake!

The Sauna Simplified

If you have not gotten into the experience, it is hard to wax poetic about it.  The Sauna is really not complicated.  You go into the hot room until you sweat, go out to cool off, repeat as you like!  Throw water on the hot rocks if you feel like it!  Cool off.  Shower.  You have Sauna’ed!!  Time for a makkara and a Lapin Kulta!!  My secret guilty hydration pleasure is a glass of bubbly (White Star-with a strawberry) enjoyed out of an Iittala Archipelago champagne flute! Result: happiness, inner peace rosy cheeks and a big smile!

The Sauna is really not complicated. You go into the hot room until you sweat, go out to cool off, repeat as you like!

The Sauna is really not complicated. You go into the hot room until you sweat, go out to cool off, repeat as you like!

The Sauna Complicated

When you read about the Sauna in Finland, it is often described as a public communal experience.  Business and political meetings—and negotiations, are transacted in the Sauna.  If you are not Finnish, this seems counterproductive unless the idea is to get everyone’s defenses down!  I guess that is called getting down to basics!!

Business and political meetings—and negotiations, are transacted in the Sauna

Business and political meetings—and negotiations, are transacted in the Sauna

Truth Be Told

America is a Puritanical country in many ways.  Nudity is uncomfortable and public nudity is not accepted.   Those of us who have spent most of our lives here are much more modest than our Finnish ‘cousins’.  It is difficult to fool the initiated as a dowager friend of mine discovered when visiting Finland.  She spent over an hour in the dressing room pretending she had been in the Sauna alone.  Her hosts smiled knowingly, but were not offended, when she re-appeared with her neatly coiffed “helmet head” hairdo still in perfect shape!

Those of us who have spent most of our lives here are much more modest than our Finnish ‘cousins’

Those of us who have spent most of our lives here are much more modest than our Finnish ‘cousins’

If you have not “made your body into your own personal work of art” through rigorous workouts and physical discipline—or cosmetic surgery, you do not have to be an exhibitionist.  It is OK.  I have simple solutions for you.  [Two words = Big Towel!  Three words = Two Big Towels—one to sit on; one to wrap yourself like a big burrito!  Problem solved!!]

Sense and Scents

Food good.  Sauna good.  Food in the Sauna not good!

While I have heard of people strapping a roast to their engine block on a long ride here in California—and, I do admit to poaching a whole salmon in my dishwasher before the day a glorious, huge French copper fish poacher came into my life [more later, maybe].  The Sauna, food preparation, drinking, and eating are separate events!  First you have a Sauna; then you drink; and then you eat!

Part of the beauty of the Sauna experience is the silence and the clean aromas: the cedar of the heated interior walls, the birch switches essence as you flagellate yourself or beads of birch water drop on the rocks from the spray you create

Part of the beauty of the Sauna experience is the silence and the clean aromas: the cedar of the heated interior walls, the birch switches essence as you flagellate yourself or beads of birch water drop on the rocks from the spray you create.

Part of the beauty of the Sauna experience is the silence and the clean aromas: the cedar of the heated interior walls, the birch switches essence as you flagellate yourself or beads of birch water drop on the rocks from the spray you create.  These aromas—even fresh human perspiration, are part of the proper scents experienced in a Sauna.

[Warning: California Birch trees do not produce the expected Finnish aromas!]FYI You can purchased frozen birch vihtas in Finland but USDA customs may not approve.

Among the aromas that have no place in the Sauna include: dripping makkara grease, spilled beer, and young male ‘contestants’ creating their own ‘steam’ when left to their own devices—if you get my drift!

Sauna Food

Don’t get me wrong about Sauna Food.  Cooking with the best ingredients in nature and from nature defines Finnish cuisine.  Good Makkara as part of a post-Sauna meal is a match made in heaven.  [Please see “Isomummin Makkara” in an earlier ALAWA column.  Add a nice Finnish potato salad with dill dressing, homebaked Finnnish bread and an ice cold olut!! (beer)  Just be sure the cooking is done on your outdoor grill or indoor oven—not on the Sauna rocks!!]

Good Makkara as part of a post-Sauna meal is a match made in heaven.

