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.

sauna

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!

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear

As an ever-curious, pondering, wandering fan of this City of Angels, irony, serendipity, the meaning of words, and life’s coincidences enter my thoughts often –especially sitting in a non-moving vehicle.

If you live in Los Angeles, chances are that a large portion of your day is spent sitting in traffic in a car you drive yourself.  If you don’t live in Los Angeles, you have heard our laments.

If you live in Los Angeles, chances are that a large portion of your day is spent sitting in traffic in a car you drive yourself.

If you live in Los Angeles, chances are that a large portion of your day is spent sitting in traffic in a car you drive yourself.

Despite attempts to change the car culture with massive investments in mass transit projects or the pesky, highly motivated, and ‘subversively’ dangerous bicycle ‘political’ movement, most real Angelenos love their cars.  Some love them in quirky ways— even giving them names like pets or family members.  Such fierce loyalty to their Metal Friends develops and is sustained despite the ‘cost/benefit ratio’ going down the tubes as the repair bills rise for their aging buckets of bolts.

Despite attempts to change the car culture with massive investments in mass transit projects or the pesky, highly motivated, and ‘subversively’ dangerous bicycle ‘political’ movement..

Despite attempts to change the car culture with massive investments in mass transit projects or the pesky, highly motivated, and ‘subversively’ dangerous bicycle ‘political’ movement..

I plead guilty:  until the other month, the last car I bought was in 1995!

My neighbor in Manhattan Beach had a car dealership that had been in his Austrian family for generations.  While his dealership was in the San Fernando Valley, the family had figured out that there were lots of reasons why people traded in their cars.  I bought that ’95 because my older model would not make it up the Sepulveda Pass as my children grew and the little engine could not handle their additional weight.  The cars bought/traded were the same—midnight blue 4 door sedans.

On the wall of the Dealership was a Polaroid photograph of each customer proudly standing next to their newly purchased vehicle posing with a bouquet of red roses provided by the Dealership. It was almost wedding-like!

Loyalty is big thing to me.  I have been loyal to that sweet, plucky, four cylinder, midnight blue, Finnish feeling European fuel miser with a FIN decal on its bumper that still sits in the driveway even though it has not been driven in years.  Reluctantly, my newest ‘old’ car will soon to be on its way to a car donor organ charity aka a chop-shop.

After all these years, a new car is a big thing to this simple girl.  All right, my “new car” is not this year’s model, fresh out of the dealership—and there was no bouquet of roses!  It is a 5 year old, very low mileage beauty maintained as exquisitely as a Hollywood starlet!  The car was purchased from a private party.

Technology has changed the automobile with new-fangled electronics.  My beauty has all of the ‘bells and whistles’ cars are equipped with these days. Sitting in my new toy for the first times, the same message came at me in text in the many rear view mirrors and in other messaging devices: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.

..Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.

..Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.

What the @#&% ?!!?  What is the meaning of this?  Each time the car is put in reverse the screen of the ‘photograph like’ rear view provided, the same existential message appears.  Shall I surrender now –or wait until I get on the freeway?

Truthfully, at first, I was so busy reading screens and mirrors, I almost forgot to pay attention to the people and the cars I used to look to avoid!

Big Things/Close Things

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The ‘ginormous’ NASA fuel tank that made its way to our lovely City of Angels by way of the Panama Canal from Louisiana arrived with proper fanfare.

The new car’s mirrors, screens, and messages were the harbinger of this column.  In our LA microcosm of life, things do seem to be getting bigger and getting closer.

What I call ‘performance Art’ started off the month here.  The ‘ginormous’ NASA fuel tank that made its way to our lovely City of Angels by way of the Panama Canal from Louisiana arrived with proper fanfare.  That was the same morning the shopping needed to be done for the Taina Elg event I had agreed to cater for the Finlandia Foundation.  Normally a news ‘junkie’, I did not have KNX1070 tuned in on my radio as I headed out to Costco, that magnificent money pit of stores located at Lincoln and Washington in Marina Del Rey.  Having violated a basic tenet of L.A. driving, of course, I ended up right where the debut of the ‘Tank Transport’ show was happening that morning.  So, I made it to the ‘opening of a show’ where I had not planned to go.  That tank made it into this column, even though I did not have my Costco supplies for the event pending.

Long term readers may remember the ‘rock’.  I mean the ‘performance art’ transport of a piece later named Levitated Mass that wound its way through freeway closures and cheering crowds a while back.  That piece now sits permanently at LACMA where you can walk under it.

Then, there was Endeavour space vehicle that I endeavored to photograph as it ‘zoomed’ on its last flight over the house.  It then went on to make L.A. history with its 2 mph ‘ceremonial lap’ for adoring fans snapping ‘selfies’.  That mother of all space shuttles needed giant trees to be felled on L.A.’s lovely boulevards before it made its journey to Exposition Park, its final resting/showplace.

That mother of all space shuttles needed giant trees to be felled on L.A.’s lovely boulevards before it made its journey to Exposition Park, its final resting/showplace.

That mother of all space shuttles needed giant trees to be felled on L.A.’s lovely boulevards before it made its journey to Exposition Park, its final resting/showplace.

Now it was the fuel tank’s turn to be joined forever with its space partner in launching on display for the pre-jettison pose.  It was fun to be close.  The tank was big. The two will be displayed vertically side by side pointing skyward clutching each other tightly as in their original pre-launch space hug.

It is funny how adoring fans show up for events involving inanimate objects in this town dedicated to bringing life to the mind and imagination!  It is almost like the political rallies this year …but, don’t get me started on that topic!  [Other than to say things are “huge”, if you “feel the Bern”… !]

Ambassador and Ambivalence

His Excellency David O’Sullivan [Ambassador of the European Union to the United States] was in town for an address at the UCLA Faculty Club on the timely topic “Europe at the Crossroads”.  As for the European Union, Mr. O’Sullivan felt that all countries were now better off, even as he noted the importance of the vote on June 23rd on the ‘Brexit’ issue [before the vote].  With his perspective of 35 years in European service, he expressed concern that the political crises have been and will be destabilizing.

His Excellency David O’Sullivan [Ambassador of the European Union to the United States] was in town for an address at the UCLA Faculty Club on the timely topic “Europe at the Crossroads”

His Excellency David O’Sullivan [Ambassador of the European Union to the United States] was in town for an address at the UCLA Faculty Club on the timely topic “Europe at the Crossroads”

Note: As this column goes to press, we know the ‘Brexit’ vote.  What will be next?  Will France pull a ‘Frexit’; will Czechoslovakia do a ‘Czechquit’; Finland a ‘Finnish’?  Still pending is the newly articulated ‘do-over’ proposed by the Brits who woke up to find “…Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear”!  Fasten your seatbelts—rocky road ahead!!!

O’Sullivan told that there is 15 times more trade with the EU and Russia than anyone else.  Sanctions have hurt the EU.  What happens if there is no EU?  How does Russia pay for goods and services with oil at €42?

O’Sullivan told that there is 15 times more trade with the EU and Russia than anyone else.

O’Sullivan told that there is 15 times more trade with the EU and Russia than anyone else.

With the millions of refugees already in Europe, many thousand dead, and 200,000 rescued by EU vessels, the global migrant problem will only get worse.  Sullivan told that in the 2014 elections in the EU, many anti-EU officials were elected.  As to the U.S. stand on migration, he quoted Churchill: “The US will always do the right thing after they have exhausted all other options.”  Was that a polite way of saying Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear or was he setting up a hedge for the British ‘do-over’?

FACC Board Member Heidi Crooks sitting next to me beat me to her feet to ask the question on many minds (and in the piece in Amerikan Uutiset) about the military buildup, the Baltic fly-over ‘buzzings’, and other provocations by Finland’s Eastern neighbor.   O’Sullivan said they were a big concern for him.  Stressing the importance of solidarity on this issue, O’Sullivan said the issue will continue to be dangerous and worrisome.

Mr. O’Sullivan reminisced about his first visit to LA at the age of 9 in 1961—the Wizard of Oz was yet to be colorized.  No matter how many rocks or fuel tanks we stock, we all remember the ‘magic’ of our childhood experiences in ‘tinsel town’! 

Ambassador Re-Dux

Later that week, I was present as Ambassador O’Sullivan opened the EU Film Festival.  Since the venues and audiences were so diverse, it was perfectly understandable that Mr. O’Sullivan used the same sentiments—and the same anecdotes.

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The event at the Egyptian Theater was great fun!  Many Finnish and other European ‘movers and shakers’ were around including: Erkki and Ilona Kanto, Liisa and Ahvo Linnala, Bo Svenson, and our new Consul for Commercial and Trade Affairs Aki Luukkainen—among many others.  The Finnish short film Just a Name was a perfect way to start off the festivities for the film festival.  It was hilarious!

My conclusion was that the Big EU Film Festival concept is fantastic!! Great leadership and help was provided by Consul General Juha (J.P.) Markkanen and his wonderful Consular staff.

My conclusion was that the Big EU Film Festival concept is fantastic!! Great leadership and help was provided by Consul General Juha (J.P.) Markkanen and his wonderful Consular staff.

My conclusion was that the Big EU Film Festival concept is fantastic!!  Great leadership and help was provided by Consul General Juha (J.P.) Markkanen and his wonderful Consular staff.  Thanks to our Consulate’s efforts, the affair was –“…right on!!!”

Be Alert

In a place like Los Angeles, it is often hard to know what to pay attention to at any point in time.  So much happens all around us.  Are things closer or bigger that we see them?   Living here, the ‘filters’ need to be fine-tuned in our business and personal lives.  The UCLA Faculty Club and the Egyptian Theatre are not normal ‘bed fellows’, yet I got ‘close-ups’ with Ambassador O’Sullivan at each!

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John is a real life flying super hero who was Chief Advisor for the original Top Gun movie.

An event I attended honoring the Women of Eagle Scouts by the Council of Boy Scouts of America would seem to have little to do with Ambassador O’Sullivan and my concerns about provocative Russian ‘buzzing’ of EU objects/potential targets.  Yet, the Boy Scout speaker was TOP GUN Navy Fighter Pilot John H. Semecken, III.  John is a real life flying super hero who was Chief Advisor for the original Top Gun movie.  If you saw the movie, you saw John in his starring role singing “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” right next to Tom Cruise.  Like Alfred Hitchcock’s penchant for appearing in some random scene in each of his films, John got the ‘lollipop’ of singing a drinking song on screen!  His incredible career and personal achievements got him his ‘singing gig’!

Dressed in his flight suit for the Women of Eagle Scouts presentation, Fighter Pilot Semecken looked the role as he told of days-of-yore “buzzing” of Soviet aircraft, knowing there would be photographs taken by the Soviets even if they knew Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.  His team placed a visible gag item [best described as something inflatable from an adult store!] on board that would be clearly visible in the Kremlin ‘news shots’ taken of the US jets as they buzzed the Soviet aircraft in the Indian Ocean.

I am worried about backing out of my driveway because I have too many mirrors and cameras giving me too many messages to decipher.  Our Top Guns play games with ‘inflatables’ at supersonic speeds!  The flying high jinxes were not the same for O’Sullivan and Semecken—different people were doing the buzzing!

Elsewhere: Random Thoughts While Sitting in Traffic 

Driving on The Strip for the EU Film Festival, there were many folks headed for a place where a Purple neon sign announced: “No rock star died today!”  A young lady [with an elderly friend with high heeled platform shoes who could hardly make it across the street] was paying homage to an idol in what seemed like an important ‘pilgrimage of respect’ for Big Rock Idol PRINCE.

Later, along Hollywood Boulevard (at Graumann’s) is a store named La La Land. The cement mixer ahead of me in traffic had signs warning of “danger”. I guess you can get encased in cement while waiting for a red light.

Later, along Hollywood Boulevard (at Graumann’s) is a store named La La Land. The cement mixer ahead of me in traffic had signs warning of “danger”. I guess you can get encased in cement while waiting for a red light.

Later, along Hollywood Boulevard (at Grauman’s) is a store named La La Land.  The cement mixer ahead of me in traffic had signs warning of “danger”.  I guess you can get encased in cement while waiting for a red light.  Do you need a reservation to be ‘seated’ at Grauman’s??

In a big place like LA, things are always happening.  Sometimes we can ignore events.  Sometimes a big response is required.   Sometimes it helps to know which response is appropriate!

A short time ago in the early AM, a marked Police Car came into the quiet cul de sac where I live and parked.  Two fully equipped officers got out of the unit carrying their batons—normally left in the car or carried on their belts.  That was sufficiently different that it was time to pay attention.  After a bit, one of the officers came back to the car and moved it from the curb to a position blocking exit from deep inside the cul de sac.  After another bit, a second cruiser arrived with one officer who also parked in a ‘blocking’ mode and walked on in.  Things were getting ‘curiouser’ and ‘curiouser’!!

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A short time ago in the early AM, a marked Police Car came into the quiet cul de sac where I live and parked.

A short time ago in the early AM, a marked Police Car came into the quiet cul de sac where I live and parked.

Suddenly, all three policemen sprinted out to their vehicles with screeching U-turns and squealed out with rubber burning—one barely missing a neighbor coming home!  We knew something important was happening—the helicopters and building sirens told us it was more than the first cops were investigating!

The TV local news gave the bottom line on what ‘big thing’ was going on:  UCLA was in full lockdown mode!  A mass shooting on campus was feared with attention centered on the Engineering Building.  OMG—our dear next door neighbor is an Engineering Professor!  Hours of pacing and watching gut-wrenching news coverage followed with no definitive personal news.  Media covered the over-the-top law enforcement response, news filtered out about what had transpired, and any reasonable observer could see that the Responders had matters under control.

After his fearful and fateful day on campus, our ashen-faced, grief stricken neighbor arrived home.  He had been just a few doors away from what turned out to be a murder/suicide (student-teacher) in his Mechanical Engineering Department.

Talk about too close for comfort: FinnTimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen told that he had been in that same building on a project just the day before!  In fact, it was a clean tech visit for Finns, with my dear neighbor featured.

We never did figure out what our earlier law enforcement persons were investigating.

Going to my car later in the day to begin some errands, I noticed someone laid out sleeping in my back seat just before I got into the car.  The Police were called, again.  Revolvers drawn, 3 policemen made the arrest of a guy loaded with tattoos who had broken in; they simply described as a “criminal”.

I was really glad that I had not tried to drive away when: Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear –and are criminal!

Worth the Wait in Traffic

On a happy note: Guests had a chance to be up close and personal as Taina Elg had her CloseUp at the Finlandia Foundation National’s Performer of the Year event.  Also featured was Heli Sirviö.

Guests had a chance to be up close and personal as Taina Elg had her Close-Up at the Finlandia Foundation National’s Performer of the Year event.

Guests had a chance to be up close and personal as Taina Elg had her Close-Up at the Finlandia Foundation National’s Performer of the Year event.

A former Performer of the Year herself, the beautiful and talented Finlandia Foundation’s Maria Kizirian had a party concept that worked brilliantly.  Celebrating old Hollywood with guests encouraged to ‘dress up’ made for a fun event in the gardens.  Hats, feathers, pearls, caftans, Hollywood moguls in Panama hats, and “pin-up” girl styles were the order of the day.  It was fun!

Maria, Leena Tukiainen, Jeff Neff, and I had fun planning the retro-Hollywood style passed hors d’oevres we served.

Maria, Leena Tukiainen, Jeff Neff, and I had fun planning the retro-Hollywood style passed hors d’oevres we served.

Maria, Leena Tukiainen, Jeff Neff, and I had fun planning the retro-Hollywood style passed hors d’oevres we served.

Here is the menu we came up with (prepared by volunteers in my kitchen):

Kon Tiki Chicken Salad on Toast Rounds

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Butternut Squash in Demitasse

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Mini Mushroom Quiches

Roman Holiday Goat Cheese Tomato Tarts

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Pate California Grape Croustades

Ham Asparagus Radish Roulades

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Albacore/ Salmon Tea Sandwiches

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Smoked Salmon Cucumber Mini Bagel Bites

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Sweet Gluten Free Mini Treats from (Finnish) Natural Baking Company

Mimosas

Coppola Claret

Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc

European Roast Coffee

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Paul Halme, Esq. (Head of the Paloheimo Foundation) warmly welcome the Guest of Honor and all enthusiastic attendees.  All enjoyed tasting the delicious Danish pastries he brought from his wife Susan’s Solvang Bakery.  Ms. Elg remembered the Paloheimo family fondly, having spent time with the family when they lived in the mansion during her days here.

Paul Halme, Esq. (Head of the Paloheimo Foundation) warmly welcome the Guest of Honor and all enthusiastic attendees.

Paul Halme, Esq. (Head of the Paloheimo Foundation) warmly welcome the Guest of Honor and all enthusiastic attendees.

Paul presented Ms. Elg with a beautifully framed Arnefelt piece usually reserved for FFN trustees.

As part of her visit to Los Angeles, the gracious and generous “divine Ms. Elg” donated her beautiful Finnish national costume to the Finlandia Foundation.  It will have its permanent home at the Tupa.

As part of her visit to Los Angeles, the gracious and generous “divine Ms. Elg” donated her beautiful Finnish national costume to the Finlandia Foundation

As part of her visit to Los Angeles, the gracious and generous “divine Ms. Elg” donated her beautiful Finnish national costume to the Finlandia Foundation

Being close up to such a big star was such fun.  We love you, Taina!!  Thanks for coming.  Thanks for starring at our event!!!!!

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Next Up

The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation had its “Scholarship Picnic” –the annual fundraiser usually held in the Gardens, the Curtin House, or the Giddings Room.

When I pulled up to get into the normal parking lot, there were security guards, catering trucks, and lots of people scurrying about.  It looked like a very big turnout for the L.A.F.F. event!  They were turning people away from the parking lot.

When I pulled up to get into the normal parking lot, there were security guards, catering trucks, and lots of people scurrying about.

When I pulled up to get into the normal parking lot, there were security guards, catering trucks, and lots of people scurrying about.

It was a movie shoot!  Why not—this is Hollywood!

The Grand Portico of The Feynes Mansion was covered in black cloth (used to block sunlight or to simulate nighttime for inside shots).  What was last year’s picnic venue was swarming with the actors and crew so it was blocked off from our use, too.  The Curtin House was also closed.

The Grand Portico of The Feynes Mansion was covered in black cloth (used to block sunlight or to simulate nighttime for inside shots).

The Grand Portico of The Feynes Mansion was covered in black cloth (used to block sunlight or to simulate nighttime for inside shots).

Resilient and resourceful as Finns are, the LAFF members made the Tupa a cozy, friendly, and fun venue for the luncheon.  We all got ‘up close and personal’ with the newly gifted Taina Elg National Costume.  Valerie Jokela struck some poses for photos with the costume, aided by Sirvo who was celebrating a birthday.

Resilient and resourceful as Finns are, the LAFF members made the Tupa a cozy, friendly, and fun venue for the luncheon.

Resilient and resourceful as Finns are, the LAFF members made the Tupa a cozy, friendly, and fun venue for the luncheon.

 

We all got ‘up close and personal’ with the newly gifted Taina Elg National Costume. Valerie Jokela struck some poses for photos with the costume, aided by Sirvo who was celebrating a birthday.

We all got ‘up close and personal’ with the newly gifted Taina Elg National Costume. Valerie Jokela struck some poses for photos with the costume, aided by Sirvo who was celebrating a birthday.

The sounds of our wonderful music brought in some ‘movie people’ to listen and compliment! Your ever-curious interrogator just had to ask what was being filmed.  The answer: a Barbie commercial!    Getting ready for the Christmas season, I suppose—Things Are Closer/Bigger  Than They Appear.  I did see some props looking like parts of a merry-go-round in the trucks.

Speaking of the Carousel: the treasure on the Santa Monica Pier is having its 100th birthday!  It is older than Finland by a hair!  It is a fun famous landmark.  Marilyn Monroe was a frequent visitor.  The movie The Sting was filmed there.

Sometimes it is fun to look back and find that Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear!!!

Sometimes it is important to look back.  I heard a Finn recently quoted as saying:  “Finns don’t look in the rear view mirror”.

I take issue with this “…look-Ma-no-hands-until-you-hit-the-wall” approach.  My new rear view mirrors remind me that things are bigger and closer than they appear sometimes.  As Finland approaches her Centennial, let us at least look in our collective, historical rear view mirror with reverence and appreciation for what was done so well and with such great sacrifice by our fore fathers.

