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  Now, that cabin has been replaced by an actual revolving sauna!!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®: 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.

SPRING

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®: 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

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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!!