Good Makkara as part of a post-Sauna meal is a match made in heaven

As a little tyke, I did take ‘brain notes’ on the best foods related to the Sauna.  Again, Isomummi rules!  Every morning started with a swim in the lake; then, it was time to check the katiskat (traps) for fish.  The two of us went off in a rowboat for the adventure.  She was most excited when there was a nice, big lahna (bream) flopping around in a trap.  She knew just what to do with it!

Next stop, the fish cleaning station on the shore where we went to gut and scale this flat, oval shaped beauty!  Isomummi was a concert pianist and her fingers flew in whatever she was doing.  That bream was cleaned, scaled, and salted in the wink of an eye.  The scales were large and looked like sequins from a mermaid’s costume to this excited toddler.

The salted bream was wrapped in parchment paper which was further wrapped in about 6 large pieces of newspaper forming a tight pouch.  Once wrapped, the package was dipped in the lake and put into the fire compartment of the sauna water heater.  After about an hour, the fish was done.  The newspaper turned to wet ashes.  Once peeled away, the parchment package revealed a delicious fish to be enjoyed later for dinner.  [I have used the same technique with a whole salmon on top of a barbeque grill. I added dill, lemon slices, and salt on the inside.  Be sure the salmon fits on the grill with the top closed. Takes about an hour to cook.  Let rest before opening.  A salmon I prepared with this method was a big hit at a local Chumash Indian wedding reception.

FINNS THIS SUMMER

“Midsummer” In LA

Literal Midsummer on Juhannus began with news of a “beached whale” on the shores in the LA South Bay at Dockweiler Beach.  Please do not make any connection to the theme of this column, even though the afterglow of a Sauna might make you feel like a ‘beached whale’!

The whale washed up right at the Hyperion Water [= Sewage] Treatment Facility.  Curiously, this is the premier parking location throughout the year for campers, ‘glampers’, and RV enthusiasts, themselves, for their vacations.  Go figure.  The next ‘premier’ stop going South is the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.   So, go figure some more!!

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Many were not able to catch up, including the ever popular SCAN Nansenfield Shrimp Fest

Official Midsummer seemed to come too early this year.  Many were not able to catch up, including the ever popular SCAN Nansenfield Shrimp Fest.  ‘Maypole marvels’ Mons and Anita were in Sweden in June this year.  They usually spend hours making the beautiful floral May Pole on the soccer field that the crowd dances around.  This year a floral arrangement on a chair was all that was needed to get the folks dancing.

Finns I spotted supporting SCAN included Virpi Sidler with Bill Russell.  Jukka Vuorenmaa was there with his crew in tow.  All of us enjoyed watching a wonderful Norwegian peeling his shrimp and adding his special Norwegian mayonnaise to his treasure.  He created quite a homemade delicacy before telling that the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Pedro has the secret mayonnaise for sale.

Finns I spotted supporting SCAN included Virpi Sidler with Bill Russel

Finns I spotted supporting SCAN included Virpi Sidler with Bill Russel

The SCAN Brits have the best kept culinary ‘stash’ for those not into shrimp: makkara!  Andy (the pleasant, dedicated caretaker at Nansen Field) was manning the grill.  These were not conventional bangers.  He made the best veal sausage with caramelized onions that was worth the drive from LA to PV.  Add dessert of fresh strawberries and kringle –what could be better?

Paal Berg, Erik Mikkelsen, Sue, and others made for a fun evening and a joyful celebration.  I can’t wait until next year.  I love being the Finland representative at the SCAN meetings and have had nothing but fond memories since being asked to represent Finland at SCAN by our Consul General Kirsti Westphalen during her tenure.

This is a great dedicated group of people who are lots of fun.  The SCAN location is just fabulous up there in Palos Verdes.  It is a wonderful party venue for all sorts of indoor and outdoor activities that is available to Nordic organizations at reasonable rates.  Check out their scheduled programs and events, as well as, the new Heritage Memory Walk where you can donate a personalized brick to a loved one in your family or create another special memorial.

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Anu Partanen Book Launch

What an exciting evening celebrating noted author and journalist Anu Partanen as she began her US book tour on her thought provoking treatise The Nordic Theory Of Everything.  Consul General JP Markkanen hosted an interesting group of local Scandinavian ‘movers and shakers’ to hear Partanen’s presentation on Nordic Values which elicited very lively comments from the assembled participants.  Thank you, Anu.  Your work gives us much food for thought and great grist for discussions ahead.