And, let us never forget the Veterans and Lottas who got us to this point!

Does it matter if it was Winston Churchill who said: “…he who does not recognize the past is bound to repeat it!”  Sometimes, Things Are Closer/Bigger Than They Appear.

Big Love Sandwich Cake

I have heard from many local Finns that they have not made and/or are intimidated about making the traditional Finnish Sandwich Cake.

This month’s recipe is more of a pictorial assembly instruction than a recipe of how I make mine. It is great for summer entertaining, showers, weddings, and the like.

This month’s recipe is more of a pictorial assembly instruction than a recipe of how I make mine. It is great for summer entertaining, showers, weddings, and the like.

This month’s recipe is more of a pictorial assembly instruction than a recipe of how I make mine. It is great for summer entertaining, showers, weddings, and the like.

You can do it and should do it!  Show your love!!  You will blow away your Finnish and non-Finnish guests when you serve this at a tea party, wedding, baby shower, memorial service, or bring it to a potluck.  Your Sisu will rise to meet your challenges; your creativity will take over and you will have fun with it!

Be sure you have a large empty shelf available in your refrigerator for the assembled cake as it needs to be chilled overnight.  [It is 112º F in Beverly Hills as this is being written!]  A large tray or foil covered piece of heavy cardboard will be needed.

Ingredients You Will Need:

2 Fillings of your choice: chicken salad, egg salad*, ham salad, salmon salad, tuna salad**, lobster salad, olive tapenade, or the like.  Use your own favorite recipes.  I have given 2 favorites.  The amounts are approximate.  You will know when you get to a nice spreadable consistency in your fillings.

Butter: about a pound of salted butter softened to room temperature to spread on bread slices

Bread: apologies to my homeland, but this time use American white bread [what my father used to call vaahtokumi (foam rubber).  He really missed his hapanleipä in the early days here.]. American white sandwich bread is sold in every store here.  It works.

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Here is a great tip: If you can find a bakery outlet store near you that sells what my dad jokingly called “used bread” –really, “day-old” product sold at a discount.  You will have scored a bargain and have a perfect ingredient.  The day old white bread will not be mushy, but will be the right consistency to be trimmed and assembled for your masterpiece.  Some chain grocery stores have a discount rack near the back of a store for overripe produce and used bread.  It helps to know where to look to get “lucky”!  If worse comes to worse, buy new bags of bread a few days before you need them!

Mayonnaise: lots for frosting and decorating.  Good quality preferred since it is a prominent flavor.

Garnishes: radishes, chives, shrimp, olives, parsley, cucumber, fresh dill, salmon roses, lemon slices, and/or whatever you think fun or pretty!

* Egg Salad: 1 dozen large, peeled, hard boiled eggs; about 3 cups of good mayonnaise; 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard; 1 teaspoon curry powder; salt and pepper to taste.  Chop all ingredients fine or process in food processor.  [There may be filling remaining—refrigerate—tomorrow’s lunch is made!]

** Tuna Salad:  1 giant can (66.05 ounces) water packed Tuna; 3 cups good mayonnaise; finely chopped celery; 4 tablespoons pickle relish; pepper and garlic salt to taste; 1 tablespoon dried dill.  Chop all ingredients fine or process in food processor.  [There will be filling remaining—refrigerate—tomorrow’s dinner is made!]

FUN TIME!!!

Now it is time to get closer.  You are about to create a Finnish Big Love Sandwich Cake!

If you have friends or children around to join you, this is a great, rewarding, fun time.

After removing crusts from bread by knife, line the pieces up on the first layer of your creation. Lightly butter each layer on the top to prevent leakage of the filling.  Put on first filling, spreading evenly to the edges.

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Put on a second layer of crustless bread squares.  Butter with offset spatula and add second filling, as above.

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Place third portion of bread squares on top of second filling.  Continue to build layers as above.  Or, if you like, stop here.   Place ‘gently’ moistened paper towels over the sandwich cake; wrap in cling film; and keep refrigerated overnight.

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Party Time:

Frost cake with Mayonnaise; decorate with squiggles, stars, or whatever with a cake decorating bag.

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Place garnishes.

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Step back—admire your creation!!—applaud your helpers!!!

You made it!!!!

AFTERWORD

Have a nice, relaxing and most of all, fun Summer!

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Seeing Double

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Seeing Double

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Spring brings on nature’s bounty –and flowers bloom, the animal world comes alive, evidence of rebirth and reproduction is everywhere.  Celebrities show off their “baby bumps”, birds build nests to hold their eggs, and the woodchuck aka ‘groundhog’ looks for his shadow.

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Electrifying, this multiplying stuff.  The air smells different here in LA, even without a whiff of El Nin͂o.

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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.

024  But

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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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Cookies for Fun—and Eating

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Cookies for Fun—and Eating

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Dear Reader:

Are you worn out from  shopping?

Do you need to keep houseguests busy?

Do you need to keep children occupied?

Do you wish you were a kid again?

Do you miss playing with Play-Dough?

Do you feel you have to bake something Finnish to make your end-of the-year complete?

All of the above?

Here is an answer for all your problems. It is so easy –and such fun!

This basic Finnish butter cookie dough can become your artistic medium for many fun versions and diversions. The beauty is in its simplicity!! Once you have mixed the dough, you can make a lovely platter of cookies for a gift or you can just throw a ‘blob’ on the kitchen counter and challenge the creativity of your children, friends, and or family.

It’s OK, I’ll give you’re a little trick that should win the first challenge round without fancy kitchen equipment, cookie cutters, rolling pins, or messy frosting. It is a quick “triple-play” delight (dough goes into thirds).

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: A Talk at the Tupa

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: A Talk at the Tupa

Following is the text of a presentation made by Ava Anttila to the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation at the Pasadena [CA] Museum of History on October 18, 2015.

It is so wonderful to be here today!! The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation has a special place in my heart. Thank you for inviting me.

As a Finnish born/American educated immigrant, I have consistently sought the company of ‘Friends of Finland’ in my new home. I began my search early [age 7—-seems like yesterday!!].

I have been fortunate to have been consistently successful in finding others who cherish their Finnish heritage, ancestry, culture, and language. Actually, as a little girl, my primary challenge was to learn the new language everyone around me spoke—except for my Parents!

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Typically ‘Finnish shy’, I learned SISU before I knew how to spell the word—in either Finnish or English. Gone were the days of blond-haired, blue-eyed friends at the French School my Uncle ran in Helsinki!! I was a stranger in a strange land—my immersion French did me no good.   Now, I stand here before you giving a speech in English with three degrees from good American schools behind my name.

In other words, I am just like you and your kin who made the long trip, found a new home, and learned new ways. I was fortunate in other aspects, as well.   My Parents continued to use Finnish as the household language while they learned the words and ways of the worlds in which they now worked. Also, I soon learned that my American friends did not care that Santa was Finnish and came to our home on Christmas Eve—as long as he made it to their house before dawn!

Life happened.

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Looking Forward With Finland

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Looking Forward With Finland

Yes,It Is A Small World After All’

Finland is a fun place to be in Summer!

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Finland is a fun place to be in Summer!

My Finland trip this year was not for fun.   It was specifically planned to take care of business. There were issues to deal with, problems to solve, people to see to get/give information, decisions to be made, and important family matters, as well.   With so many things in motion at the same time, it seemed that my biggest decisions were when to leave Los Angeles and how long I could be abroad before California called me back.

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I know, those are nice ‘issues’ to wrestle with even on a business trip. I don’t pity me either!

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The return was easy for me when the September dates were settled for an important event that I really wanted to attend near Berkeley, CA. Go Bears!! OK, now if I can just leave before I have to be back in Berkeley! That, too, was settled by two invitations to two fascinating events in Helsinki which I could attend back-to-back in venues within walking distance of each other. The first day was a real ‘bear’ with 12 hours of meetings in two locations.   With all of the whirlwind, I almost forgot to pack—not that you can afford to take luggage with you with the airline fees what they are today.

Helsinki Home Base: Grand Hotel Scandic

Grand Hotel Scandic

Grand Hotel Scandic

The morning of my long day began early with the typical ‘free’ Finnish breakfast feast available to all hotel guests.   As with dinner the night before, it was fascinating to watch the enthusiasm with which the tourists attacked the smorgasbord that came with their pre-paid package. Even before they found an empty table, they hit the line with plate in hand so as to be one meat ball ahead—I guess!

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AROUND LA WITH AVA: Is It What It Is ?

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

As the Summer season unfolds around us and we head to the beach, to the mountains, to the back yard, or–if we are really fortunate, to Finland, we get a chance to take a step back to look at the fast-paced world around us.   Here in our City of Angels, every now and again, it is beneficial to put our feet up, to take a deep breath, and to step off of the rocket ship that hurdles us ahead at breakneck speed.

Los Angeles at sunrise

Los Angeles at sunrise

A favored local adage [almost as ubiquitous as the Kardashians] has been “It is what it is”.  You see it on t-shirts, hear it around the water cooler, and have it served up with your martini during happy hour.  Unfortunately, for the last several years it has been part of the lexicon of the many health care workers making pronouncements as my loving family members were treated.  It is not a solution and it does not offer solace; it is a sad, un-Sisu like surrender.

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MAY-nia

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MAY-nia

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??   Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces..

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??
Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces..

Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces, ylioppilaislakit [graduation caps] on their heads, and the promise of Summer in their souls. Add some homemade Finnish Sima, some Spanish Cava, some Danish Carlsberg on tap, some California Savingon Blanc, and a ‘groaning board’ buffet of homemade traditional Finnish foods. The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.   Now, you have the prospects of a flurry of fun reminiscent of the best of times in our homeland.

The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.

The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.

On 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole. The air was as fresh as at a Finnish lakeside cabin. The sun was pleasantly warm. The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests. And, people responded in such an enthusiastic way that reservation requests exceeded normal capacity in such numbers that a ‘waiting list’ was established before an imaginative Board member suggested ‘phasing’ arrival times so we could welcome all who wished to attend.

n 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole.

n 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole.

And, so, suddenly my festively decorated back yard was ‘Chock-Full-of-Finns’ having fun! To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!”

To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!”

To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!” (double click to view larger photo)

The smile on my face stemmed from the vivid recollections of 30 years of the FACC facilitating the camaraderie and networking of Finns from all walks of life and the sharing of the Suomi traditions that bind us together as cultural kin.   My muse, the late Greta Peck, taught me that people love a party. She knew that it is hard to fuss when you are having fun. And, the FACC was back to doing that most satisfying of FACC business! I am sure Greta was smiling too.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests.

Spring On Steroids?

Does it seem to you like this May has been a “Spring on Steroids”? Somehow, since Easter, there has not been a moment to sit down or to catch a breath.

Sisu Is In the Heart, FACC’s Vappu, Mothers’ Day, Cinco de Mayo, the Scandinavian Festival at Cal Lutheran, Suomi Kirkko services/coffees, the Consulate General’s Friends of Finland planning meeting, Finnish elections, garden tours, mandated Fire Department brush clearance, venue openings, spring festivals of all kinds—all leading up to Memorial Day weekend which is celebrated early this year! It is like flowers bursting open and blooming all over the place.

And, it seems, half of the people on this planet have May birthdays!!

Annual Scandinavian Festival

Finland stood proud as Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers enthusiastically represented Finland at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks.

Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks

Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks

FACC Board member Joann Scott had her traditional Travel By Scott booth to help us all plan our Summer trips.

Word went out about the FACC Vappu Mayday party and registrations began to pour in.

Friends of Finland Working Meeting

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence. A group of active Finns participated by sharing news of their programs for the remaining year, as well as, hearing preliminary plans for Finland’s 100 Year Celebration.

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence (double click to view larger photo)

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence (double click to view larger photo)

Sima

What does every Finn have on mind in late April? It is time to make Sima, of course!

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For whatever reason, the lemon trees in our City of Angels have had a rough time. Well, at least mine did. This was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window. [Perhaps it’s the drought –or, maybe, we are being too conscientious in listening to our Governor’s pleas to conserve water. At times it seems he wants the whole state to become his last name!]

his was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window.

his was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window.

This year I could have used our usual bumper lemon crop. With the FACC Vappu Party pending, much Sima was needed—if our calculations were correct, we would need up to 10 gallons [= 24 1.5 liter bottles] to serve the large crowd we hoped would attend. There was a lot of mathematics, metric conversions, and logistics to make the Sima production work. Considerable advance planning had to go into unconventional concerns such as coming up with a sufficient quantity of empty 1.5 liter wine bottles (and corks) in which to ferment and store the tasty lemon product, once produced. After all, someone had to make full bottles empty so they could be sterilized and re-filled—right? It is tough work, but someone had to do it in a timely manner. Oh, the sacrifices we make to serve Finland!!

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water–peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray.  Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons!   Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process.

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water--peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray.  Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons!   Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process.

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water–peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray. Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons! Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process (double click to view larger photo)

This year’s project involved most every large pot on the premises ‘cranking’ on a 6 burner stove. At times I felt like one mad Finnish scientist with pots bubbling on burners, sheets of calculations, piles of bottles and corks to be sterilized, and lots of late night steamy windows suggesting to neighbors and passers-by that something nefarious was happening in the kitchen!

Sisu

On the Sunday preceding the FACC Vappu party, I had agreed to host a ‘Sisu Circle’ for the Sisu Is In the Heart project. This unique project is sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland and Finlandia Foundation National [and others].   It seeks to weave together expressions shared in discussions in ‘story circles’ built around Finns and Finnish-Americans in communities around the United States. The premise of sharing Sisu stories brings focus on the importance of communicating with younger generations about the concept and the experience of Sisu.

Sisu Is In the Heart,

Sisu Is In the Heart (double click to view larger photo)

Park Cofield (Project Director) and Saara Wacklin* (Community Manager) orchestrated a wonderful program which included a presentation on the history of Finnish vaivaisukot [“pauper statues”]. Park brought the statue puppet of his own Grandfather he is working on as part of the project.

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After lively, focused discussions took place, the ‘circles’ were combined into one ‘community circle’ at the end to share the day’s experience and revelations.

Once briefed on the Sisu project, progress, and plans, the large group broke up into three individual ‘story circles’ under project leaders.   After lively, focused discussions took place, the ‘circles’ were combined into one ‘community circle’ at the end to share the day’s experience and revelations. Consul General Markkanen was present –as were many other thought and action leaders from the Finnish community.

*Saara was Producer of The Snow Leopard’s Den in Santa Monica last Fall.

Closing the Loop

The Sisu Circle came ‘full circle’ in the following weekend’s Vappu Event. All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band. The Sima, champagne, and Carlsberg may have helped a bit!

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band.

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band.

Park and Saara were present as guests, along with Consul General JP Markkanen and his wife Tuula, both among many donning their ylioppilaislakit. One enterprising American graduate wore his ‘mortar board’ as a tribute to his Finnish kin’s tradition. Another Helsinki tradition is for a student to climb the Havis Amanda statue to put a ylioppilaslakki on her head—we did not attempt to recreate that feat even though we heard that this year the cap arrived by ‘helicoptering’ drone!

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens..

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens..

Taking a Pass

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister. A few years back, a similar intimate gathering with Margaret Thatcher was so memorable I really wanted to say ‘yes’ to the invitation despite the awkward timing. This was an event of the revered Pacific Council on International Policy where discretion is the rule and decorum is the standard for events.

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister.

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister.

Our City of Angeles draws our national political figures [not just because we are the ATM of American politics] and world leaders of every ilk. LA provides the ultimate stage (literally and figuratively) to promote and publicize their message in what often feels like the center of the universe. The opportunities to experience, meet, and interact are endless here. As far as we are from the Continent, getting to hear and interact directly with world leaders without the blather and filter of media is always a refreshing experience.

The rumblings of escalating attendance numbers from Eila (registrar pro temp) after the Scandinavian Festival for the pending FACC Vappu event were so overwhelming that I said “no” to the lure of world political luminaries—there were gallons of Sima and a mountain of Finnish food to prepare!!

Other Pleasant Distractions

In addition to the big FACC Vappu production, the SCAN Foundation meeting in Palos Verdes was gearing up for important happenings leading up to their Summer activities, including their big Midsummer Party on June 27th.   As Finland’s representative on the SCAN Board for the last several years, it was important for me to attend the scheduled planning meeting to give my “two cent’s worth”.

On arriving home after the SCAN meeting, I checked the 10 gallons of bottled Sima and found the raisins rising in the bottles temporarily ‘stored’ on the dining room table. To my chagrin, those many bottles had started to pop their corks and spilled Sima was leaking off of the table and on to the hardwood floor!

After reattaching the corks, washing off the many bottles, and cleaning up the table and floor mess, I decided that, if the dining room chandelier was not to be obliterated by popping corks, the 24 1.5 liter bottles needed to be moved to the unheated, fully tiled, handicapped bathroom with a floor drain just off of the dining room. The planned fermentation had moved to the point where it was OK to put the Sima under refrigeration—but not tonight!

Alek Hautanen

Alek Hautanen

The next day, the Alek Hautanen Band members came to discuss the FACC expectations for their pending Vappu engagement and to check out the premises for optimum performance. As we sat around the [neat and cleaned] dining room table with our coffee and cookies discussing Vappu music, strange disconcerting popping sounds came from the nearby bathroom. Of course, the ‘noise’ caught everyone’s attention. Even with what I knew, I could not keep from snickering!

Those sweet young men were amused—and helpful, as we scrambled to save the ‘exploding’ bottles and re-apply the corks. All were maniacally rescued and refrigerated.

That madcap episode was like an old “I Love Lucy” episode!

A Super Soldier Celebrates

It is one thing to discuss Sisu as a cultural trait in a sociological study of our forefathers [and mothers]; it is an altogether different matter to celebrate one of those who defined the trait by their actions and lives.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday. [We have two Lottas, too.] Mark is not only a Finnish War Veteran, he is an American War Veteran too, having served in the Korean conflict. Talk about blooming where you are planted –some people just take care of business!

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The event was hosted by Risto and Robert Salo and families at the iconic 1920’s Tam O’Shantor Restaurant in Los Feliz, just a few blocks from Mark and Eeva-Liisa’s home.

The invitation asked for no gifts, but a message for a remembrance book was welcomed. Of course, I could not resist honoring that request. [My message to Mark is in the Afterword.]

The event was hosted by Risto and Robert Salo and families at the iconic 1920’s Tam O’Shantor Restaurant in Los Feliz, just a few blocks from Mark and Eeva-Liisa’s home. The loving and proud Salo clan [including Mark’s brother Sulo and Sulo’s daughter Linda] arranged an homage to Mark that included presentation of a flag stantion by Pauli Majamaki of Suomi Kerho to Mark for his role as one of the original Finnish Club founding members. The birthday cake featured beautifully depicted Finnish and American flags, as well.

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The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for –as is the way they raised their children, lived their lives, and honor their countries –a fine and proud legacy indeed. It was such an honor and joy to be included as a guest at this occasion.

The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for...

The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for…

Party On—If the Weather Holds

Stepping out of the dark, traditional, clubby Scottish Tam O’Shantor ambiance that was a cool respite from what had been our very dry, very hot LA normal, I suddenly faced a knock-out downpour of rain!   This ‘hostess-to-be’ [tomorrow!] for the Sisu Is In The Heart event planned as a garden venue because of the large number of guests experienced a little ‘gear-switching mania’ running down the 101 Freeway to get back to work!

FACC Vappu Event

Looking back, it was amazing that just six days after the Sisu Is In The Heart program, the FACC hosted one of the most special and touching assemblies the Finnish community has experienced in many years. What a week!!! We got to study Sisu, to celebrate the longevity of a Sisu soldier, and to experience the need for Sisu as we geared up for the happy hoards who arrived to welcome Spring in a wondrous Finnish way. The Finnish blue skies and the generations of smiles enjoying their Finnish heritage at work made me smile!!

Sometimes it is fun to be a Finn.

Creative Solutions to Joyous Problems

The FACC Vappu party was so popular that a waiting list became necessary. As noted, that wonderful problem was solved by creating a ‘second shift’.

President of the FACC Michael Berlin welcomed the multi-generation crowd and introduced Consul General and Mrs. JP Markkanen.   Dr. Berlin gave background about Vappu history and traditions. As hostess, I shared local history of past events and remembered our own “Havis Amanda”, the late Greta Peck, who is always in our hearts.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and Vappu were linked for decades because of Greta. For so many years, Greta Peck was our gracious and lovely hostess who made sure Vappu was properly celebrated by welcoming us all to her home.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and Vappu were linked for decades because of Greta. For so many years, Greta Peck was our gracious and lovely hostess who made sure Vappu was properly celebrated by welcoming us all to her home.

The revitalized FACC set out to rekindle a great tradition that was always an energizer for Finnish pride and participation. I tried to duplicate much of the menu we had at Greta’s home in years past, including my grandmother’s Pih-mummin Makkara and Finnish potatoes with dill which Greta used to ask me to make ‘back when’.

One of many memorable Vappu celebrations at Greta’s was one where a beloved and productive Consul General from the past, Maria Serenius, met the Finnish community for the first time during her tenure here. The new Consul General learned quickly that there were enthusiastic Finns around LA and that the FACC was a reliable ally for promoting Finland by both word and deed.

One of many memorable Vappu celebrations at Greta’s was one where a beloved and productive Consul General from the past, Maria Serenius, met the Finnish community for the first time during her tenure here.

[Coincidentally, I received an e-mail from Ambassador Emeritus Serenius just after Vappu. While she is now officially retired after serving as Finland’s Ambassador to Turkey and Finland’s Ambassador to Latvia, she continues to serve Finland in an advisory role on Mideast affairs.]

More Vappu

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie. The Setelä’s kindly provided exciting Angry Birds raffle prizes. The Rovio created Angry Birds also had a busy month having participated at the 137th White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, DC. Over 30,000 enjoyed those White House lawn festivities, especially posing with the Angry Birds characters.

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie.

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie.

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!  In good Finnish tradition, Rovio is now focused significantly on educational issues while cooperating with NASA and the National Geographic Society in making learning fun and engaging for children.

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!

Finnish actress Nina Sallinen served as the FACC’s Vappu Raffle ‘Celebrity Prize # Drawer’ and ‘Presenter’ for the Raffle.   Our Star added a Hollywood spark and a touch of class that put an even bigger smile on the winners’ happy faces!

Mothers’ Day at the Finnish Lutheran Church

A special Mothers’ Day themed service was held with the Reverend Jarmo Tarkki officiating at Suomikirkko in Santa Monica. This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.   Readers included Anita Finifrock in English and Pirkko Bastecki in Finnish.

This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.

This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.

Finnish Mothers are revered and respected. The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother (after Norway, this time). The study rates 179 countries based on 5 indicators related to maternal health, education, income levels, and status of women. The US ranked 33rd.

The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother.

The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother.

AFTERWORD

Vappu 2015 Menu

Keisarinsalaati Suomalaiseen Tapaan (Finnish Caesar Salad)

Makarooni Salaati (Macaroni Salad with Olives)

Kaalisalaatti (Green Cabbage Salad)

Musta Papupaprikasalaatti (Black Bean Salad with Red, Yellow, and Orange Peppers)

Sillisalaati Kurrikastikkeessa (Curried Herring with Green Grapes and Red Onions)

Ruisleipä Viipalietä (Buttered Rye Bread)

Keitetty Lohi Tilli Kastikkeen Kera (Poached Whole Salmon with Arugula Pesto Dill Sauce)

Savustettu Kinkku (Smoked Ham)

Pih-mummin Makkara Ja Sinappi (Tomato, Cheese, & Onion Stuffed Pork Smoked Sausage with Mustard)

Pih-mummin Makkara Ja Sinappi (Tomato, Cheese, & Onion Stuffed Beef Smoked Sausage with Mustard)

Suomalaiset Paistetut Perunat (Finnish Pan Fried Potatoes with Dill)

Pinaatti Piirakka (Spinach Pie)

Purjo Laattikko (“Leek Box” Casserole)

Porkkanat Kastikkeessa (Carrots in Brown Butter with Balsamic Sauce)

Juustotarjotin (Assorted Cheeses, Fruit, Crackers)

“Täytekakku Trifle” (May Day Spring Fruit and Cake Trifle)

Pulla Paistos (Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce)

Kahvi (Coffee)

Sima (Homemade Finnish Fermented Lemon Mead)

Carlsberg on Tap

Modavi Sauvignon Blanc

Cava de Espania

AVA ANTTILA’S ODE TO MARK SALO AT 90

Veterans_Suomi2014-116

Back in 1997, the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce took on a most rewarding project –one that continues in my life today. That year marked the 80th year of Finnish Independence. The FACC leadership and membership were dedicated to get to know the Finnish War Veterans and Lottas in our region.   We enlisted and got the support of all local Finnish organizations. We diligently sought out all Veterans and Lottas to give them honor and personal recognition as our guests at a grand event.

We wanted to hear from each Veteran and, individually and collectively, to feature them as our Guests of Honor. A special Program was planned. Finns and friends of Finland turned out in record numbers and with great enthusiasm. The President of Finland sent his personal greeting and message of appreciation to our Honorees. Veterans and Lottas were invited to submit photos and brief biographies which were assembled into a special Memory Book. A Wall of Honor showed more history and memorabilia from the Winter War and the Continuation War. A full orchestra played a rousing march as the Veterans and Lottas entered the packed ballroom to a standing ovation—eyes front, backs straight, chests expanded and bedecked with medals hard earned. What a memorable assembly. Finnish Pride on parade!! There was not a dry eye in the house.

In doing the research for the Program, there was one name that stood out among the heroes and heroines we were going to honor. This individual had not only served Finland in war, he had also served in the American armed forces during the Korean War. This amazing dual patriot was Mark Salo.

It has been fun to get to know Mark and his wife Eeva-Liisa through the ensuing years. My mother and father (Ari and Raija Anttila) so enjoyed their interactions with Mark and Eeva-Liisa at the Finnish Church, the Veterans Support Group, and other gatherings of So Cal Finns. We continued to be impressed with Mark in his willingness to be supportive and helpful. He served the Church and the Veteraani Tuki in leadership positions.

Mark epitomizes the finest Finnish character trait of noble, quiet dignity. He does things competently with a generosity of spirit, not bringing any attention to himself. He is a true gentleman.

What a grand occasion to celebrate Mark on his 90th birthday. I will be looking for him at Finland’s and his 100th Birthday!

MARK, you make the Finnish community proud!

Best wishes for good luck, good health, and great happiness!!

PALJON ONNEA!!

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: “HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND”

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: “HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND”

Marchin’ on as Women’s Month celebrating female success and strength in our hearts, minds, and accomplishments drew to a close, we welcomed Spring’s arrival with optimism, joy, and hope.

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The US Winter this year was a ‘puzzlement’, to say the least. Conversations with family and friends around the country and the world were awkward, at best. While here in our City of Angels we basked in Summer-type swelter [80º to 90º+F/27º to 32º+C], the Midwest and East were having trouble getting above 0ºF, to say nothing of above freezing [32ºF/0ºC ] or seeing over the 100+ inches of fallen snow that will not melt at those temperatures.

While here in our City of Angels we basked in Summer-type swelter [80º to 90º+F/27º to 32º+C], the Midwest and East were having trouble getting above 0ºF.

While here in our City of Angels we basked in Summer-type swelter [80º to 90º+F/27º to 32º+C], the Midwest and East were having trouble getting above 0ºF.

 I finally found air conditioned refuge in the wonderful world of Disney at the grand opening of the luxurious Playa Vista Cinemark Theater. The “take-away” prescription came from the latest Cinderella movie release with her theme message reminding us all to “…have courage and be kind!”

I finally found air conditioned refuge in the wonderful world of Disney at the grand opening of the luxurious Playa Vista Cinemark Theater

I finally found air conditioned refuge in the wonderful world of Disney at the grand opening of the luxurious Playa Vista Cinemark Theater

The movie Cinderella [Tuhkimo]] ‘grossed’ over $80 M in its premier weekend. It continued to be the preeminent worldwide box office hit for several weeks. The Rogers and Hammerstein based stage musical is currently playing at the LA Music Center’s Ahmanson Theater. Even shoe designers such as Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo seem to have “glass slipper” inspired fantasy footwear this season.

The universal appeal of this story was first captured by Disney in the 1950s animated version we grew up loving.   Cinderella is the ultimate “make-over” story: the heroine with gumption (a mild form of Sisu) faces adversity and female jealously with a happy ending involving a handsome Prince. It is a satisfying parable for a Finn.

The universal appeal of this story was first captured by Disney in the 1950s animated version we grew up loving.

Livin’ La Vida Around LA With Ava®

View from Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes.

View from Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes.

As your humble correspondent/observer of the LA “arki“ scene [everyday activities/events] for some 5 years now, I continue to do my usual and go where I have always gone, but I do find myself looking at things differently.   While I still put one foot in front of the other on my way from one unusual place to another, I have a different perspective from behind the wheel or the camera lens. Since my perceived assignment is to share with you, dear reader, an inside look with a Finnish Point of View at the “day to day” life of an involved, long-term activist who is reasonably well-connected here in our fair little town, it seems my own world looks different. For example, as I was driving off of Palos Verdes after a delightful lunch and some other business at the Terranea Resort the other day, I reflected on the beautiful day, the interesting conversation, the magnificent view of the Pacific and Catalina Island from our outdoor table, and the exquisite Lobster Roll I ate. I found myself regretting not having taken a picture of one of the Terranea golf carts with 4 rows of seats behind the driver who whisked us from one resort site to the next as the day’s business unfolded—how many readers have ridden in a pristine ‘stretch golf cart’ like an open-air limousine? How “…so LA”!

as I was driving off of Palos Verdes after a delightful lunch and some other business at the Terranea Resort the other day, I reflected on the beautiful day, the interesting conversation, the magnificent view of the Pacific and Catalina Island from our outdoor table, and the exquisite Lobster Roll I ate.

as I was driving off of Palos Verdes after a delightful lunch and some other business at the Terranea Resort the other day, I reflected on the beautiful day, the interesting conversation, the magnificent view of the Pacific and Catalina Island from our outdoor table, and the exquisite Lobster Roll I ate.

A Void Filled

If you live in the Los Angeles area, there are certain places you really should visit. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley was a “must see” I had not bothered to explore even though I had driven past the modest entrance scores of times.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley was a “must see” I had not bothered to explore even though I had driven past the modest entrance scores of times.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley was a “must see” I had not bothered to explore even though I had driven past the modest entrance scores of times.

There was no valid excuse for not stopping to experience the real artifacts and to re-view newsreels of the history I had lived through in my lifetime and had seen on my family TV screen. I could rationalize not making a special trip to see the visage of President Reagan made of 10,000 of his favorite jelly beans and I could even comfortably miss “The Ultimate Car Exhibit” featuring the Batmobile and other ‘star’ cars of Hollywood movies that was a secondary attraction. There is soooo much more.

I could rationalize not making a special trip to see the visage of President Reagan made of 10,000 of his favorite jelly beans and I could even comfortably miss “The Ultimate Car Exhibit” featuring the Batmobile and other ‘star’ cars of Hollywood movies that was a secondary attraction.

I could rationalize not making a special trip to see the visage of President Reagan made of 10,000 of his favorite jelly beans and I could even comfortably miss “The Ultimate Car Exhibit” featuring the Batmobile and other ‘star’ cars of Hollywood movies that was a secondary attraction.

What a great return I got from a small investment of time!

At the Reagan Library on a glorious, often windy California mountaintop with ‘never ending’ vistas, the world in all its complexity comes alive from a grand era in American history...

At the Reagan Library on a glorious, often windy California mountaintop with ‘never ending’ vistas, the world in all its complexity comes alive from a grand era in American history…

At the Reagan Library on a glorious, often windy California mountaintop with ‘never ending’ vistas, the world in all its complexity comes alive from a grand era in American history: the glamorous lives of the Reagans in California and Washington, the earth shaking political times of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall coming down (with real ‘chunks’ you can touch or be ‘selfied’ beside), experiencing the Hinckley Presidential assassination attempt almost as an on-the-street eyewitness, and countless other exhibits that put you ‘in the moment’ and ‘in the place’ of the history our children study in school. It all becomes an existential experience.

Dress gowns, White House menus, and tables with china, silver, and stemware set the scene world leaders experienced at State Dinners during their visits to the US.

Dress gowns, White House menus, and tables with china, silver, and stemware set the scene world leaders experienced at State Dinners during their visits to the US.

Dress gowns, White House menus, and tables with china, silver, and stemware set the scene world leaders experienced at State Dinners during their visits to the US. You can walk through a scale replica of the Oval office […a lot cozier than you might expect]. From there, down a long hallway, you arrive at a mind blowing exhibition: the actual Boeing 707 that was President Reagan’s Air Force One. The airplane was mounted in place and, then, the pavilion was built around it! Marine One [the Presidential helicopter] sits just off of the starboard nose of Air Force One. The fleet is at the ready. The plane faces a multi-story glass semi-circle wall, but seems as if it could take off over the canyons at a moment’s notice! It feels so real because it is real!!

The airplane was mounted in place and, then, the pavilion was built around it! Marine One [the Presidential helicopter] sits just off of the starboard nose of Air Force One.

The airplane was mounted in place and, then, the pavilion was built around it! Marine One [the Presidential helicopter] sits just off of the starboard nose of Air Force One.

Did I mention that you can walk through both aircraft as if you were a member of the Secret Service? Or, pretend President—if you prefer!!!

A Personal Aside

A remarkable woman, Nancy Reagan was responsible for so much of the success of the Reagan Presidency –as are so many First Ladies. I had the honor of meeting her personally. I was privileged to serve on a Board with her many years ago. She was a great inspiration with a real sense of style.

I had the honor of meeting her personally. I was privileged to serve on a Board with her many years ago.

I had the honor of meeting her personally. I was privileged to serve on a Board with her many years ago.

Presidential politics (observation, analysis, pontification about it) has become a national sport. Politics aside, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a must see. It is an experience for young and old, history buff or cultural newbie, jaded local or star-struck tourist to LA or the USA.

Politics aside, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a must see. It is an experience for young and old, history buff or cultural newbie, jaded local or star-struck tourist to LA or the USA.

Politics aside, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a must see. It is an experience for young and old, history buff or cultural newbie, jaded local or star-struck tourist to LA or the USA.

Women to Celebrate

Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen was honored for Advancing Women in Politics. President Halonen is pictured on the Finnish Embassy website in a photo with Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona Republican Senator and former US Presidential Candidate John McCain.

Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen

Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen

Women Harassed

As March celebrates women of accomplishment, there are still worldwide issues of abuse even in everyday situations. Driving to Costco on Venice Boulevard I became an ‘Eye Witness’ to news as I made a left hand turn just past Venice High School. No need to ‘phone it in’, the police cars and news vans with cameras were already on scene at 10:00 AM on Friday the 13th. The news stations reported that 14 juvenile males had been arrested for harassing behavior toward two young female students. Little in detail is given in the media when minors are involved.

It is alarming to hear that every 107 seconds someone is sexually abused in the US.

It is alarming to hear that every 107 seconds someone is sexually abused in the US.

It is alarming to hear that every 107 seconds someone is sexually abused in the US.

Things to Ponder

Last year, I reported about the local taxpayer funded Public Metro Transit promoting a Valentine’s Day ‘hook up’ facilitation for singles. It happened again this year. The hebahabas were on duty again. Is it a surprise to anyone that the ‘warm and fuzzy’ promotion led to sexual harassment lawsuits from Metro riders? Guess who pays for that ticket?

Is it a surprise to anyone that the ‘warm and fuzzy’ promotion led to sexual harassment lawsuits from Metro riders? Guess who pays for that ticket?

Is it a surprise to anyone that the ‘warm and fuzzy’ promotion led to sexual harassment lawsuits from Metro riders? Guess who pays for that ticket?

The last I heard, the Metro is now sponsoring a “harassment awareness” program for riders! Go figure.

Bach and Forth

Instead of government promoted hook-ups in the subway, here is something wonderful: how about Bach on the rails? This beautiful world-wide event celebrated Bach’s 330th birthday across 129 cities in 39 countries. Our fair City of Angels featured a 10 hour Bach marathon with Union Station appearances by, among others, LA Opera Violinist James Start. There was an event at the Glendale Metro Link Station, as well as, a flute choir at the LA Zoo and a youth program at Santa Monica Place. All of these celebrations were done for the pure joy of sharing classical music with no one asking anything in return—not even a donation.

Celebrating J.S. Bach's 330th birthday at Los Angeles' Union Station.

Celebrating J.S. Bach’s 330th birthday at Los Angeles’ Union Station.

What a lovely, joyous event on the First Day of Spring!

International Day of Happiness

March 20th was declared the International Day of Happiness. Pharell Williams (known for his “Happy” song) spoke at the United Nations. He may not be as happy these days, personally, since he lost a $7 million lawsuit concerning “Blurred Lines”, his endeavor with Robin Thicke. They were accused by Marvin Gaye’s family of taking material from the deceased artist’s “Got to Give It Up” for their 2013 mega-hit.

March 20th was declared the International Day of Happiness.

March 20th was declared the International Day of Happiness.

All this happiness, a lunar eclipse, incredible northern lights displays, a ‘super moon’, and the first day of Spring.   I was going to share my Aurora Borealis Parfait this month, but I decided to wait because I was inspired otherwise by the annual St. Urho’s Day meeting of the LAFF.

Finnish Name Day Update

For those of us with Finnish names and/or their variations, it is fun to have that extra annual day of celebration. We are warmed by greetings from friends, celebrating with flowers, cards, email messages, or a cake. The tradition of the celebration of name days goes back to the Christian calendar noting Saint’s days. Each day of the year is assigned a name or names. The original source of Finland’s name day calendar is the University of Helsinki Almanac.**

The tradition of the celebration of name days goes back to the Christian calendar noting Saint’s days. Each day of the year is assigned a name or names.

The tradition of the celebration of name days goes back to the Christian calendar noting Saint’s days. Each day of the year is assigned a name or names.

The new Almanac for 2015 has been published featuring some new names. As it turns out, on February 28th the name Sisu was added. That date is also Kalevala Day and Finland’s National Flag Day honoring Finnish culture!

**[I was told in family lore that my dear, late father was the first to officially be named “Ari” in Finland—NTS: look into that.]

Sisu Going Forth

How appropriate that February 28th was the day an exciting happening was taking place in LA: The Sisu Project! The event was held at the Chekhov Studio International in Glendale. Activities of the evening orchestrated by Park Cofield included a story circle and a facilitated discussion about the creative process.   Park is a participant in the Global Connections–On the Road Program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theater Communications Group, the national organization for the Professional Not-for-Profit American Theater.   The event is part of the Year of Sisu—2015, a global initiative spearheaded by “sisu” researcher Emilia Lahti and Sisu LAB.

Saara Wacklin and Park Cofield

Saara Wacklin and Park Cofield

It was great to see Nina Sallinen, Marjo-Riika Mäkinen, Susanna Goltch, and many other familiar faces participating. Finlandia Foundation National is part of the support for research and development by way of providing a grant.

 The Sisu Project! The event was held at the Chekhov Studio International in Glendale. Activities of the evening orchestrated by Park Cofield included a story circle and a facilitated discussion about the creative process.

The Sisu Project! The event was held at the Chekhov Studio International in Glendale. Activities of the evening orchestrated by Park Cofield included a story circle and a facilitated discussion about the creative process.

Plans are in the works for another Sisu in the Heart Event. The hope is that all local Finns will familiarize themselves with the project and enjoy the experience of participating in an event.   Please keep posted and plan to attend: www.SISUisintheHeart.com

The hope is that all local Finns will familiarize themselves with the project and enjoy the experience of participating in an event.

The hope is that all local Finns will familiarize themselves with the project and enjoy the experience of participating in an event.

Finnish Activities and News

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki gave a Lenten Sermon that moved the congregation with a great message: “…what you don’t say can be as important as what you do say”. A good lesson for us all. Pastor Tarkki was excited to tell about baptizing the great-great-granddaughter of Jean Sibelius in a recent ceremony in one of his Congregations. Ruusumarja Teppo, Sibelius’ great-granddaughter will be part of a joint San Diego/Los Angeles Finnish Congregation event in September.

Pastor Tarkki was excited to tell about baptizing the great-great-granddaughter of Jean Sibelius in a recent ceremony in one of his Congregations.

Pastor Tarkki was excited to tell about baptizing the great-great-granddaughter of Jean Sibelius in a recent ceremony in one of his Congregations.