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The Ambassador Came to Call

Family weddings and other personal business brought Ambassador Anne Huhtamäki, husband Veli-Matti Mattila, and daughter Eeva (a newly ‘minted’ Medical Doctor) to Los Angeles for a very brief visit.

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We enjoyed a fun evening of reminiscing and learning about her life and the current situation in the Balkans

When they arrived, they brought “regards” from having spent an evening with Bitte and Jörn Donner at a concert in Tammisaari in the prior few days.

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We enjoyed a fun evening of reminiscing and learning about her life and the current situation in the Balkans.  The menu theme was meant to reflect places Anne has served it was probably too subtle and was lost. Because of the warm evening, almost everything was chilled : ahi tuna avocado boaths, noodle almond ginger slaw, poached chicken in a tahini garlic sauce, salmon Nicoise salad, baby lamb chops with roased shallots, fruit tart with orange flower essence.

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Ahi tuna avocado boaths

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Noodle almond ginger slaw

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poached chicken in a tahini garlic sauce

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Salmon Nicoise salad

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Fruit tart with orange flower essence

Dinner is served: from top: ahi tuna avocado boats, noodle almond ginger slaw, poached chicken in tahini garlic sauce, salmon nicoise salad, baby lamb chops with roasted shallots and mint

Dinner is served: from top: ahi tuna avocado boats, noodle almond ginger slaw, poached chicken in tahini garlic sauce, salmon nicoise salad, baby lamb chops with roasted shallots

Artist Daniel Fyffe in Helsinki–Tuonetar Opening at Makkaragalleria

I had been contacted by Bitte Westerlund about local LA artistic treasure and friend Daniel Fyffe.  She was excited about his opening presentation of his artwork in Helsinki.  Somehow, perhaps because I have an Uncle and a Cousin living in the same neighborhood as the Gallery, I ended up sponsoring sausages for the event.

LA based Kaya Kouvonen made it to the opening.  She is pictured with the artist.  You may also recognize Ristomatti Ratia, an artist and designer himself—and, the son of the founder of Marimekko, Armi Ratia.  If you missed the Helsinki opening, you will be happy to hear there will be a Los Angeles event sometime soon.   Let’s keep up the theme and have makkara refreshments!

More Makkara

There is always makkara around when it is Summer.  This year, the biggest thing at the box office on a recent weekend was Sausage Party!

There is always makkara around when it is Summer. This year, the biggest thing at the box office on a recent weekend was Sausage Party!

There is always makkara around when it is Summer. This year, the biggest thing at the box office on a recent weekend was Sausage Party!

‘They say’ there are two things you do not want to see ‘made’: sausage and politics!  This political season, there is a strange absence of the bumper stickers you normally see during a Presidential election year.  There are some “Feel the Bern” Sanders left over.  The few Hillary stickers around have a big H with a right arrow through the middle that looks like a traffic sign saying “…this way to the hospital”.

The most accurate ‘they say’ sign I have found is depicted in a photo I took at the Huntington Gardens parking lot last week that is pictured here.  Perhaps it reflects a general consensus.  In a strangely ironic ‘coincidence’, the name of a Senatorial Candidate for California this year is “Kamala” which means “Terrible” in Finnish.

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Can you imagine what Mr. Trump would do with that translation???

Fact checkers and political strategists must be multi-lingual today!  ‘Spinning’ that translation has its difficulties!!

As we begin to move into the big celebration year HAVE A SAUNA!!!  Relax!!  It is time to enjoy all things Finnish!

As we begin to move into the big celebration year HAVE A SAUNA!!! Relax!! It is time to enjoy all things Finnish!

As we begin to move into the big celebration year HAVE A SAUNA!!! Relax!! It is time to enjoy all things Finnish!

From Finland to Stardom, an Afternoon with Actress Taina Elg

From Finland to Stardom: An Evening with Taina Elg
Event photos by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

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Finlandia Foundation hosted ‘From Finland to Stardom: An Evening with Taina Elg’. Through anecdotes, Ms. Elg offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life as a young star at MGM Studios and life in Hollywood. She spoked candidly of her experiences and touched on her view of the film industry today.