The Hauli Huvila Annual Fundraiser was held at the Burbank Spa on March 21.

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The FACC is gearing up to move forward in a big way –back to its golden future under the leadership of new President Michael Berlin.

Former Presidents of FACC (me& Heidi Crooks), new Pres. Michael Berlin, Philip Johnson, President of Finlandia University.

Former Presidents of FACC (me& Heidi Crooks), new Pres. Michael Berlin, Philip Johnson, President of Finlandia University.

Dr. Michael Berlin is a renowned Beverly Hills ophthalmologist, researcher, UCLA professor, businessman, inventor, and a loyal, active member and supporter of the FACC for decades. FACC is the Finnish “American” Chamber of Commerce and, therefore, under Michael’s leadership it will thrive especially with Michael’s underlying American love of all things and people Finnish. How many people do you know who have become fluent in the Finnish language as an adult? I rest my case!

Philip, Michael and Heidi.

Philip, Michael and Heidi.

More ‘March Celebrates Women’

A woman to celebrate in our Finnish American community here is Liisa Linnala who is the newly elected President of Suomi Kerho. The multi-talented Liisa has been a unifying member of the Finnish community and all things Suomi Kerho. Many will know her through her leadership in (among other things) putting together the club’s excellent newsletter.

Liisa Linnala

Liisa Linnala

LAFF

The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation always has its St. Urho Day themed March meeting. The ‘holiday’ is actually a Finnish-American tradition originating in Minnesota. This ‘made up’, goofy frivolity is named for St. Urho who “…drove the grasshoppers from Finland” or some such folly. Members dress in purple and green. Realtor Janice Hiltunen (who also has a home in Minneapolis), was decked out in festive purple outfit and hat. By local tradition, a tub of grapes is passed and each member gets to guess the number of grapes in the container. The winner gets to keep the grapes! I did not win, but I did think of pie on my way home.

Realtor Janice Hiltunen (who also has a home in Minneapolis), was decked out in festive purple outfit and hat.

Realtor Janice Hiltunen (who also has a home in Minneapolis), was decked out in festive purple outfit and hat.

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Earlier this month, America celebrated Pie Day which (this year) was also Pi Day (as in the mathematical 3.14). Since this year was 3.14.15 it was bigger than ever. With all this happening, I just had to feature my decades old standby pie dessert: Grasshopper Pie.

RELAX! It is not made with ground up grasshoppers!

RELAX! It is not made with ground up grasshoppers!

RELAX! It is not made with ground up grasshoppers! It is named for the old cocktail from the ‘50s –the Grasshopper that was named for its color.

The Grasshopper pie is perfect for your Finnish American St. Urho’s celebration or any Spring festivity you care to invent.   For your Easter dessert, simply decorate with Easter candies or edible flowers.

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström’s Grand Adventure

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström

On March 22, after the St. Uhro grapes had been passed, the LAFF meeting featured Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström sharing their grand adventure of over 20,000 miles in a 14 month expedition over 37 US states and 4 Canadian provinces. It has been fun keeping up with Tiina and Kimmo’s travels, but it is especially nice to have this darling couple back with us in LA.

LA Marathon—30th Anniversary

The new LA Marathon route continues to attract a first rate field and massive participation.

The new LA Marathon route continues to attract a first rate field and massive participation.

Despite Summer-like weather forcing an earlier start, the new LA Marathon route continues to attract a first rate field and massive participation. No Finns were in the top finishing positions.

GRASSHOPPER PIE

Grasshopper Pie

Grasshopper Pie

This pie was taught to me when we moved to the US (and I was just a young girl) by my mother’s new friend, Alice, an interior decorator. Alice was a blue-haired, blue-blooded lady from the South (where the drink originated). The grasshopper cocktails were all the rage in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Alice had great style and panache –always ‘dressed to the nines’. [I think she preferred her Grasshopper pie in liquid form, if you know what I mean.]

Grasshopper Pie ingredients

Grasshopper Pie ingredients

For crust:

1 ½ C chocolate cookie crumbs (the thin wafers or chocolate sandwich type mashed up). Save a few tablespoons for decorating the top of pie, if you like.

½ C (1/4 lb) melted butter or margarine

For filling:

½ C milk

About 2 dozen large marshmallows*** or 3 cups small

***They didn’t have marshmallows in Finland when I started making this. I remember looking up the word in the dictionary and it said “samettihaapio”. The translation now is “vaahtokaramelli”.

1 C whipping cream

¼ C white crème de cacao liqueur

¼ C green crème de menthe liqueur

A couple of drops green food coloring

For garnish:

Chocolate curls, after dinner mints (the kind in the green wrapper—crumbled) candies, fresh mint, edible flowers, drizzle of chocolate sauce, or whatever suits your theme or eye!

Process:

Heat milk and marshmallows together in a saucepan over a low flame, stirring continuously until the marshmallows are melted. Let cool.

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Make crust by combining cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press ‘result’ into bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie tin.

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Whip the cream; add the liqueurs and food coloring. Fold in marshmallow/milk mixture. Put into crust and chill.

 

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Garnish as desired.IMG2290

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Makes 8 servings.

Note: Rather than one big pie, I often make small individual pies (dessert tarts) out of the same ingredients. Adding the garnishes, drizzles of sauce, eyedroppers of the crème de menthe to the plate makes for a fun dinner party presentation.

AFTERWORD

Have courage and be kind!!

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: HILLS, VALLEYS, & CLEAVAGE

AROUND LA WITH AVA®:  HILLS, VALLEYS, & CLEAVAGE

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Heights, Achievements, and Awards—LA Has What the World Wants

There is something about California that brings the dreamers and the overachievers [sometimes even underachievers who get lucky] to pursue their schemes, to showcase their personae and products, and to defy the STAR odds in amazing and surprising ways.

In January/February the ‘Hollywood’ beautiful people are out en force.  It is Awards Season.  In other parts of the world, the season is called “winter” and snow falls.  Here, ‘star dust’ is sprinkled with massive publicity campaigns that, when successful, yield ‘gold drifts’ that easily surpass the big Boston piles this winter.

The beautiful people and the ‘wanna-be’s are on their treadmills, at their plastic surgeons &/or stylists, and priming their publicists with juicy tidbits [or outrageous headlines, if necessary] as the fans are bombarded with look-at-me commercials on all media sources

The beautiful people and the ‘wanna-be’s are on their treadmills, at their plastic surgeons &/or stylists, and priming their publicists with juicy tidbits [or outrageous headlines, if necessary] as the fans are bombarded with look-at-me commercials on all media sources

The beautiful people and the ‘wanna-be’s are on their treadmills, at their plastic surgeons &/or stylists, and priming their publicists with juicy tidbits [or outrageous headlines, if necessary] as the fans are bombarded with look-at-me commercials on all media sources.  Each year—at this time of year, there is a fantasy land favorite that keeps running that has the tag line: “…make your body into your personal work of art!”.  The ad features a perfectly shaped sculptress putting the final touches to a perfectly shaped female clay sculpture.  That is all well and good for an advertisement for plastic surgery, a gastric bypass process, or the like, but it sure takes the steam out of mere mortals’ vows to be healthier and thinner in the New Year.

Most of us real people need to have some tailoring tune-ups to good garments we buy—in Hollywood, the stars have their bodies sculpted to fit the designer gowns they borrow for the Red Carpet parades!

—in Hollywood, the stars have their bodies sculpted to fit the designer gowns they borrow for the Red Carpet parades!

—in Hollywood, the stars have their bodies sculpted to fit the designer gowns they borrow for the Red Carpet parades!

[Of course, LA is world headquarters for the newly fashionable transgender plastic surgery.  Earlier this month, I had a scare when an out-of-town friend called to ask if I would pick up her adult son from a procedure he was scheduled to have here.  The doctor had to change the date schedule so Mom could not be here in time.  Having agreed to be a ‘responsible adult’ for patient pick-up, I did an Internet check to be sure I had the right address and enough time to be at the doctor’s clinic for the discharge.  I admit to more than mild panic when I recognized the physician as a premier Beverly Hills plastic surgeon noted for, among other things, transgender innovations.  I could not shake the image of the little boy whose diapers I had changed—now 6’ 4”, emerging from the recovery room on 6” heels and a dress!  Whew!! He was still an adult male who was happy to see his mom’s old friend.  Maybe next time??  It does take some adjustment to do favors for friends as the world’s parameters change.]

Red Carpet Time

Watching the Awards Shows, especially the Red Carpet entrances prior to the ceremonies where most all of the women look like stick figures with exaggerated cleavage, it is fascinating to ponder how do they do it –how they achieve that perfection.  Hard work, determination, deprivation, plus lots of time and money are committed to feed this society’s ideal of feminine beauty.

Watching the Awards Shows, especially the Red Carpet entrances prior to the ceremonies where most all of the women look like stick figures with exaggerated cleavage.

Watching the Awards Shows, especially the Red Carpet entrances prior to the ceremonies where most all of the women look like stick figures with exaggerated cleavage.

The Changing Shape of Beauty

My recipe to share this month was going to be a low calorie spinach concoction I serve with salmon.  I was ‘sipping the Kool-Aid’.  Then, I remembered that currently The Getty Center Museum features an exhibit by the painter Reubens.  If you have not reached your diet goals this Award Season, have a look at a Reubens painting.  Then, go eat a reuben sandwich as you watch the next Fashion Police Red Carpet review and critique of the beautiful people –you will feel better.

Rubens' Jupiter and Callisto

Rubens’ Jupiter and Callisto

Super Bowl/Birthday Bash = Oscar Party Practice

My steamed spinach recipe was temporarily put on hiatus because my party preparations for the Super Bowl ‘made’ me detour to bring you award winning wings.  And, it is time to plan for your Oscar party.  The City of Angels Award Winning Wings are perfect!  You can even make them now and freeze them –a perfect party food [even if Birdman were not nominated] for a busy party host.

My steamed spinach recipe was temporarily put on hiatus because my party preparations for the Super Bowl ‘made’ me detour to bring you award winning wings.

My steamed spinach recipe was temporarily put on hiatus because my party preparations for the Super Bowl ‘made’ me detour to bring you award winning wings.

As usual, I have no idea how many will be at my home for Oscar Night viewing, but I am ready.  You see, I practiced on Super Bowl Sunday with a willing crowd who assembled to watch the game, eat some good food, celebrate 2 birthdays, eat some good food,  welcome East/West Coast family, eat some good food, celebrate 4 generations of family/friends together, and eat some good food.

A LA Perspective on Heights

I find it amazing to learn what people set as goals to achieve.  As a frequent visitor to one of California’s natural wonders, Yosemite National Park, I was awestruck recently by the gumption of two young men determined to climb the face of El Capitan –a 3,000 foot tall vertical granite wall.

Picture of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson at their hanging camp on El Cap at Yosemite

Picture of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson at their hanging camp on El Cap at Yosemite

For perspective, just imagine standing at the foot of the Library Tower (some call it the US Bank Building) in Downtown LA.  It is the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.  Look up and imagine a smooth-faced rock 3 times that height!  [I get dizzy just being inside that building.  The last time I was there I was on the 19th floor doing depositions at a law office.  I had to face ‘inward’ to be able to maintain focus.]  Now, imagine climbing for 19 days to reach the top using only your hands and feet.  At night, you sleep in a tent hanging suspended in midair from the largest piece of granite the world.   You watch as a rope and pulley system moves supplies up and down, but the only ropes you use in your climb are safety harnesses to keep your falls from smashing you back to ‘ground zero’.   Occasionally, you take time off from climbing to let your raw finger tips re-grow skin so you can grip yet another crevice in your climb.  A 3 week life of freeze dried meals and baby-wipes.

Is that Sisu –or something else that starts with the letter “s”?

Finns in the Hollywood Awards Spotlight

Were you tuned in to the Golden Globes presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association when our Finnish superstar members were personally mentioned in a speech on global TV?

Recent weeks have been huge for Finns in Hollywood, starting with the Golden Globes.  We Finns are proud of our Finnish members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association: Erkki Kanto and Kirpi Uimonen.  The HFPA is known to be super exclusive.  Erkki and Kirpi are active, influential voting members who, this year, were recognized by The Grand Budapest Hotel Golden Globe winner Wes Anderson in his speech of thanks.  The whole world heard the names “Erkki” and “Kirpi” –and we cheered our friends!

Kirpi Uimonen

Kirpi Uimonen

Scandinavian Film Festival

Finnish films were showcased on January 2-12 at the International Film Festival in Palm Springs.  This exciting venue is the first of the year where international films are presented for Oscar consideration.  Fond memories of Finland’s Klaus Haro were conjured from a few years back.  Klaus had spent Thanksgiving with us and he wowed the crowd in the desert with his film contribution that year (Letters to Father Jacob).

Fond memories of Finland’s Klaus Haro were conjured from a few years back.  Klaus had spent Thanksgiving with us and he wowed the crowd in the desert with his film contribution that year.

Fond memories of Finland’s Klaus Haro were conjured from a few years back. Klaus had spent Thanksgiving with us and he wowed the crowd in the desert with his film contribution that year (Letters to Father Jacob).

The annual SFLA Film Festival in LA was held on January 17 to 25.  Finnish films presented were Concrete Night, Heart of a Lion, and Raspberry Boat Refugee.

The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has a Finnish nominee this year.  Cinematographer Peter Finchenger is nominated in the Spotlight Award category for his work in Pirjo Honkasalo’s Concrete Night.  That awards event takes place on February 15th in LA.

Music

This January, Esa-Pekka Salonen was named the Marie-Josée Kravis New York Philharmonic Composer-in-Residence for the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 seasons.

When Esa-Pekka Salonen was Music Director of the LA Philharmonic, he wrote LA Variations. It has become a modern classic and will be featured at the New York Premier in the fall of 2015.

Food

Finland rocked the food world in this years’ ranking—its best ever!  Finland won the prize for the Best Meat Platter and Antti Lukkari was awarded as the competition’s best Commis.

The most noted chefs’ competition in the world, Bocuse d’Or, welcomed Finland’s best placement at fourth when Matti Jämsen represented Finland along with his Commis Antti Lukkari and Coach Eero Vottonen.

Matti Jämsen represented Finland along with his Commis Antti Lukkari and Coach Eero Vottonen.

Matti Jämsen represented Finland along with his Commis Antti Lukkari and Coach Eero Vottonen.

Designer Pekka Palkkari was responsible for the platter’s breathtaking design.  The Finnish team’s theme was a story of ‘the Finnish forest on a plate’ starring forest berries, mushrooms, caviar, and reindeer in the dishes.  Ohhh!! Yes!!

Designer Pekka Palkkari was responsible for the platter’s breathtaking design.

Designer Pekka Palkkari was responsible for the platter’s breathtaking design.

Sports

Teemu Selänne was celebrated on January 11th on “Teemu Tribute Night” when he was the first Anaheim Ducks player to have his game jersey retired.  Known as the “Finnish Flash”, the 44 year old retired after 21 remarkable seasons as one of the best players in the National Hockey League where he still holds the Rookie Record for Most Goals and Points.  His career 684 goals are the 11th highest total in NHL history.

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Teemu Selänne –just another humble Finn with awesome achievements.

American Sport’s Biggest Event—The Super Bowl

The annual Super Bowl has become so big, it is as if it has become part of Awards’ Season.  All of America stops for this grandest of sports/friends/family/communal celebrations.  They say it is the second biggest eating day of the year—after Thanksgiving.

Over 1/3 of all American households are tuned in to the Super Bowl on their televisions.  The commercials are as watched (or more) than the game itself.  Air time alone went for $4.5 million for a 30 second spot!


Tomi Hinkkanen and Nina Sallinen starred in  H-E-B’s 2015 Super Bowl Commercial: “On the Road” (which did not play in California, unfortunately)
What Has Chicken Got to Do With Anything

Now, Finland is not as into American jalkapallo football as it is into soccer.  Nor is it into chicken so much.  Food stores in Finland may have chicken (though not so much), but if you find chicken, it is usually in a tub of some strange orange colored marinade.  When Finns come to visit, they often ask me to cook chicken since that is what they have heard America does best as far as cuisine.

Things to Ponder Category:  Chicken Wings

Chicken wings (kanan siivet) –no, we are not talking about the chicken legs or the thighs [legitimate parts with meat on them], but wings (siivet).  Think about it.  Have you ever seen a chicken fly?  As a lawyer, I rest my case. This is a useless, ‘non-purposeful’ part of the animal with no more meat than a runway model!  Sorry, precious little hens and vegan friends—no harm intended.

Yet, the fact is chicken wings are a standard item on Super Bowl menus around the country.  According to the National Chicken Council, 1.25 billion wings were to be eaten during Super Bowl XLIX.  For my Grand Canyon fanatic Finnish friends [Pertti, are you listening], 1.25 billion wing segments laid end to end would circle the Grand Canyon 120 times!

[There is more than you will ever want to know at the National Chicken Council website.]

If Finns do not even favor the meaty pieces of chicken, why do Americans obsess over chicken wings?

It is like algebra.  Chicken wings are to Americans like crayfish are to Finns.  Being a lawyer (word person) rather than something else (numbers person), I hope that my effort at an algebraic formula makes sense:

If:

A = y/rapujuhla (crayfish party) and

B = x/chicken wing feast (super bowl party)

Then:

A + B = Fun aka a virtually nonexistent-meat promoted thing to put into your mouth to suck on and to wash down with adult beverages for hours while pursuing communal camaraderie.  [Caution: Do not drive or operate machinery for at least 12 hours.  This has been rumored to cause a condition called “a hangover”.]

A most popular chicken wing in America for sporting events is the Buffalo Wing.  It is cooked with butter and hot sauce; then, served with a blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.  Yum!!  [Note: BWs have nothing to do with the ’buffalo that roam’  who have no useable wings either, but are named for Buffalo, New York where it originated at the Anchor Bar.]  

buffalo

Super Bowl/Birthday Bash Extravaganza

My Super Bowl Sunday this year included human guests ages 2 to 92, 1 dog, two birthday heroes (one a football hero), their fans and loved ones.  Finger food items including the City of Angels Award Winning Wings created a game time ‘groaning board’ on the Aalto table in the Library.  Drinks: hard, medium, and soft were set up for self-service on the back patio.  Greta’s “Chasin’ Chili”, with all the ‘fixins’, and Tamale Pie waited for the half time main course.  Desserts included 2 birthday cakes and three varieties of homemade cookies.

Ava's Super Bowl Helmet Centerpiece

Super Bowl Helmet Centerpiece

Scaling the Heights to the Hollywood Sign to Visit a Finnish Award Winner and Hero

We Finns have heroes still in our midst.I saw both of our Lottas recently. Elma Maisack was at the February Veteran’s Meeting at Suomi Kerho.

Elma Maisack was at the February Veteran’s Meeting at Suomi Kerho.

Elma Maisack was at the February Veteran’s Meeting at Suomi Kerho.

A privilege for me this month was a long-anticipated/oft postponed visit with Sirkka Toth –one of the other remaining Finnish Lottas in Southern California.  Sirkka is a remarkable oral poetry historian/performer, a Finlandia Foundation Honoree –a wonderful person of talent and positive Finnish energy.  And, Sirkka lives as close to the Hollywood Sign as anyone I know.  Getting up Beachwood Canyon to the city’s most enduring icon [the Sign, not Sirkka !] has become quite an ordeal.  Residents in that area have had it with all the cars and tourists now that mobile Internet connections and navigation systems readily reveal ‘secret’ ways known only to locals in decades past.  Of course, everyone wants that ‘selfie’ to memorialize their conquest of the urban maze.  It is not El Capitan, but crowds are clamoring to make that climb!

A privilege for me this month was a long-anticipated/oft postponed visit with Sirkka Toth –one of the other remaining Finnish Lottas in Southern California.

A privilege for me this month was a long-anticipated/oft postponed visit with Sirkka Toth –one of the other remaining Finnish Lottas in Southern California (pictured with her longtime friend, Irene Yaro).

Sirkka is lovingly cared for by her longtime friend, Irene Yaro, in a house filled with adoring pets eagerly vying for a turn on Sirkka’s lap.  We shared coyote stories –apparently tourists aren’t the only pesky problem in the neighborhood.  The little dog in the photo was actually snatched by a coyote that Irene had to chase up the street with some neighbors who joined the rout.  Fortunately the coyote dropped the Chihuahua mix in order to jump the fence where it was cornered. The little dog needed stitches [no, no plastic surgery], but has recovered well from her injuries –not usually the fate for small animals in the hills.

Sirkka lives as close to the Hollywood Sign as anyone I know.

Sirkka lives as close to the Hollywood Sign as anyone I know.

Speaking of Meals…

AFTER WORD

Super Bowl/Birthday Bash Menu 

Homemade Guacamole in Morcajete with Chips

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Homemade Guacamole in Morcajete with Chips

Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl

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Spinach Dip in Bread Bowl

Ceviche Style Shrimp

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Ceviche Style Shrimp

 

Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla Rolls

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Buffalo Chicken Quesadilla Rolls

Blue Cheese Garlic Sauce

Greta’s ‘Chasin’ Chili

City of Angels Award Winning Wings

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City of Angels Award Winning Wings

Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms

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Parmesan Stuffed Mushrooms

Charcuterie/Pickle Plank

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Charcuterie/Pickle Plank

Cheese Board

7 Layer Sunset Beach Dip

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7 Layer Sunset Beach Dip

Tamale Pie Bake

Macaroni and Cheese

Vegetarian Butternut Squash, Bean, and Kale Chili

Green Garden Salad

Acanto Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Garlic Fingerling Potatoes

Hot Off the Grill LA Bacon Wrapped Street Dogs with Peppers and Onions

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Hot Off the Grill LA Bacon Wrapped Street Dogs with Peppers and Onions

Kiwi, Blackberry, Blueberry Angel Food Dessert

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Kiwi, Blackberry, Blueberry Angel Food Dessert

Chocolate Cake with a Homemade Chocolate Dipped Lemon Truffle Crown

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Chocolate Cake with a Homemade Chocolate Dipped Lemon Truffle Crown

Ava’s Cookies: Candy Corn Ginger Blocks, Meyer Lemon Bars, Chocolate Coconut Squares

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Ava’s Cookies: Candy Corn Ginger Blocks, Meyer Lemon Bars, Chocolate Coconut Squares

Finnish Chocolates

Icelandic & Belgian Beer, Chalk Hill & Geyser Peak Chardonnay, Niebaum-Coppola Claret

Recipe

Award Winning City of Angels Wings

A foody friend once asked me for this recipe.  He won a contest with it!
4-5 lbs of chicken wings*

1 cup brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup Marsala or sherry

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1 cup soy sauce

2-4 cloves of garlic, minced

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Place wings on baking sheet [11” x 15” rimmed pan] in a single layer (jelly roll pan) and bake at 350º F for 30 minutes.

ava Feb1

 

 

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, Marsala, mustard, soy sauce, and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
ava Feb1aaa
Pour over wings and continue cooking for 1½ to 2 more hours, turning occasionally, until sauce has been absorbed and wings are deeply glazed.  [Yield: about 50-60 pieces.]

ava Febwwwww3

ava Feb22222

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* Butchers/markets sell whole chicken wings which have three sections to them: two with meat and the tiny wing tip.  You can cut them up yourself with poultry shears and use the two portions with meat to please your friends’ appetites.  Discard the wing tips or save them to make stock.  I usually buy the wings already in pieces called “drummettes” or “party wings” –they look like baby drumsticks.  Four packets fit perfectly in a pan.   

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Saying Goodbyes

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Saying Goodbyes

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Candles From Above

Sometimes saying goodbye comes with a ‘wink from above’.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a column entitled Pennies From Heaven to describe a phenomenon my father and I experienced when my dear mother passed away. Then, shiny new pennies suddenly began appearing in places and at times that ‘meant’ Ӓiti was with us and paying attention. Goodbye 101 is on the record.

Penny from heaven

Penny from heaven

Well, it has happened again.

Before you write me off as being a little off, let me tell you what has happened that looks an awful lot like Goodbye 102!

A few years ago while visiting in Minnesota, I saw realistic, wax, battery operated, ‘flameless candles’ for the first time. Like all Finns, I have always loved candlelight, use candles as a decorating statement, and look for interesting ways to place candles to enhance the mood of a party. Since my home is in a high fire risk area, ‘cool candles’ seemed pretty cool to me. I resolved to look for some flameless candles back home.

I saw sets of flameless candles at Costco many months later. Of course, I bought the box of various sizes. I had no real candle plan in mind so I just placed the candles up high on the open rafters of my parents’ suite just to get them out of the way. I never put batteries in them, tried to see if they worked, or read any directions. There they sat, out of the way, and virtually forgotten.

The night after the day of my father’s passing, the strangest thing happened. I walked by the darkened suite where he and my mom had lived for 10 years and the shortest of the candles on that open beam was lit! Each time I checked that evening, that candle was still lit.   It stayed on all night.

The night after the day of my father’s passing, the strangest thing happened.  I walked by the darkened suite where he and my mom had lived for 10 years and the shortest of the candles on that open beam was lit!  Each time I checked that evening, that candle was still lit.  It stayed on all night.

The night after the day of my father’s passing, the strangest thing happened. I walked by the darkened suite where he and my mom had lived for 10 years and the shortest of the candles on that open beam was lit! Each time I checked that evening, that candle was still lit. It stayed on all night.

The very next night, the tallest candle [–the one next to the shortest candle] had come on too! Those who knew my parents know that my mother was 5’2” and that my father was 6’2”. The message seemed clear: my mother was saying “I am here –and, then the next evening, Isä is now with me. All is good.” Those two candle lights […only those two] continued to come on every night for a month. I smiled –and was comforted.

As an educated professional woman, good sense suggested I show this unique happening to others for personal confirmation that my mind was not playing tricks. Just to be ‘safe’, I took pictures which do show the lighted flameless candles on the rafter. The calm, the peace, and the majesty of the original occurrence and the repeated reprieves are not captured!

Life Goes On

Even with death, life goes on.

In the year just passed, our local Finnish community said goodbye to many including: Alvar Kauti, Anja Reynolds, Dave Larsen, Eino Nurminen, and Marjatta Coughlan –a longtime staff member of the Finnish Consulate who taught me how to make her famous sourdough rye bread with her parrot, Pepe, on her shoulder.

May each of us leave values, memories, a recipe, and/or a technique true to our heritage for the following generations to cherish and to sanctify with loving use.

Holiday Happenings

The Finnish community’s social calendar was chock-a-block starting right after Thanksgiving.

The grand and glorious Finnish Independence Day Reception at the Consul General of Finland’s Residence was both respectful and fun. December 6th was on a weekend this year so it coincided with many other local Finnish and non-Finnish festivities.

Finnish Independence Day Reception at the Consul General of Finland’s Residence .

Finnish Independence Day Reception at the Consul General of Finland’s Residence .

I began the ‘season’ that day at my friend Mona’s Annual Luncheon at the Valley Hunt Club [creator of the original Rose Parade] which always kick-starts me into the holiday spirit. On the weekend schedule was Finnish artist Seija Gerdt’s annual glass sale, the Marimekko store’s holiday event and sale, my legal colleagues at Holland & Knight’s “Shopping at Bloomingdales” fundraising party with a significant portion of the proceeds going to the Downtown Women’s Shelter, and some of my own ‘what do I want to give—or get’ looking. We were not even to Sunday yet and, already, I had missed SWEA’s Annual Santa Lucia Pageant and Sale (which was at a new location on Broadway this year).   There was just too much to do!   I rationalized that making salmon sandwiches for the next day’s Finnish Church “Most Beautiful Christmas Carols” program was more urgent than spending money buying SWEA’s Scandinavian ‘goodies’ even if it was for a good cause.

marimekko

The Most Beautiful Christmas Carols were as advertised. From my usual place in the back of the church pew section [a good site for counting heads], it looked like more than 140 of all ages were in attendance.   As I sat there looking up to the forward, center aisle place my dad always sat so he could better hear the Pastor, the Lessons, and the music—and so he did not have far to walk to take Communion, my heart and my eyes welled up. The contemplation of my vision from just weeks ago was interrupted by the banter of the youngsters seated with their parents in the pew behind me.   My pending melancholy was aborted by hearing young children excitedly explaining to each other “…in Finland, at Christmas… !!!”. The music of the season began before the music of the season began! The music was beautiful indeed!

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The Most Beautiful Christmas Carols at our local Finnish Lutheran Church

Even without the preamble above, hearing those Most Beautiful Christmas Carols in Finnish would have gotten my ‘waterworks going’! Thanks to a comforting hand from Barbara Tuuri sitting to my right and a fresh hankie handed to me from my left, I made it through the service.

The music was beautiful indeed!   HALLELUJAH!!

And the Beat Goes On

The following weekend was equally jam-packed.   Our Annual Bel Air Christmas Dinner with friends was scheduled for the same evening as the Suomi Kerho Annual Bake Sale and Christmas Party.   I got to the North Hollywood clubhouse where the SK fun was just starting. While I arrived at the announced ‘start time’ for their famous Bake Sale, half of the prized Finnish delicacies had been ‘captured’ already by ‘early birds’.   I knew I could not stay for the Christmas dinner and festivities, but I did have a flashback to several years ago when my dad and I attended the same event together. Then, my father’s prankish Finnish sense of humor got the best of him—and me. Without warning, he had secretly bought, wrapped, labeled, and handed over a present with my name on it for joulupukki to hand out to me as if I were his 5 year old daughter. Santa called my name and insisted that I sit on his lap to get my present. Fun —and a few good laughs, were had by all! Well, almost all.

Suomi Kerho Annual Bake Sale and Christmas Party

Suomi Kerho Annual Bake Sale and Christmas Party

Reflections on my dad’s impish sense of humor occupied my thoughts as I headed off to participate in a tradition of over 25 years, the ‘so-called’ Bel Air Dinner. Through the years, the same 4 or 5 couples scheduled a ‘start of the Season’ dinner together where good food, good wine, and good humor made for good friendships and good fellowship. The Bel Air Dinner was traditionally held at the restrained Bel Air Hotel where the elegant main dining room tolerated our disruption of their traditional tranquility because we had become one of their traditions, their normally staid clientele seemed to enjoy our fun, their normally stuffy staff did enjoy our fun, and our end-of-evening bill reflected our enjoyment.

When the Bel Air Hotel closed for a year for major facility renovations, our dinner moved to the Peninsula in Beverly Hills

When the Bel Air Hotel closed for a year for major facility renovations, our dinner moved to the Peninsula in Beverly Hills

When the Bel Air Hotel closed for a year for major facility renovations, our dinner moved to the Peninsula in Beverly Hills for that year—and for additional years. I am sure there are Congressional leaders, Presidential advisors, TV news anchors, and the like at the Bel Air who are happy not to have to find an excuse to decline invitations to join our table revelries—just as I am sure there is a ‘bean counter’ somewhere in a Bel Air backroom wondering what happened to their early December profits without our ‘contribution’ for the past several years!

More 2014

The week after Suomi Kerho held its tradition laden Finnish Christmas and the ‘Bel Air’ Dinner happened at the Peninsula, the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation held its Pikku Joulu and the Suomi Koulu and Katirilli held their special Christmas Party in Costa Mesa.

Friends from law school whom I had not seen in decades were in town the following week. So, of course, we found ourselves at a window table overlooking the Pacific having lunch at The Lobster in Santa Monica. What a fun afternoon of ‘catch-up’ on old times and colorful ‘war’ stories.

..we found ourselves at a window table overlooking the Pacific having lunch at The Lobster in Santa Monica

..we found ourselves at a window table overlooking the Pacific having lunch at The Lobster in Santa Monica

 

The three of us were tempted to have our picture taken on the Santa Monica Pier where there was a guy with the big yellow eight foot boa constrictor offering ‘pay for pose’ opportunities to tourists.   But, time was running short and the ‘clock was running’ to get those rutabagas boiling in preparation for what we Finns long for: Christmas Peace.

The three of us were tempted to have our picture taken on the Santa Monica Pier where there was a guy with the big yellow eight foot boa constrictor offering ‘pay for pose’ opportunities to tourists

The three of us were tempted to have our picture taken on the Santa Monica Pier where there was a guy with the big yellow eight foot boa constrictor offering ‘pay for pose’ opportunities to tourists

But, time was running short and the ‘clock was running’ to get those rutabagas boiling in preparation for what we Finns long for: Christmas Peace.

But, time was running short and the ‘clock was running’ to get those rutabagas boiling in preparation for what we Finns long for: Christmas Peace

Memorial Preparations

A Celebration of Life suits my preference over the term Memorial Service. While some may say that is just semantics, I feel the difference is in focus. ‘Memorial’ suggests ‘done’/ready to be ‘filed’ under history.   ‘Celebration’ suggests that we will put the spotlight on your life’s accomplishments and rejoice in your qualities, your accomplishments, and your contributions to our lives and the lives of others.

Either is so hard for people who lose loved ones –especially at this time of year. It is difficult to sing Joy to the World when all you feel is a great sense of loss. If not for the candle incident, the flickering winks, and the pennies from heaven, I might not have been able to cope with all that needed to be done to properly honor my father. With out of state family in town, it made sense to do something while they were here. If we were going to do anything, it had to be put together quickly.

Thanks be to God for Pastor Jarmo Tarkki, for Sirpa Welch with her new Scandinavian Kitchen in LA catering business, and for Michael Armstrong (my Dad’s favorite pianist from the old Finnish Church in Van Nuys)

Thanks be to God for Pastor Jarmo Tarkki, for Sirpa Welch with her new Scandinavian Kitchen in LA catering business, and for Michael Armstrong (my Dad’s favorite pianist from the old Finnish Church in Van Nuys)—all of whom rose to the occasion to create the most wonderful, warm, and comforting Celebration of Life imaginable. So many friends from the Finnish community and organizations came together, shared their memories, and brought such love and good feelings to the day.

A delicious Finnish luncheon with all of my dad’s favorite foods followed, especially: pea soup, smoked salmon, delicious salads, scalloped potatoes, karjalanpiirakkas, a majestic pullakranssi with spoon and fork cookies and blueberry pie.

A delicious Finnish luncheon with all of my dad’s favorite foods followed, especially: pea soup, smoked salmon, delicious salads, scalloped potatoes, karjalanpiirakkas, a majestic pullakranssi with spoon and fork cookies and blueberry pie.

Jonny Kahleyn Dieb, photographer and photo editor for Finntimes, made a beautiful pictorial tribute from old photographs from my dad’s albums. Tomi Hinkkanen, international journalist and Finntimes editor, memorialized the Celebration Service on video.   My children, now accomplished adults with families of their own, spoke with loving and touching words describing the impact and value Iso Vaari had in shaping their lives. A delicious Finnish luncheon with all of my dad’s favorite foods followed, especially: pea soup, smoked salmon, delicious salads, scalloped potatoes, karjalanpiirakkas, a majestic pullakranssi with spoon and fork cookies and blueberry pie. The special foods were expertly homemade by Sirpa and beautifully presented with the help of Sirpa’s professional staff including table stylist extraordinaire, Brain Gandolfo.

Everyone present had to feel my father’s presence, his modest appreciation at being Celebrated, and his smiles from heaven.

Eino Nurminen Has Left Us Too

All of this talk of celebrations, of food, and of Sirpa carrying on the Finnish/Scandinavian catering tradition in Los Angeles reminds me of the legacy she is following. I wanted to share some memories of another Finnish culinary legend who passed on last year.

The Finnish American community in Southern California has lost one of its most remarkable icons. Eino Nurminen was a community leader, a businessman, a chef, a novelist, a columnist, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, and, for all of us expatriate Finns, an influence beyond description. I labored over the order of those descriptors until I realized that the ‘order’ was dependent solely upon the hat(s) that fit the circumstances in which he found himself—often more than one was appropriately worn!

Eino Nurminen was a community leader, a businessman, a chef, a novelist, a columnist, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, and, for all of us expatriate Finns, an influence beyond description

Eino Nurminen was a community leader, a businessman, a chef, a novelist, a columnist, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, and, for all of us expatriate Finns, an influence beyond description

Anja, otamme osaa (we take part in your grief). You were Eino’s great partner in a life of adventures and accomplishments. You were a fantastic team.

Kiitos Eino for your friendship, joy, inspiration, and the Finnish spirit you demonstrated to (and for) all of us. We will miss you. We thank you for all you did for the Finnish American community when you were here in Los Angeles. Your contribution is permanent and indelible.

One of my last memories of Eino was when Anja and he attended one of my father’s “big” birthday gatherings at the lake cabin in Finland a few years ago. Eino was wearing a snazzy fedora to shade him from the long day’s Summer sun. With the hat tilted at a rakish angle, he looked a bit like Indiana Jones! But, his Hollywood days were behind him. Anja and Eino had come to the party from their home in a neighboring Finnish village where they were enjoying their retirement.

As always, Eino brought that warm smile and twinkle in his eye that we all had experienced for so many years when he was evolving as a Renaissance Man during his ‘prime time’ in Southern California. Those who knew Eino, know what I am talking about.

Eino had the best qualities a Finn could have: a happy hard work ethic, perseverance, a quiet sense of humor, humility backed with significant accomplishment, a vision for the future, a willingness to do whatever needs to be done, and an appreciation for Finnish culture and tradition—and a desire to make sure those values were passed on.

Most knew Eino had talent as a chef—they had eaten at his restaurant (The Nordic Inn on Ventura Boulevard), been to a party at the Finnish Consulate that Anja and he catered, or participated in a Finnish community event where he volunteered his considerable talents.   Some simply bought his Chef Eino’s Finnish Mustard to impress their friends. Eino’s creativity served many of us well when entertaining since we were able to order his laatikkos, karjalan piirakkas, and the special Christmas hams for our Finnish festivities.

Others knew Eino as a writer: he had novels published and wrote media/by-line articles in Finnish and English for international publications. Anja and he were supreme Finnish folk dancers (Katirilli) sharing and passing on this joyous tradition to everyone who would watch. When Finnair commissioned a film special on The Naked Truth About the Finnish Sauna, there was Eino sitting on his Finnish porch demonstrating the proper techniques for preparing a hand-made vihta from fresh birch branches.

Others knew Eino as a writer: he had novels published and wrote media/by-line articles in Finnish and English for international publications

Others knew Eino as a writer: he had novels published and wrote media/by-line articles in Finnish and English for international publications

Eino was always there at whatever Finnish event was going on with whatever organization. One of my favorite and definitive Eino memories occurred at Suomi Kerho many years ago. I had volunteered to make Finnish Field Marshall Mannerheim’s favorite food (vorschmak) for an event being held at the clubhouse. My now daughter-in-law was game to have a real Finnish exposure—and did she ever! We brought the enormous pot that had been cooking for literally days [54 hours is prescribed by the General’s favorite Savoy Restaurant in Helsinki] and the large oven baking potatoes to be prepared on the premises. We were quite proud of ourselves because we had done all of the hard work.   All we had to do was set the huge SK gas stove ovens for potato baking and wait—we had planned our time well and were quite pleased with ourselves.

Fate takes care of smugness quickly! We could not get the monster gas stove and its cavernous ovens lit! My panic at the prospect of serving ‘candle-baked’ potatoes to demanding Finns was compounded by the Finnish National Costume I was wearing so proudly.   Literally, I could not move or take a deep breath because of the cinched laced waist of my grandmother’s kansallispuku from Ikaallinen. I did not want to risk a ripped lace or a bodice ‘malfunction’. Figuring out how to fire up that recalcitrant potato baking machine was a punishing time-line challenge I was losing.   Then, like the Lone Ranger to the rescue, Eino arrived, laughed at the quirky oven he knew so well [and us!], and quickly solved our problem by crawling on his back to get under the stove to light it successfully. Eino always went the extra mile—with a smile.

Eino mastered working with his hands and with his mind. For so many years generations of us were amazed at his many and varied talents. I can remember so many events and so many dishes that made me proud to be a Finn.   Some of the dishes that remain in my memory are the Salmon Rice Pie in a Crust, the Dried Plum Mousse, a Whitefish Gravlax!  Eino’s food was exquisite before anyone in LA knew what a “foodie” was!

Celebrate Being Alive In Two Oh One Five

As we remember those who have gone beyond last year, it is always good to get perspective on our own mortality. I was abruptly reminded of mine when my perceptive little grandson who is always full of questions said: “Iso Vaari died, right”? Yes. “And, that is because he was really old, right?” Yes. His third and final volley: “I guess that means you are almost dead!!!”

Out of the mouths of babes!