Taina Elg, who won two Golden Globes, including one for her role in the 1957 film Les Girls starring Gene Kelly, told her story in an intimate interview format conducted by Heli Sirviö, a Finnish television and stage actress.

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: A DATE FOR LIFE


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Los Angeles is a city of great love stories—real and fantasy.  Let me tell you one of them.  After all, February 2016 has Valentine’s Day and Sadie Hawkins’ Day—that every 4 year phenomenon of a 29th day Leap Year.  [In days of yore, on Sadie Hawkins’ Day a woman/girl was permitted to ask a man/guy for a date.  Yes, the world has changed.]

Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the November 15, 1937 "Li'l Abner" daily strip.

Sadie Hawkins Day was first mentioned in the November 15, 1937 “Li’l Abner” daily strip.

Even in our ‘hook-up’ environment, preliminaries usually begin with a “date”.

A word with multiple meanings, “date” in its simplest form is the fruit of the palm tree (taateli).  Date can mean (treffit) –a potentially romantic meeting between two individuals.  The Internet and all of its iterations has redefined “dating”, but for our purposes we will use its simplest, old-fashioned form where a lady or girl was invited by a gentleman or boy for some alone time with an agreed-upon starting hour, on a specific day, for a shared activity such as a meal, a movie, a concert, or a prom. Both parties played by the same rules hoping to make a romantic connection leading to a possible future relationship—or, at least, another date.  Hollywood made millions on movies of the varieties of good, bad, tragedy, and comedy premises.  My date story is of the ‘50s “… and they lived happily ever after” genre.

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But, for an added ‘hook’, there is a palm tree involved!

Our beloved City of Angels is known for its palm trees.  Finns have called it missä palmut huivuu –the place where the palm trees sway.  There are many species of palm trees, but the most prevalent here are the tall coconut and date palms.  If you drive around west LA and Santa Monica, you will see these amazing, tall, skinny ‘towers’ bending and swaying with the wind.  Their supernatural structures endure the Santa Ana winds and other environmental issues in seeming defiance of the laws of nature and physics with a fairly small root structure.  Their inner fortitude seems to say: “I belong here.  I can take it.  I am here to stay.”

Each morning, my first view at first light is of a palm tree across the street.  The palm is probably approaching 150 feet tall, rising majestically above all other trees and landscape in the neighborhood.  Let me tell you the love story behind that palm tree.

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MANY HAPPY RETURNS

 

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Many Happy Returns??  Americans have never quite bought into Boxing Day when the rest of the world blatantly returns gifts that “… do not fit” without guilt.  And, to be perfectly honest, I am not anxious for some marketing guru to find the “hook” to get us back into the stores.  I know, the drones are coming –but I really can wait!

The happiest returns of the holiday season—or of any season, always seem to involve a renewed acquaintance, the return of a favor long forgotten, the return to a location with fond memories, or just a chance recollection of times gone by through a serendipity of circumstances for an unknown purpose.  The momentary smile on my face may be the only physical manifestation of a profound experience.  I like that.  It feels good.  Yes, I am Finnish.

As another frantic year draws to a close, our souls recall the beautiful Peace of Finnish Christmas.

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As the distal boom of the old year melds into the crescendo of the year ahead on the ever spinning, ever so busy cycle of life here, recent events have been so fun to look back on with fondness.

A Personal Favorite: Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen’s return to Los Angeles for a major speaking engagement at the World Affairs Council luncheon at Spago was the culmination of this Finn’s ‘season’.  I had been present at her first World Affairs Council speech as Foreign Minister and, now again, as a former Finnish President at the pinnacle of her status as an influential world leader sharing her perspective of times past and present.  I was fortunate to be able to raise a question referencing her answer to one issue raised on her last visit regarding defense of Finland’s border with Russia.  It was fun to recollect on years past from old and new perspectives.