Preparing for and participating in A Celebration of Life helps us realize that “…life is not a dress rehearsal”. In looking to another’s aspirations, accomplishments, and influences we are reminded to live our own lives every day, helping each other and ourselves in striving toward our greatest good in the best way we can.

Preparing for and participating in A Celebration of Life helps us realize that “…life is not a dress rehearsal”. In looking to another’s aspirations, accomplishments, and influences we are reminded to live our own lives every day, helping each other and ourselves in striving toward our greatest good in the best way we can.

AFTERWORD

Preparing for and participating in A Celebration of Life helps us realize that “…life is not a dress rehearsal”. In looking to another’s aspirations, accomplishments, and influences we are reminded to live our own lives every day, helping each other and ourselves in striving toward our greatest good in the best way we can.

Oh yes, as I was clearing out a clean white box of receipts from my dad’s medical expenses in 2014 just after finishing the first draft of this article, there at the bottom of the storage box was another of those shiny new pennies smiling up at me! You tell me!!

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Helpful New Year!!!!

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Hail and Farewell

FINNISH INDEPENDENCE

6 December 1917

ARI J. ANTTILA 1925-2014

This column is dedicated to the memory of my dear Veteran father, Ari Anttila.

He heard me give this speech at the 95th Independence Day Gala.

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Independence Day Gala 2012 Speech by Ava Anttila:

Welcome everyone (Tervetuloa kaikille)

Thank you for being here!!

As we begin the Suomi 95 celebration, a special thanks is due to all of our sponsors—and, especially to our principal sponsors: the Finnish Consulate and Suomi Kerho.  Thanks too to Riikka Jyrälä and her hard working Suomi 95 Committee.

We all are here tonight to celebrate Finnish Independence.  But what does that mean?   Everyone here tonight has some connection or interest in Finland.  That, by itself, is reason to celebrate!

The 95th anniversary of Independence is more than a date and a reason for a party.   How did we get here?  Why are we here?  What is our connection with Finland’s history?   Why should you or you or you or you—Why should we care about our history and connected heritage?

Olen varma että kaikki tässä salissa ovat kiitollisia perinteisistä historiastamme.  Olet läsnä tänä iltana isoisienne, isoäitienne, isienne ja, äitienne muiston kunniaksi.

Miksi olemme täällää? Mikä tämän tilaisuuden tarkoitus ? Olette myös juhlimassa suomalaisuuttanne ja mitä se on merkinnyt omassa elämässänne.

What is this box —-mikä tämä rasia on?

This box holds our history.  This box is why we are here!  This box is a gift from the heroes and heroines we honor tonight.

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.

As the daughter of a Finnish war Veteran and a Lotta, I am honored to be standing here tonight to share a few thoughts with you.  As a proud citizen of Finland and of the United States, I have noticed the difference in the way Independence is celebrated.  The 4th of July is a joyous, yankee-doodle-dandy, beer and barbeque party—appropriate to a freedom celebration earned by the blood and treasure of distant kin almost 250 years ago.

Finnish Independence Day on December 6th is a solemn, reverent homage to the SISU of our fathers and mothers who ‘told’ Russia they could not take back Finland in 1939 –independent only since 1917.  Finns do not like change—and they certainly do not respond well to being told what to do!

... the combination of heavy woodland, strong defence layout and veterans of the Finnish legion fresh from the European war held the Russians at bay.

… the combination of heavy woodland, strong defence layout and veterans of the Finnish legion fresh from the European war held the Russians at bay.

You may recall that in 1155, the first missionaries arrived in Finland from Sweden.  Finland became part of the Swedish realm.  In 1809, Sweden surrendered Finland to Russia, with the Czar declaring himself as a constitutional monarch over an autonomous Duchy.  In 1917, Finland declared its independence and was recognized as a new state by Russia, France, Germany, and Sweden.  Finland soon became a Republic with a President as its Head of State.

Russia invaded Finland in 1939—after only 22 years of Finnish Independence, and the Winter War began.  My Mother was 13—my Father was 14 when he saw the Russian bombers hitting his Helsinki neighborhood!  Both were active participants in the Continuation War from 1941 to 1944.  Finnish Independence is not only Finnish History—it is family history.  It is very personal!!  My parents survived.  Many others did not.  They were people my parents –and yours, knew and loved.  Yes, Finnish Independence is personal, indeed!

Finland stood alone when on November 30 1939, Stalin, believing he could rapidly crush the Finns opened hostilities with a bomber raid over Helsinki.

Finland stood alone when on November 30 1939, Stalin, believing he could rapidly crush the Finns opened hostilities with a bomber raid over Helsinki.

Fifteen years ago—when we were planning the 80th, it seemed only proper to cast that Los Angeles Independence “Gala” as a dignified celebration featuring the Veterans and Lottas who fought to preserve Finnish Independence and who were living in our midst.  Yesterday I pulled out the photos of the 1997 celebration where the Veterans and Lottas posed for a formal portrait before they proudly marched into the Ballroom to thunderous applause.  What a proud assembly!!  Tonight their numbers are significantly fewer, but our gratitude and pride in their courage, commitment, and accomplishments forever remains

Books and movies have attempted to capture the grim reality of the Winter War and the Continuation War.  Truth be known, only those who were there really know why “…war is hell”.  Our honored guests—the Veterans , know from personal experience.  The Lottas were right alongside of them on the battlefields, in the medical triage, and in the mess halls as the bullets were flying.    Thank you!!

On a lighter note:  A number of years ago when my boys were younger, I encouraged them to learn about Finnish Independence from two who were part of that heritage of the valiant fighting Finns—their Grandparents.  My older son asked my dear Lotta Mother: “What did the Lotta’s do?”  Her answer lost a little in translation when she replied “…we serviced the troops!”

So, what about this  box?

At this time of year everyone is all about the holiday season, the celebrations, and the pikkujoulus.  Remember ‘Black Friday’ this year with its accelerated commercialism?  It worked.  People are buying presents like crazy.  Decorations are up, music is playing, but most seem to be in a holiday mood for fun and folly.  Lots of fancy boxes will be wrapped in pretty paper and pretentious bows.

Not today!  Not in this moment!  Not on Finnish Independence Day!  For the younger generations here tonight, you need to know that this is a solemn day of great respect to ponder the incredible Finnish heritage you have been given.  It is your obligation to pass the heritage on.  You are the last generation who will have personally known the very real and wonderful people who fought to keep Finland independent!

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.  Isä brought this simple contraption to the U.S. from Finland.  It was part of my dear Veteran Father’s daily routine.  He looked at it—he held it—he put treasured items in it.  One day, many years ago, I asked him about the box.  He showed me 2 papers folded up inside, but did not say much that I understood.  Those papers were leaflets in Finnish and Russian urging the Finns to surrender because the war was “lost”.  [The Russians never did understand the Finns—or Sisu!]

A few years later, I came to understand what this box was –and what it represented.   It was a gift from him—and his generation, to me and mine.  Just a plain box—no ribbons here!

This is a land mine from the Continuation War!  Among the duties my Father had doing during the war was clearing these from our homeland.  The mines were put on the Russian border by the Germans and were meant to kill and maim.  As you can see, these mines were cleverly made of wood [not Finnish wood] so they could not be detected by metal detectors.  Filled with explosives, they were deadly if tripped!   My Dad and his mates used a long stick to probe ahead of their paces.  With each step you held your breath, not knowing what was to come.  You never knew what or whom you would lose.  Mine clearing is not for the faint of heart!

What does this box symbolize?   This box is the gift of Independence brought to all of us by our brave forefathers and mothers.

A Finnish lotta, a member of the Lotta Svärd women organisation, watching the skies for Soviet aircraft during January 1940 in northern Finland.

A Finnish lotta, a member of the Lotta Svärd women organisation, watching the skies for Soviet aircraft during January 1940 in northern Finland.

So, as you go through this season of giving, I hope you will remember this little box and the great gift we have all been given by our Finnish heroes and heroines!

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.  And, as we thank you this evening, we remember those patriots, the aseveljet who were not able to be here tonight, those who have gone before, and those who lie in the cemeteries in Finland who paid the ultimate price for us.

We stand and honor our Heroes and Heroines—our Veterans and Lottas .Thank you for your service!!!  Thank you for Finland!!!

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.

There is a long legacy of individuals and organizations continuing in the Finnish tradition that will make sure that what is true, righteous, and proud in our history, heritage, and national treasure will live on. We will share our history; we will work hard; we will never forget; we will honor your Sisu and sacrifice.

Haluan luvata Teille, rakkaat Veteraanit ja Lotat että me suomalaiset, jälkeläisemme ja tulevat sukupolvet eivät ikinä unohda työtänne. Tulemme yhdessä  pitämään uhrauksenne ja perinteenne aina elossa.

 

Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava  at the 95th Independence Day Gala

Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Finnish Root Touch Up

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Finnish Root Touch Up

November signals the start of the Holiday Season.  Are you ready?

santa

Now is the time to take inventory, make lists, set up calendars, plan events, figure out where the appropriate decorations were stored last year, and do the necessary ‘touch-ups’ so our homes, offices, and we, ourselves, will look ‘just right’ when the multitudes arrive or we step out.

It is time to get in touch with  our heritage. Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’ with the Thanks, Reverence, and bounty inspired by the calendars of the Church, the State, and the stores (street or ether-based).

Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’...

Before the ‘whirlwind’ of events hits, be sure to take a few reflective moments where you pay special attention to your original Finnish roots including our grand religious, economic, and political freedoms and traditions that deserve to be ‘passed on’…

Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and months turn into years even if we just sit and breathe. In the blur that is our lives as they are lived here in Los Angeles, it is easy to press forward without looking back. “To every season turn, turn, turn…”

Finland’s Centennial

Finland’s Centennial is almost here. Late November/early December are filled with Thanksgiving, Pikku Joulus, and Christmas parties. Nonetheless, there is still time and the perfect opportunity to create your own Finnish family tradition or add to the ones you have already. Highlight the celebration of Finnish Independence with an infusion of national pride! And, share that pride with others—especially those who are not familiar with our fascinating history and heritage.

Somehow, the proximity of Finnish Independence Day (6 December) with Thanksgiving reminds us of the immigrant experience we and/or our forefathers and foremothers shared with the first European settlers who came to America centuries ago. Once here, the early Pilgrims had to learn the ways of the New World from the Indian natives if they were to survive and prosper in a demanding foreign land.   Yet, the Pilgrims retained their history and culture even as they adapted and learned new ways. So, too, do we immigrant Finns retain the deep, everlasting roots of our Finnish heritage woven into our life tapestries.

Three Finnish children write America on the chalk board in a class held for children of immigrants detained at Ellis Island in 1947

Three Finnish children write America on the chalk board in a class held for children of immigrants detained at Ellis Island in 1947

In just a few years, Finland will celebrate its 100th year of Independence. There will be a bevy of publications, events, and proclamations highlighting our trip through history at that time. The period preceding the Centennial presents an opportunity to study the centuries of relationships with our Swedish and Russian neighbors, to review the role that the Lutheran Church had in shaping our national culture and character, and to learn about Finland’s modern transformation from an agricultural, iconoclastic society to a global paragon of technological and educational wizardry! This is an excellent time to involve our youngest generations in noting and honoring our homeland as part of a Finnish family tradition. As Americans, they will learn about how the United States evolved in school. ‘They came, they saw, they conquered—and, they wanted to live happily ever after!’

As we celebrate Finnish Independence on 6 December, Americans remember the surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor on December 7th.  The Finnish Continuation War was the American equivalent of Pearl Harbor.   A reluctant participant in World War I—“The War to End All Wars”, the US was more than hesitant to become involved in World War II until the Pacific attack. In December 1941, Finland was 24 years old—the US was 165 years old.   [The ‘new’ world was old, the ‘old’ world was new.] If the US had not entered WW II, we Finns would still be blue-eyed and blond, but we would speak German, not Finnish. Then, again, if it were not for the Sisu of our parents and grandparents who fought Russia to a ‘stand still’, we would speak Russian, not Finnish.

... following the Battle of Vuosalmi on the Karelian Isthmus during the Continuation War. The battle ended with a decisive Finnish victor

… following the Battle of Vuosalmi on the Karelian Isthmus during the Continuation War. The battle ended with a decisive Finnish victory

Modern History Can Be Fun While You Live It!

Suggesting a fun, modern, LA-style approach to Finnish Independence Day is in no way meant to denigrate the solemnity, dignity, and reverence of the occasion honoring those who made Finland possible.   That is always important to do.

However, this is the time of year to have some fun with your heritage. Modern Finland (with its unique, beautifully innovative spirit) is a source of pride and inspiration for many of us in the way we live, how we present ourselves, the clothes we wear, how we decorate our homes, and how we share our heritage with our friends and the world. For me, food is fun—and can be expressive in its own way.

When I entertain, I always try to have a number of interesting desserts for guests to experience. This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert. It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day. The effort was successful. The result was a fun conversation piece, easy to make, colorfully Finnish, and a big hit.

This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert.  It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day

This year, my personal quest for a dessert theme at the Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit was to create a blue and white dessert. It was meant to be a tasty, colorful, patriotic salute to those heroes and the heroine present that day

My party meal conclusion inspiration was born of a T-shirt—would you believe? Try this for your Independence Day party—or any future Finnish celebration. It is easy, made-ahead, and festive for all busy Finn-Angelenos.  The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt which was a ‘classic’ from the ‘60s—1960s, of course.

The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt

The blue and white striped treat is based on the Tasaraita Marimekko T-Shirt

Fashion Note: My long-term favorite ‘go-to’ outfit is that same Marimekko T-Shirt under a tailored blue blazer with my Finnish grandmother’s [Pih-Mummi] pearls or a Tapio Wirkkala Lapponia gold necklace. A pair of jeans (if that is your thing) or nice slacks and great Palmroth loafers (or slinky heels) will ‘suit you up’ properly and comfortably for any event this City of Angels has to offer.    

The Tasaraita T-Shirt has been a staple in practically every Finn’s closet for decades. The blue and white stripes are a reminder of Finnish flag colors that reflect the water and the sky of our homeland. The elegant nautical colors always make for a fun and festive party theme and décor. I have blue and white striped table toppers that I used for this year’s Finnish War Veterans’ Suomi Sisu Summit. So, the dessert matched the drapes! The colorful Finnish dessert was such a hit—my Father ate 5!

Festivities for Finnish Independence

Invite your favorite ‘Finnophiles’.   Virtually every Finnish home (and many ‘wired’ Finnish homes around the world) are tuned to the Red Carpet arrivals of Finns prominent in science, literature, sports, government, and industry. As in Hollywood, a Finnish favorite ‘sport’ of media and ‘fans’ is critiquing the outfits of the guests as they exit the Receiving Line after greeting the President of Finland. I just read that the official invitations for 2014 have been sent out in Finland.   The social world there is all ‘a-buzz’ in anticipation.

Have Your Own Red Carpet Party

Finnish Independence Day is ‘party-perfect’ this year because it falls on a Saturday. The time difference [10 hours] will allow you to have your own version of an LA Red Carpet Convergence as Finnish Independence is celebrated in Helsinki. In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki.

 In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki

In years past when the receiving line occurred during working hours, many of us here sat at our desks covertly trying to catch glimpses of what was happening ‘on the Red Carpet’ in Helsinki

[My Grandparents were regular guests at the Independence Day Reception back in the ‘40s when my Grandfather was a Dean at the University in Helsinki. They lived right on Hallituskatu by Senate Square, but were driven to the Reception. The Finnish men always wondered why my Grandmother would not walk the several blocks to the Reception, but, as women in formal wear on formal occasions know, you need to “arrive properly” for such grand events.

People watching, attire critiquing will be ‘de rigueur’ as each Finland Finn is glued to their TV and smart devices. Our recently, dearly departed Joan Rivers (or Mr. Blackwell) would have a ball watching as the procession of Finnish political, sports, business, journalistic, and literary glitterati arrive at the Presidential Palace.

Mr. Blackwell by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Mr. Blackwell by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Finnish Activities Around LA

A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year. An Around LA With Ava three years ago chronicled the most “romantic Independence Day evening” when Pertti proposed to his beautiful Diana Cavonius on the way to the Independence Day Gala. Pertti (a former Angeleno and FACC Board Member) was back in town for a medical conference. He is a renowned neurologist/psychiatrist in Finland who worked at UCLA for a number of years. His bride Diana is an international expert and practitioner on adolescent issues.

 A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year

A recent visit by Dr. Pertti Rintahaka from Helsinki was a reminder of the Finnish Red Carpet Independence Day procession prior to the glorious Reception held at the Presidential Palace on December 6th each year

Pertti (with his eclectic taste for American music) had just been to a John Fogerty concert in Las Vegas. Anxious to take some rare recordings home, Pertti wanted to head for Tower Records on Sunset. His disappointment at their demise disappeared when I told him that Amoeba Records had replaced Tower as the mecca for everything in recorded music in Los Angeles. He was excited to be introduced to such a favorite source of hard-to-find sounds for even classical conductors here in LA.

Full Circle

My month of covering Finns began and ended at the same location. On a beautiful So Cal evening, I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at  a movie screening featuring none other than……. (read on to find out who—this is a ‘Hollywood tease’).

I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at  a movie screening featuring none other than……

I was back across the street from Amoeba Records at a movie screening featuring none other than……

A busy few weeks followed starting with:

Snow Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater. The Funland Comedy Ensemble presented the play. Opening Night festivities were sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland. The show was written by Finn Markus Leikola and directed by Finn Katarina Laurila—Saara Wacklin produced. Opening Night was a sold-out delight.

now Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater

now Leopard’s Den –an espionage farce built on the Edward Snowden ‘information release’, hit the boards in an intimate Santa Monica theater

Elsewhere

For years, I have been busy with the various European communities here in LA. Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula. The scene around the Austrian Consul General’s residence was quite an event onto itself with helicopters overhead, blocks of cars, long lines of LA’s politicians and EU social notables waiting to enter and to be greeted by the ever gracious Ulrike Ritzinger, Consul General of Austria.

Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula

Again this year, I was excited to attend the Austrian National Day where I met up with old friends from the Austrian community, the Sheriff’s Department, the LA Consular Corps, and, most especially, our own Consul General JP Markkanen and his lovely wife Tuula

[I did not catch a glimpse of Austrian former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He lives in the same area. The ‘Arnoldnator’ is always a topic of comment at Austrian events.]

Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation

LAFF held its Annual Honoree Luncheon at the Sportsmen’s Lodge. This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth.

This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth

This year’s Honoree was Howard Rockstad. The Lodge was filled with pre-holiday joy and warmth

A silent auction to benefit the LAFF scholarship fund included some special books that had been donated by the Consulate General of Finland. I was delighted with my winning bid as those books will find their way under my Christmas tree for my Grandchildren who will learn some more about their Finnish roots. And, they will be pleased to learn some more about their Great Grandfather who is mentioned in one of the books.

A silent auction to benefit the LAFF scholarship fund included some special books that had been donated by the Consulate General of Finland (pictured here co-presidents Valeria Jokela and Larry Soronen with Consul General JP and Tuula Markkanen)

Co-presidents Valeria Jokela and Larry Soronen with Consul General JP and Tuula Markkanen

Supporting LAFF (its work and its scholarships) is important for promoting Finnish heritage here.

An Evening of Jazz and the Launch of Finlandia Foundation National’s Sibelius 150th Celebration at the Consular Residence

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015. Esa Pekka Salonen and his wife Jane were present. It was a great night of cool music, good food, and grand plan announcements. Fun was had by all.  

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015

The Finnish Consulate and FFN co-sponsored an Evening of Jazz with the Olli Soikkeli Band launching the upcoming Sibelius 150th Anniversary Year in 2015

 

[The Markkanen’s delightful son was celebrating his 20th birthday the same weekend. He captured some great shots while honing his photographic skills at this star-studded event.]

Film Screening

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen (FinnTimes Publisher) in a major acting role in the movie! BRAVO on your performance Tomi!

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen

The very next night following the Jazz/FFN Launch was a private screening of Drifting. There I was—right where the month started for me, across from Amoeba Records at Sunset near Vine. On the big screen before me was none other than Tomi Hinkkanen..

The range of successes talented Finns have never ceases to amaze me. Here in Los Angeles you can be a journalist, a researcher, a professional, a photographer, an actor, an entrepreneur, a chef, a designer, an author, an inventor, a nanny, a politician, a teacher, an artist, a playwright, a musician, a scientist, a composer, an expert in different fields—or all of the above, and at the same time do it all well.

Thespians Tomi Hinkkanen and Marc El Khoury

Thespians Tomi Hinkkanen and Marc El Khoury

That is what modern Finland prepares people to do I guess. And, as the Creative Finns who have flocked here have found out, LA embraces talent—no matter what your ambition!

Giving Thanks

We have so much to celebrate and to be thankful for each Thanksgiving: family, friends (old and new), our Finnish heritage, warm weather, opportunities for growth and success—and so much more.

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good.

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good

Let’s have Finnish fun and be thankful for our many blessings as we come into this season of celebrations of things good

Please always reserve December 6th to remember the sacrifices of the Veterans and Lottas who preserved Finnish Independence. Put out the blue and white décor, light the candles, recite the history of the brave, and celebrate the wonders of modern Finland. Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage.

 Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage

Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage

RECIPE

Finnstripe Parfaits*

IMG1465

Finnstripe Parfaits ingredients

For Blue Stripe Layers:

  • 6 oz. package blueberry Jello
  • 2  cups boiling water
  • 2   cups cold water

Pour and stir pack of Jello in boiling water until dissolved. Stir in cold water. Pour into pitcher for use in layering. Do not refrigerate. Pour small amount from pitcher on bottom of shot glasses to make first stripe. A plastic box or tray containing all glasses will ease transport back and forth as you continue layering. Refrigerate glasses until first layer is firm—about an hour.

For White Stripe Layers:

  • 2    teaspoons gelatin powder
  • ½    cup cold water
  • cup boiling water
  • 15 oz can cream of coconut (Coco Lopez brand easiest to find at wine shops)

Soften gelatin powder by sprinkling over the cold water in a bowl. Add boiling water and stir until completely dissolved. Add can of coconut cream and stir. Pour into clean pitcher for use in layering.

Assembly:

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer. Chill for at least one hour. Can be made up to 3 days ahead. If desired, top with whipped cream, blue sprinkles, a miniature Finnish flag, or whatever. [You will have lots of blue Jello left over if you use ‘even’ stripes.   Enjoy.]

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer

Alternate blue and white layers, letting each set before adding the next layer

Serving:

Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

IMG1067

*Add or interchange colors for other occasions or nationalities!

 

Serving: Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

Serving:
Provide a little demitasse spoon that fits into the small glass. This dessert is good to the last drop!

AFTERWORD

Super easy ideas for your menu while you watch the Red Carpet Helsinki happenings:

Traditional Finnish pea soup

Finnish open faced salmon sandwiches, or sliced cheese and sausage with Finn Crisp Scandinavian Beer (Carlsberg), Lingonberry Juice, and/or Koskenkorva Vodka

IMG1021

A Pot of Finnish Coffee

and, by all means:

An order of karjalanpiirakkas or any other of the delights you can get your hands on from the Scandinavian Kitchen, Chef Sirpa’s new catering company.

REMEMBER

Do As Finnish Households Do On Independence Evening

LIGHT A BLUE CANDLE AND A WHITE CANDLE IN THE WINDOW AT DUSK

sssi

 

 

 

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: An LA Autumn

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

The Unrelenting Heat

In Finland and in much of the rest of America, Fall has arrived. There is a snap in the air. Take a deep breath and the crisp ozone fills your head—it puts a bounce in your step and sends you out looking for properly colored Pom Poms to take to a football game! In some corners of the upper Mid West, the first snows have fallen and people are airing out their Raccoon coats for next week’s big game.

Here in our City of Angels we are sweltering in triple digit heat (over 100º F or 37º C).

Here in our City of Angels we are sweltering in triple digit heat (over 100º F or 37º C).

Here in our City of Angels we are sweltering in triple digit heat (over 100º F or 37º C).

Back in the days before Jimmy Fallon or Jay Leno kept people up past their proper bedtime, THE Tonight Show host was Johnny Carson. For years, he had a running line in his monologue where he interacted with the audience about the heat in Los Angeles that went something like this:

Carson: It was really hot today in LA!

Audience in unison: How hot was it?

Carson: It was so hot that … [insert whatever funny punch line]

Mr. Carson could have had a zinger for material this week:

Carson: It is so hot that even in Bel Air, the maids are going topless!

Picture that! If you were in the west end of Bel Air recently, at the corner of Moraga and Bellagio, there was a pink van beckoning business. This blight on the neighborhood was parked advertising its provocative topless maid service for over a month. I was surprised that the parking authorities had not ticketed or towed the darned thing away.

This blight on the neighborhood was parked advertising its provocative topless maid service for over a month.

This blight on the neighborhood was parked advertising its provocative topless maid service for over a month.

LA Finns and other students of exclusive [read: outrageously expensive!] Los Angeles real estate enclaves will recognize Moraga Drive as one of the premier ‘high rent’ neighborhoods in the mega-million dollar market. Moraga Drive recently received attention when global media mogul Rupert Murdock purchased the vaunted Moraga Vineyard property close to the Finnish Consular Residence which sits just inside the gates guarding the eastern end of Moraga.   VIP visitors to the Consular Residence (or others in the beautiful residential area) could hardly miss the shocking pink van parked at the head of the Moraga corridor. Business must be good.

Colossus Flameout

There was more heat out in Castaic at Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park where Colossus [once the worlds’ tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster] caught fire. The 36 year old venue had completed its last customer thrill-ride on August 17th. Almost 70 million riders experienced its iconic breath-defying transport. KaChinggg!!!

Colossus [once the worlds’ tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster] caught fire.

Colossus [once the worlds’ tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster] caught fire.

Apparently the fire was caused by a spark from a welder’s torch. Spectacular pictures of firefighters aiming their hoses at the fire on the abandoned super-structure from fully extended ladder trucks were timely released to the TV and print media! Jaded Angelinos will need to be forgiven the suspicion that the fire sparked at the very top of the wooden structure was nicely coincidental with the announcement that Colossus is being replaced with a new steel track ‘coaster’ that will have rolls, spirals, and steep banks. The new ride will reopen with the name Twisted Colossus. The Red Carpet guest list for the Grand Opening has not been released just yet.

Blond, Blue Eyed Snake

Another ‘breaking news’ story from up in the lovely, very ‘Scandinavianly’ populated area of Thousand Oaks was the blond snake on the loose. No, really, LA County Animal Control had ‘alerts’ out for an Albino Monocle Cobra that had bitten a dog. News crews clamored, helicopters hovered, and intrepid paparazzi were able to capture images as the cobra was secured after a woman reported it slithering on the hot pavement near Rancho Road.

A County Animal Control had ‘alerts’ out for an Albino Monocle Cobra that had bitten a dog.

A County Animal Control had ‘alerts’ out for an Albino Monocle Cobra that had bitten a dog.

Fire, Fire, Fire Everywhere…

Another fire at a landmark in our tinder-box-of-a-town was caused by a spark from another welder’s torch. A dock at the massive Port of Los Angeles was triggered by the torch and smoldered for days. News crews clamored, helicopters hovered, and intrepid paparazzi captured images of the flames requiring evacuation of hundreds of workers and restricting nearby local school functions for several days. Along with its sister Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles handles 40% of all of America’s import trade.   No ‘Red Carpets’ here!

A dock at the massive Port of Los Angeles was triggered by the torch and smoldered for days.

A dock at the massive Port of Los Angeles was triggered by the torch and smoldered for days.

I hope that the re-inflated 61’ Rubber Ducky that had been hanging around nearby Port of San Pedro did not have a meltdown.   Rubber Ducky a l’Orange has never been on any restaurant menu I have seen—here or on the Continent!

I hope that the re-inflated 61’ Rubber Ducky that had been hanging around nearby Port of San Pedro did not have a meltdown...

I hope that the re-inflated 61’ Rubber Ducky that had been hanging around nearby Port of San Pedro did not have a meltdown…

“S” is for September

September was also for singing, Santa Monica, Simojoki, Sirpa, Sibelius, Sunset Strip, and Selänne

September 2014 started with celebrations of and in song. The Finnish Church of Santa Monica held its first service of the Fall with the St. Thomas Mass featuring the music of Pekka Simojoki. A choral workshop on Saturday preceded the Sunday Service with Terhi Miikki-Broersma and the Choir from the San Diego Suomikirkko. This event was topped off by a performance by the great granddaughter of Finnish Composer Jean Sibelius, Ruusumari Teppo! What blessings we find in Church.

The Saturday choral workshop featured a catered lunch by Chef Extraordinaire Sirpa Welch whose delicacies the Finnish American community has enjoyed at the Consular residence through the years. Sirpa has started her own catering business: Scandinavian Kitchen in Los Angeles. Sirpa has been so impressive at a broad range of events, including wonderful and informative cooking demonstrations at the recent Finnfest in San Diego. She worked with my nephew-in-law, Great Chefs of 2014 Troy Clayton out of Old Towne Alexandria VA, on my son’s wedding over a dozen years ago. [Troy and Sirpa prepared and served a 4 course, gourmet, sit-down feast for 150 in my back yard out of my kitchen—with some help from some ‘friends’.] Sirpa follows in the footsteps of another Finnish culinary master, the late beloved Eino Nurminen.

The Saturday choral workshop featured a catered lunch by Chef Extraordinaire Sirpa Welch.

The Saturday choral workshop featured a catered lunch by Chef Extraordinaire Sirpa Welch.

Speaking of Sibelius, LA Finlandia Foundation held its meeting on September 7th in Pasadena. It was great to see and get caught up with everyone after the long Summer. An enthusiastic crowd including Valerie Jokela, Larry Soronen, Ellen Harju, Al Jokela, Aino Lustig, Elida Mäki, Elissa Della Rocca, Anita Finifrock (who brought her special “apron cake”) welcomed speaker Professor Michael Hart.   Professor Hart from Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks made a spirited and informative presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius which delighted everyone. What a great program in anticipation of Sibelius’ 150th. [While there is a Finnish Sauna on the grounds of the Pasadena Historical Museum at the Tupa, I felt like I was getting into a personal, portable sauna on wheels for the ride home as the interior temperature in my car registered 114º F!]

 LA Finlandia Foundation held its meeting on September 7th in Pasadena.  It was great to see and get caught up with everyone after the long Summer

LA Finlandia Foundation held its meeting on September 7th in Pasadena. It was great to see and get caught up with everyone after the long Summer

With the heat still on, is there a better place to be in our City of Angels than on the sand in Santa Monica? Then, if you are an opera buff, the season started with a free live cast ‘simulfeed’ of La Traviata broadcast from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in ‘high def’ captured by 9 cameras! This was part of a new biannual series of live video broadcasts. Picnicking was encouraged. A bike “valet” was available. No Red Carpet needed!

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With the heat still on, is there a better place to be in our City of Angels than on the sand in Santa Monica? Then, if you are an opera buff, the season started with a free live cast ‘simulfeed’ of La Traviata broadcast from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in ‘high def’ captured by 9 cameras!

Special slick solicitations arrive at my home regularly. One such promo that arrived by mail was apparently tailored for a younger generation and/or ’newbies’ to opera. While showcasing the 2014-15 Los Angeles Opera Season, the mailing was splattered with interesting factoids for statistics buffs including:

< 130 pieces of jewelry and two disco balls were used for La Traviata

< in Dido & Aeneas/Bluebeard two gold fig leaf g-strings were to be worn, and

< 18 ounces of golden glitter is used in each performance

Sunset Strip

There is nothing more wonderful than an early morning weekend drive along Sunset Boulevard –taking those curves without any traffic, feeling the air on your face, and actually making it from the 405 into Hollywood in about 15 minutes. The sights along the quiet Strip are almost serene (even with debris from the revelries the night before). Rarely is the Strip ever closed off requiring one to take frustrating detours –unless the recent rash of 100 year old water pipe bursts continues.

The Sunset Strip Music Festival –now a two day event in its 7th year.

The Sunset Strip Music Festival –now a two day event in its 7th year.

One planned weekend exception where people take precedence over cars and when Sunset is closed between San Vicente Boulevard and Doheny Drive is for The Sunset Strip Music Festival –now a two day event in its 7th year.

The event makes the Roxy and the Whisky A Go-Go the epicenter(s) for groups such as The Doors, Guns ‘N Roses, The Byrds, and Van Halen where they got their starts. Jane’s Addiction was featured this year.

Among Those Sounds of Saint-Saëns

Meanwhile, in another neck of our LA woods, the classical music Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen performed Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on their season-opener that same Saturday night. Music Director Jeffrey Kahane conducted.

Classical music Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen performed Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on their season-opener.

Classical music Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen performed Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on their season-opener.

Special Stops on Sunset

Probably one of the most famous stretches along Sunset Boulevard is just as you begin to enter Beverly Hills. Heading east on Sunset at Carolwood, almost directly across from the house where Michael Jackson died, there is a house on the right with many statues: children playing, a security guard, a park bench ‘napper’, even children scaling the fence for a peek … . The tour buses all slow down so their tourist customers can snap pictures of what has become a local landmark on the sightseeing tours.   Everyone must wonder who lives there and what it is like behind the fence (like the statute of the children peeking over the wall). I know I always point out the property when giving a tour to friends new to Los Angeles. Truth be told, I never drive by that property without checking to see if the population has grown—again. Quite often, I will spot something new. Only in Beverly Hills do you use a ‘drive by’ for a Museum!

The tour buses all slow down so their tourist customers can snap pictures of what has become a local landmark on the sightseeing tours.

The tour buses all slow down so their tourist customers can snap pictures of what has become a local landmark on the sightseeing tours.

My friend Elizabeth Von Schlesinger (multimedia personality and founder of the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council) was at the home where we were to meet. When I went to pick her up one day, I was let in through the gates onto a grand circular drive. [Like with Pandora’s Box, it is natural to wonder what is inside.] The answer: beautiful, manicured grounds and (you guessed it) more statues! The interior site presented a beautiful and breathtaking vista showcasing an even more extensive collection of statues by various artists. There was one figure that looked like Finland’s Lasse Viren* (the great Olympic Gold Medals distance runner) enjoying the cooling fountain in one area of the garden. It was so hot that day, I was ready to join ‘Lasse’ in the fountain!

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My friend Elizabeth Von Schlesinger (multimedia personality and founder of the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council) was at the home where we were to meet.

In this entertainment wonderland of a city, it is always fun to get a peek behind the scenes.

[* Lasse was sculpted in LA and cast in bronze for The Final Meter by Finnish sculptor Eino Romppanen.   The sculpture was commissioned for and was a focal point of attention during the Atlanta Olympics. That sculpture remains in Atlanta. Greta Peck was an Eino collector. She had a scaled replica of The Final Meter in her yard on Summit Drive in Beverly Hills.]

The Final Meter by Finnish sculptor Eino Romppanen.

The Final Meter by Finnish sculptor Eino Romppanen.

Around LA with Super Heroes: Behind the Scenes

Only in a place like LA where “you know people who know people” do you have the chance of attending a monthly book club meeting where the author shows up –or of attending a film festival where the director and/or the writer are right there seated beside you. This month I went to two events where the actual subjects (the protagonists of the works themselves) were there too!

Whale Warrior

War of the Whales, written by Joshua Horowitz, is a great nonfiction read. An Amazon Best Book of the Month [July 2014] and a NY Times Bestseller List work was the chosen book for an evening hosted by friends Joanne Jackson and Carlyle Hall. Carlyle is one of the three founders of the Center for Law in the Public Interest. Carlyle’s friend and fellow environmental lawyer is the actual hero of the book [Joel Reynolds; Western Director and Senior Attorney of NRDC –the Natural Resources Defense Council]. Discussions for a film based on the book are in the works.

War of the Whales group photo

War of the Whales group photo

The riveting ‘save the whales’ tale tells of the battle for balance between national security and environmental protection.   The connection between naval sonar and deadly mass ‘stranding’ of whales is revealed. The book chronicles the twenty year battle against military sonar by environmental activists seeking to protect dolphins and whales from the assault of Navy sonar. The suits and legal maneuvering all the way to the Supreme Court of the US are discussed.

Joanne Jackson and Joel Reynolds

Joanne Jackson and Joel Reynolds

You may have made a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. As a Member and a Director of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce, I helped with a Finnish Independence Day event one year under the big Blue Whale that ‘floats’ over the main lobby. The sheer size of that ‘statue’ is awesome. Over a hundred feet long and weighing over 200 tons [in ‘real life’], the Blue Whale is the largest ‘animal’ ever to have lived on Earth.   Standing in the Lobby and looking up, it is only natural to say “Wow, that whale is big!”

The Blue Whale still travels just off the Southern California coast in the Channel Islands chain. The War of the Whales issues are close to home for us here on the Pacific Coast.   The man who raised the issues that became the book sat with us that evening to answer questions and to provide insights.

Joshua Horwitz's book War of the Whales.

Joshua Horwitz’s book War of the Whales.

Now, that is a Book Club meeting worth attending!

The Finnish Flash

Another evening in LA, I was at a film viewing where the starring hero was personally present! The movie: SEL8NNE is a documentary about Teemu Selänne –the best Finnish hockey player of all time. Teemu’s life is followed from childhood to the latest NHL season. His story is revealed through his own words and those of his family members and colleagues.

Teemu and Sirpa Selänne at the screening of his biography, Sel8nne at USC. The movie is a part of the first  EUphoria Film Festival.

Teemu and Sirpa Selänne at the screening of his biography, Sel8nne at USC. The movie is a part of the first EUphoria Film Festival.

SEL8NNE is about our own Teemu Selänne. The film presents a fascinating view of the life and hockey career of our hockey phenom. The word “our” is used here because Teemu and his delightful wife Sirpa have been such generous, kind, long standing, supportive members of the Southern California Finnish community. From their support of charitable events to Finnish Independence Day celebrations, their warm and enthusiastic presence has been appreciated.

The film gave a great look into the public and private life of a talented, hard working, determined Finn.

The film gave a great look into the public and private life of a talented, hard working, determined Finn.

The film gave a great look into the public and private life of a talented, hard working, determined Finn. [SISU is the appropriate Finnish descriptor.] The Finns in the audience roared with approval as Lord Stanley’s Cup was used to pour water onto the rocks in a sauna! In the unique traditions of the Stanley Cup, the name of each winning team member is engraved onto the silver trophy and each winning team member gets to ‘…take the Cup home’. In Teemu’s case, that was Finland for 3 days. Teemu confirmed that the Cup has many tales to tell—taking a sauna is not its most unique experience! [I wonder if anyone checked the melting point of silver before ‘cranking’ the sauna?]

Teemu was his usual gracious self. Consul General of Finland, Juha Markkanen chats with Teemu Selänne after the screening.

Consul General of Finland, Juha Markkanen chats with Teemu Selänne after the screening.

Teemu was his usual gracious self. He willingly spent time with each person who wanted a private moment, an autograph, or a picture. I cannot wait to read the book that has just been published!

Post Autumnal Equinox

We are now past the Autumnal Equinox.   It is getting cold and dark in our native homeland. Even though we will have warm, light evenings here and probably another hot spell or two (at least until November 2 when daylight savings time ends), we can imagine ourselves coming home from the Finnish forest with a basketful of wild mushrooms.   Closing our eyes, our minds can savor a taste of Finnish Autumn on our tongue.

While mushroom soup usually has chunks of mushrooms, the soup presented is pureed to be smooth and to extract more mushroom flavor. This soup is healthier and more figure-friendly because it has very little cream and butter. If you are healthy enough already—or just nostalgic, you can kick it up a notch by adding a tiny drizzle of truffle oil to bring you even closer to the actual Finnish forest primeval.

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Finnish Fungus ‘Amongus’ Soup

Finnish Fall Mushroom Soup aka Finnish Fungus ‘Amongus’ Soup.

Finnish Fall Mushroom Soup aka Finnish Fungus ‘Amongus’ Soup.

Ingredients

1 lb wild mushrooms, sliced

(Hard to find Chanterelles or fresh Porcini preferred—here, Shiitakes were used. If using Shiitakes, remove the stems and discard.)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon oil

I large carrot, chopped

1 large onion (or 1 leek, white part only), chopped

1 small (or ½ large) parsnip, chopped

3 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 cubes vegetable bouillon

6 cups water (alternatively, substitute 1½ quarts liquid vegetable broth for the cubes/water)

¼ cup cream

1 tablespoon sherry

1 tablespoon truffle oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Double click on pictures above for full size view

Double click on image for full size view

Process

Peel and chop root vegetables. Sauté the ‘veggies’ in oil and butter until golden and soft.