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FINNISH EDUCATOR PASI SAHLBERG TOURS THE U.S.: WHY THE FINNISH EDUCATION SYSTEM WORKS

FINNISH EDUCATOR PASI SAHLBERG TOURS THE U.S.
Reporter: Tomi Hinkkanen
Photos by P. Shalberg, Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho, Karri Huhtanen and  ‘Tungsten’

Finnish education system has repeatedly been ranked as the best in the world.
We asked Paul Sahberg, one of the most qualified experts in the area, what is so good about it  and what could be done to improve schools in the United States.

Q. Could you give us your title in English, explain what Cimo is (what does it do, who is behind that organization, etc.), and what do your duties there include. Also, if you could tell us a little about yourself – your background, family, etc?

My title is Director General at CIMO. CIMO is the Finnish Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation that operates as an agency of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland. CIMO advances internationalization of Finnish society by offering students and youth opportunities to international exchange, internships, development cooperation and joint projects. CIMO serves as an information service point for foreign people who are interested in studying in Finland and supports teaching Finnish language in foreign universities, e.g. Columbia University and University of Madison in Wisconsin. CIMO has 110 staff in Helsinki and 22 in foreign universities around the world. I am director of CIMO.

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SUPERMODEL SUVI’S GREEN HAVEN

SUVI KOPONEN by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb - copyrighted 2011

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES
PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN

SUPERMODEL SUVI’S GREEN HAVEN

Suvi Koponen’s modeling career got started at 16 when she won a Finnish modeling TV show. The top prize was a contract with modeling agency which led to quite a splash at a Prada show in Milan. She then moved to New York City where she fell in love with a tall and handsome model named Tyler Riggs. Last summer the couple moved to Los Angeles and purchased a house in the leafy Sherman Oaks area. Life is smiling at the young couple as they look forward to welcoming their first Christmas in their beautiful new home surrounded by lush green vegetation.

Tall, gorgeous Suvi Koponen, 23, was born in Helsinki and grew up in Vantaa. She is the oldest of three children. Her mother is a kindergarten teacher and her father is the manager of an assisted living facility.

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DARUDE, THE FINNISH STAR DJ TOURS NORTH AMERICA

DARUDE, THE FINNISH STAR DJ TOURS NORTH AMERICA
REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – ATLANTA, GA
PHOTOS BY MICKEY McNULTY AND TIM WILSON

Ville Virtanen, aka Darude, is best known for his 2000 hit single Sandstorm. He has sold over five million records. For the past decade, Ville has been touring the world, doing DJ sets in more than 40 countries. Ville has been ranked as one of the top 100 DJ’s in the world. He has moved to Georgia with his lovely wife Michelle. They have a 2 year-old child. The family lives in an Atlanta suburb, Georgia, where Ville works in his home studio and collaborates with artists around the world with modern techniques.

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THE PIA PAKARINEN PHENOMENON

STORY: PIA PAKARINEN
REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES
PHOTOS: JONNY KAHLEYN
MAKE-UP AND HAIR: KRISTINA DUFF

Pia Pakarinen by Jonny Kahleyn (copyrighted)

Pia Pakarinen by Jonny Kahleyn  ©

The Finnish beauty queen was crowned Miss Finland in March, 2011, and by September she had abdicated her crown amidst terrible press. “What happened?” we asked Pia as she arrived in America for the very first time.

A year ago nobody knew anything about Pia Pakarinen, a 21-year-old country girl from Juuka, Northern Karelia. Then, last spring, she won the Miss Finland beauty pageant and became an overnight sensation. The beautiful and well-spoken blond bombshell seemed to be everywhere. With great triumph, the Nordic maiden was sent to the Miss Universe contest in São Paulo, Brazil. That’s when things started to go haywire. Reports began appearing in the media that Pia insisted that her entourage be brought along and that she demanded money for interviews. She returned from Brazil empty-handed and was said to be canceling and/or missing gigs that she had previously agreed to do. She then dramatically gives up her Miss Finland title in a live TV-broadcast and denounces the organization behind it. Pia Pakarinen was a persona non grata in Finland. There was only one thing to do: Go Hollywood!

Enter Maria and Paul Kizirian, a couple who work at the Network modeling agency in Los Angeles. The Finnish-born Maria happened to know Wille Wilenius, a friend of Pia’s.

Pia Pakarinen by Jonny Kahleyn (copyrighted)

Pia Pakarinen by Jonny Kahleyn  ©

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