Peel and chop root vegetables.

Peel and chop root vegetables.

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Sauté the ‘veggies’ in oil and butter until golden and soft.

Sauté mushroom slices in a hot pan until they exude liquid. Save about 4 slices to chop for garnish.

 Sauté mushroom slices in a hot pan until they exude liquid.

Sauté mushroom slices in a hot pan until they exude liquid.

Combine broth, vegetables, garlic, and tomato paste. Boil until vegetables are soft –about 20 minutes.

Combine broth, vegetables, garlic, and tomato paste. Boil until vegetables are soft –about 20 minutes.

Combine broth, vegetables, garlic, and tomato paste. Boil until vegetables are soft –about 20 minutes. (double click on  for full size view)

Puree with an immersion blender (or in a food processor) gradually adding cream and sherry. Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender (or in a food processor) gradually adding cream and sherry. Cook an additional 5 minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender (or in a food processor) gradually adding cream and sherry. Cook an additional 5 minutes. (double click on image for full size view)

Taste for seasoning.

Pour into Finnish bowls and garnish with sour cream, chopped mushrooms, and herbs.

Add truffle oil to finish.

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Serving Suggestions

Begin preparation during the 1st LA blizzard of the season—or, at least, wait until the Santa Ana’s stop blowing!   A ‘marine layer’ evening party will get off to a great start with a nice warm soup serving. This tasty liquid Finnish Forest is great to put into a thermos and take to your Fall concert or picnic—perfect for an Opera at the beach!

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Fall Is Here, The Calendar Tells Me So!

It is officially Fall in LA. The way you know is you look at the calendar and ignore the thermometer! For confirmation, you go to Costco where Christmas decorations are for sale already. A trip to any local grocery store confirms that, indeed, they do have pumpkins and bales of hay as their front door displays. Starbucks is trying to tempt us into the Fall mood by running full page ads for their pumpkin spice lattes.

A trip to any local grocery store confirms that, indeed, they do have pumpkins and bales of hay as their front door displays

A trip to any local grocery store confirms that, indeed, they do have pumpkins and bales of hay as their front door displays

The real ‘tell’ is that ‘everyone’ is back in town and the Fall buzz of activities has started. Calendars are filled with events for the next several months.

See—the calendar tells you so!

Pumpkins Know It’s So

It takes pumpkins to celebrate an LA Autumn. One of our suburbs is even called “Pumpkins” in Spanish. Yes, Calabasas, home to the ubiquitous Kardashian clan is named for the large orange orbs. In fact, to have a real LA moment, there is a Pumpkin Festival there with live entertainment, costumes, food, beer, and pumpkin carving. [calabasaspumpkinfestival.com]

..to have a real LA moment, there is a Pumpkin Festival there with live entertainment, costumes, food, beer, and pumpkin carving.

..to have a real LA moment, there is a Pumpkin Festival there with live entertainment, costumes, food, beer, and pumpkin carving.

And, if you want more Kardashian in your Calabasas celebration, you can see renderings of the visages of the frighteningly popular Kardashian sisters in pumpkin among 5,000 hand-carved Jack-o-Lanterns of celebrities, dinosaurs, and more. This Rise of the Jack-o-Lanterns is debuting and lighting up the Descanso Rose Garden. [therise.org or descansogardens.org]

END NOTE

Now that the Moraga maids have cleaned your house and the pot of soup is hot, it is officially LA Autumn! “…The frost is on the pumpkin” even if it is generated through air conditioning!

Enjoy our Autumn.

And, have a Happy LA Halloween!!

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AROUND LA WITH AVA® Suicide, Sharks, and Riptides

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DREAMS CAN TURN INTO NIGHTMARES THAT DO NOT GO AWAY

Summer in our City of Angeles has been unnerving with unexpected danger, violent death, and tragic loss. Shark attacks, dangerous riptides, lighting strikes, and the shocking death of a comedic icon have left their mark. The familiar, comfortable, reassuring routine of back to school, back to work, and back to the fall season was knocked off stride.

This will not be a fun season to look back on.

This will not be a fun season to look back on.

We ache and are left reeling with what was not a normal, carefree summer. Paradise was lost. This will not be a fun season to look back on. Like American born kids, this little Finn always looked forward to the last day of school. Kids enjoy summer—they energize, they exercise, and they explore. As adults, vacations give us a chance to decompress, decompose, and disappear from the normal frenetic pace that tries our psyche, drains our stamina, and leaves us frazzled. If we are lucky to have enough time—and/or the right circumstances, we have the luxury of contemplation, reflection, and appreciation of the life lessons learned in the year just past.

Sometimes things do not work out the way we would like.

Suicide Is Painless—NOT!!!

“Suicide Is Painless” is one of those TV sitcom theme songs that becomes a “brain worm” not unlike a toothpaste commercial or a pop song ditty that ‘loops’ in your mind for no good reason and at ‘inconvenient’ times.

Mash Opening and Closing Theme 1972 – 1983

That song was the theme for the ever-long TV series MASH, starring Alan Alda, that went on forever in the US. Just as MASH was a popular part of life for decades of family evenings in the US, so too was Mork and Mindy featuring the fun, loveable, comedic genius Robin Williams.  

Just as MASH was a popular part of life for decades of family evenings in the US, so too was Mork and Mindy featuring the fun, loveable, comedic genius Robin Williams.

Just as MASH was a popular part of life for decades of family evenings in the US, so too was Mork and Mindy featuring the fun, loveable, comedic genius Robin Williams.

Robin Williams committed suicide.

I do not remember the Mork and Mindy theme song.

Sometimes things do not work out the way we would like.

On Sunday I drove to the Laugh Factory on LA’s Sunset Strip where Robin Williams got his start in comedy. I wanted to get a photo of the memoriam sign they posted:

ROBIN WILLIAMS

REST IN PEACE

MAKE GOD LAUGH

I was too late. The sign had been taken down. The message lingers on.

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Driving along the Sunset Strip was suddenly different than those thousands of other times I cruised through. With my intent came a new focus that made it eerily obvious how close in proximity [just a few blocks] the Laugh Factory is to the Chateau Marmont Hotel where Robin’s good friend and fellow comedian John Belushi died of a drug overdose so many years ago. Robin had drug issues too.

For anyone remotely familiar with divorce and custody situations, Mrs. Doubtfire brought humanity and poignancy to personal pain with a rare comedic flare

For anyone remotely familiar with divorce and custody situations, Mrs. Doubtfire brought humanity and poignancy to personal pain with a rare comedic flare

What a dossier of accomplishments and what a range of talent they shared—TV, film, animation—drama, as well as, comedy.   I particularly liked Robin’s Goodwill Hunting—a touching drama with Matt Damon, a star of Finnish ancestry.   For anyone remotely familiar with divorce and custody situations, Mrs. Doubtfire brought humanity and poignancy to personal pain with a rare comedic flare. Robin’s character disguised himself as a woman and worked as his children’s nanny [unbeknownst to them or his estranged wife] just to be with them.

A career review will highlight the number of diverse roles Mr. Williams played that showed ‘caring’ through varied, often comedic persona. How sad that someone who cared so much and brought so much joy to others had such despair in his own life—whatever the source.

A career review will highlight the number of diverse roles Mr. Williams played that showed ‘caring’ through varied, often comedic persona.

A career review will highlight the number of diverse roles Mr. Williams played that showed ‘caring’ through varied, often comedic persona.

Suicide is painless? NOT…NOT…NOT!!!

Suicide is a pain that goes on and on and on though generations.

How can wonderful, talented individuals so full of promise suffer such despair that they choose their end, ultimately breaking everyone’s heart? They are not alone, of course. Suicide is reported as the cause of death almost 37,000 times a year in the US. The actual number of suicides is unknown, as are the number who tried and failed, or the number who deferred the decision. If media reports and the drug companies’ massive depression drug advertising expenditures are any gage, we are in for a rocky future.

This Land Was Made For You And Me

All of the world has a vision of California:   “This land was made for you and me!” The Pacific Ocean, the redwood forests, the Hollywood Sign, the Golden Gate Bridge—all of those bastions we saw on postcards defined California.

Ah, yes, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ah, yes, the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ah, yes, the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the iconic symbol of the end of the earth, the pot at the end of the rainbow of dreams. For those of us non-natives (as most of us are), our vision of the Golden Gate Bridge from the old postcards included a ‘memo’ side factoid that the bridge was built in 1937 to traverse the only navigable opening into the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. For merchant sailors plying their trade and wares—and to immigrants from across the ocean, this entry was like a pot of gold at the end of their rainbow of dreams. For immigrants, it meant a positive, welcoming “…you have arrived at the American dream”. For merchant sea Captains like Finland’s Gustav Niebaum who made his fortune as a ‘trader’, the ‘pot of gold’ was filled with real gold. He liked what he saw so much that he ultimately settled and became one of the reasons Napa Valley symbolizes California wines of quality [Inglenook/Niebaum-Coppola].

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The Bridge itself is beautiful in its grand design. It also provides a dramatic ‘backdrop’ for San Francisco—one of the most beautiful cities anywhere in the world. For many, the Bridge was their first vision of the US—much like the Statute of Liberty for those immigrants entering the United States through New York. The regular Bay fogs present phenomenal photo opportunities —some of which make the Bridge look as if it were ‘sailing’ on the bank of fog!

As a fourth-grader and as (or, in spite of being) a recent émigré, I was assigned a class project to build a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge out of toothpicks. The real Bridge is HUGE. A project of that magnitude can be overwhelming for any 9 year old—to say nothing of one who had seen the actual Bridge only one or two times on postcards or ‘for real’!

Many many boxes of toothpicks, lots of orange paint [the ‘Golden’ Gate is not golden!], jars of glue, many many hours of work, and lots of ‘breath holding’ and some ‘huffing/puffing’ later, the miniature ‘giant’ creation was done! My nine year old mind [probably thinking in Finnish] pondered the purpose of this painstaking task. Was there a teachable moment (other than patience testing) or purpose to this assignment? Or, was it a busy teacher’s ‘busy work’ assigned to keep idle hands and minds equally busy? While I was proud of my final product—and it was good, it was not of the professional quality that brings top $ from San Francisco tourists’ shops.   Besides, I understood we got to keep our product once presented and graded. It was a mystery.

Balancing my Bridge on its pedestal on the walk to and from school was a real challenge each way—with added pressure ‘to’ because my performance had not yet been graded. While most school projects stayed on in our home for just a short period, this one was put on the bookshelf for ‘eternity’ because of all the labor that went into it.

 My very cool, single aunt Pirkko then lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco.

My very cool, single aunt Pirkko then lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco.

As I got older, I got to see the object of my project more often. My very cool, single aunt Pirkko then lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco. It was fun to spend many weekends with her. I took the Greyhound bus from San Jose at the south end of the Bay to San Francisco at the north end of the Bay where I actually got to go to and on the real Bridge. In the continental western United States, the Golden Gate Bridge is the quintessential symbol of America and ‘arrival’. No one in our family had been here before. It was the end of our “Westward Ho!” and symbolized our arrival at the end of the rainbow in our American dream.

Suicide ReDux

All grown up at 17, choosing the University of California at Berkeley was a great—and easy, decision for college.   Since leaving Finland, my US life had developed around the San Francisco Bay—home in the south/fun in the north.   I skied in the mountains just east and dipped my toes in the ocean just west. Life was good. I knew my territory—and I was comfortable with it.

Part of growing up (and an important function of education) is learning about, facing, and dealing with the ‘real world’ with all its dimensions.

The truth is, the Golden Gate Bridge is made of steel and cables, not toothpicks. It is huge, not cute. The Bridge is an engineering and construction marvel, not a monument to a 4th grader’s patience. The Bridge spans high above icy cold ocean water with surging currents and tides to permit cars, trucks, busses, and pedestrians to get from land on one side of the Bay to land on the other side of the Bay. It does not sit on a bookshelf in my living room.

People have jumped from the Bridge to commit suicide.

The shocking reality of the Bridge as a suicide destination hit like ‘a ton of bricks’ in my freshman year at Berkeley.

The shocking reality of the Bridge as a suicide destination hit like ‘a ton of bricks’ in my freshman year at Berkeley.

The shocking reality of the Bridge as a suicide destination hit like ‘a ton of bricks’ in my freshman year at Berkeley.   A friend took her life by jumping.   The real world is harsh. I was at Berkeley to learn—life lessons often happen outside the classroom. I was not ready. Is anyone?

My lost friend was the girlfriend of my boyfriend’s best friend. We often ‘hung out’ as a foursome. Berkeley and Oakland are east of San Francisco—connected by the Bay Bridge which is even longer than the Golden Gate, but the elevation is not as high, nor the water below as treacherous as the Golden Gate which is the portal to the Pacific. The bridges (both the Bay and the Golden Gate) were visible from our school locations. The brilliant young jumper from the Midwest had shown no indication of problems—at least to this wide-eyed 17 year old. I was devastated. We coped. I coped. We moved on, as you must. The scars stayed. Innocence denied.

The bridges (both the Bay and the Golden Gate) were visible from our school locations

The bridges (both the Bay and the Golden Gate) were visible from our school locations

How Do We Cope?

Education is supposed to prepare us for life.   Actually, learning is the byproduct of informed experience. Concepts are of little value until they are put to the test of ‘doing’. If we pay attention, it is strange how often things come back around for our ‘re-consideration’ later in life.   Did we learn, or are we destined to repeat the same results?

A few years after Berkeley, I was directing a stage play on the East Coast called Please No Flowers. The play setting was a funeral home, the characters all deceased—one by suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge. All went well with rehearsals until one day when the real caskets I had ordered as props arrived. Reality is so real when it is real, even in make-believe. One of the actors got cold feet when I asked him to stay in a closed casket until the lights came up from a darkened stage. Fear is fear, no matter what. Nothing was going to help—other than a stubborn and determined Finnish Director setting the example. The play was a dramatic success.

I still get claustrophobia thinking about my casket stay demonstration. The emotions of a good play and life are often linked. My Berkeley friend did not die again, but the poignancy and sadness of a life lost never leave.

At the time when my Berkeley friend ended her life by jumping from the Bridge she was one of a few hundred before her. While official leap ‘counting’ has stopped, the ‘unofficial’ count through 2012 exceeded 1,600. The trip from steel to sea takes 4 seconds at achieved speeds of 75 miles an hour (120 km/hr). Significant ‘cow catcher’ type barriers have been installed—with many other deterrents, to protect all but the most determined leapers.

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It is hard not to think about Robin Williams who regularly crossed that Bridge from San Francisco to Marin County where he lived. Could he see the Golden Gate from his Tiburon home? What thoughts ran through his head? A recent Time Magazine memorial had a photo of Mr. Williams framed under that Bridge in the background. He had a pensive look. And, he had a Golden Heart as his belt buckle!

The Pain of Suicide

Modigliani's Portrait de Jeanne Hébuterne assise dans un fauteuil, an image of his girlfriend painted in 1918, two years before his death and her suicide.

Modigliani’s Portrait de Jeanne Hébuterne assise dans un fauteuil, an image of his girlfriend painted in 1918, two years before his death and her suicide.

The pain of suicide lingers for the survivors, each in their own way and from their own experiences: the “whys?”, the “what ifs?”, and the “if I could have only…” thoughts that haunt the hollow space in the heart. No one else can give those answers—or fill that gap. It is too personal. It is OK. It is … experience. Time helps. The questions remain. It is OK.

My experience is greater than I wish—at least a dozen people that I know for certain have met this fate. They include family, a childhood friend from Finland who moved to San Francisco, a best “big sister” type friend and legal mentor, the mother of a legal colleague, the husband of a friend, children of best friends, members of volunteer organizations, and so it goes. If you have had such experiences, you know it is personal. It is OK. It is … experience. Time helps. The questions remain. It is OK.

I knew my big sister/legal mentor had been having problems after being raped in downtown LA one night after work. Her marriage fell apart. When I visited her just a week before, it seemed she had a new life and things were looking up. I was in the midst of a move, between telephone numbers [before cell phones were ubiquitous] and, therefore, ‘unreachable’ when she may have needed me most. Her family had been unable to reach me. The news came by way of a postcard of the Grand Canyon—the size of the hole in my heart. I still carry that postcard in my legal briefcase in her memory. And, I still ask “what if?…” At least the postcard picture was not of the Golden Gate Bridge!

Finns and Suicide

Finland has the highest suicide rate of the Nordic countries. A few years back, there was a Finnish researcher on the topic working at UCLA.   I don’t remember his name. I do have a comprehensive dissertation study on suicide RAPPEUTUMINEN, TIEDOSTAMATON VAI YHTEISKUNTA [medical suicide research in Finland until 1985—presented in 2014] by Mikko Myllykangas from Oulu University.

Through the decades, Finns have arrived here excited to realize their dreams. They find that it never rains in Southern California, the winter temperature rarely goes below 15º C, people smile and talk with you, bars are open until at least 22:00 and when you figure out how to get into the clubs—well, they never close.

Just like with earthquakes, preparedness is the key. Recognize potential problems, prepare properly, and get help when (preferably before) you need it.

Just like with earthquakes, preparedness is the key. Recognize potential problems, prepare properly, and get help when (preferably before) you need it.

Soon, ‘newbies’ find out that Los Angeles>California>the United States are bigger, faster, ‘trickier’, smaller, slower, and ‘easier’ than anticipated. It is bewildering, confusing, and frustrating. Often following is disappointment, disillusionment, homesickness, legal problems, relationship troubles, and drug/alcohol issues. Without a good support system, friends ‘bail’, and family is too far away to help.

Just like with earthquakes, preparedness is the key. Recognize potential problems, prepare properly, and get help when (preferably before) you need it.

Finns are good at so many things, but asking for help is not one of them!

A Summer of Scary Seas

There was a shark attack near the Manhattan Beach pier. Fortunately, the victim survived.

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Not so lucky were others enjoying a summer day on Venice Beach when a sudden and unusual lighting strike killed one and injured others at ocean’s edge.

The Pacific Ocean has been treacherous this summer with twice as many rescues by lifeguards as last year. We had a week of 15-25 foot waves. Dangerous riptides kept many out of the water at Zuma Beach and many other ‘unknowledgeables’ still got into trouble all along our Pacific coast. There have been over 8,000 rescues by lifeguards just since Memorial Day (end of May). And, there are several months still left in this beach season. The Baywatch babes and hunks have had to work their butts off this year!

There is an active hurricane season this year.   The hurricanes are born down near Baja, Mexico where the water is warm, but LA’s ocean water is cold enough that the hurricanes stall and the wind hardly ever bends our palm trees.   The waves do get ‘gnarly’—as the surfers say, and big waves can break surfboards, bones, and spirits.   Riptides can cause even strong swimmers to panic when caught in an ‘out-draft’.

Our beautiful and beloved lifeguards in the City of Angels have some advice when you find yourself caught in the troubling riptide waters

Our beautiful and beloved lifeguards in the City of Angels have some advice when you find yourself caught in the troubling riptide waters

Our beautiful and beloved lifeguards in the City of Angels have some advice when you find yourself caught in the troubling riptide waters:

Take a Deep Breath

Know help is coming [if you are in a Guard protected area]

Swim parallel to the Tide—don’t swim in the wrong direction [against the Tide]

Hang in going parallel to the shore until you round “that corner” [end of the Rip]

 

This editorialized version is good for difficult life times, as well.

 

Even the world’s largest [61’ tall] floating ‘rubber duckie’ launched as an attraction in the San Pedro waters lost air due to the large waves. It will get refilled and will be back at work soon pleasing kids and adults—and scaring sea gulls!

duckies

Even the world’s largest [61’ tall] floating ‘rubber duckie’ launched as an attraction in the San Pedro waters lost air due to the large waves

 

Life Goes On

Sometimes the lives we build are as delicate a ‘balancing act’ and as fragile as that bridge made of toothpicks. Life on a shelf is still a life. Someone loves you. Take a Deep Breath and ride the Tide until you round “that corner”. Know that someone is coming to get you.

 

Life on a shelf is still a life. Someone loves you.

Life on a shelf is still a life. Someone loves you.

 

END NOTE

DREAMS CAN TURN INTO NIGHTMARES THAT DO NOT GO AWAY

911 or http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org