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

aka

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

SUMMER: COMINGS AND GOINGS

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA 

SUMMER: COMINGS AND GOINGS

Summer is here!!

“No more pencils; no more books; no more teachers’ dirty looks…”

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?  Everyone had plans—even if they were going nowhere!

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?

Do you remember those glorious days of yesteryear when the final school bell of the year rang and we burst outdoors for the start of a grand period of “freedom”?

Not much is different today—except we are the ‘teachers’.  Now, not only are there people coming and going as part of their plans in Southern California, but new projects and annual rituals are playing out as well in the City of Angels.

June 2013

On Sunday June 2nd, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica was filled with beautiful music and over 70 attendees in the Finnish Congregation.  This Mass of Music included kantele, piano, cello, and voice offerings.  The sermon was delivered by Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, filling in for Pastor Jarmo Tarkki.  Bible readings were by Maiju Boele and Jonny Kahleyn Dieb.  The Finnish Folk Dance Group Katirilli performed an assortment of delightful dances during the coffee hour.

The Finnish Folk Dance Group Katirilli performed an assortment of delightful dances during the coffee hour

Treats at the coffee table included open faced sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, cakes and Karelian pies, and deep-fried lihapiirrakkas.

Traffic was horrendous in Santa Monica, but the outstanding Finnish Lutheran turnout was not the sole problem.  Obviously, the tourists have come to Southern California to celebrate their Summer —and our schools are out!  The local “weather-casters” had billed the day as “…perfect beach weather”.  An hour of worship, followed by Finnish fellowship and feasting before a dip in the Pacific—now that is a perfect LA Sunday!

More, please!!!!!!

The Bowl

One of the most anticipated events of the Los Angeles Summer season is the Opening of the Hollywood Bowl.  From Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon—and most villages in between, concerts ‘on-the-lawn’/’in-the-park’/’at-the-Center Square’ are standard fare.  Everyone knows they are coming—no big deal—we’ll be there—strike up the band.

The Hollywood Bowl

The Hollywood Bowl

Well, not in LA.  Here Hollywood requires a ‘production’ of some sort.  On a recent Saturday at mid-day after wrapping up a FACC Board meeting at a member’s home high on Mountaingate near the Getty, we actually witnessed planes skywriting overhead announcing of the Grand Opening of our favorite, beloved, outdoor venue in the City of Angels—The Hollywood Bowl.

my most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky

My most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky

Each year when the written Bowl Program arrives in the mail, we quickly scour it for Finnish conductors and soloists—or pieces by Sibelius.  What a great excuse to pack a Finnish-themed picnic with your Marimekko tablecloth, Iittala candle holders and stem ware for a fabulous night under the Summer stars.  Actually, as glamorous as it is to be in a ‘front and center’ Founders’ Circle box with all of the accoutrements and ‘star power’ neighbors, my most favorite Bowl memories are of being in the last row of the Bowl where the $1 seats permitted my then younger boys to take an after-dinner nap on the bench under the starlit sky while Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra playing Sibelius –how great a lullaby is that???  [Actually, I am not sure if it was the hour of night, a great meal, the classical music, or the ‘funny’ aromas wafting from the bushes behind the last row that brought the ‘nukkumatti’ (sandman), but it worked—and the kids love classical music to this day!]

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.  Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky are also on the program.  Also new this year: world famous LA restaurant Patina has just opened a full service tapas and wine bar at the Hollywood Bowl.  Chef/Owner Joachim Splichal certainly can cook—and tapas are a perfect start to a perfect Bowl evening

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

This year, there is a Sibelius piece on July 11th : Violin Concerto performed by the LA Phil conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Check it out: www.hollywoodbowl.com

LAFF SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation held their annual Scholarship Picnic on June 9th.   This fund raising event helps LAFF support Finnish related educational opportunities for worthy young people.

SUOMI  KERHO JUHANNUS BLOW OUT

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd.

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd

Suomi Kerho cranked up its annual Midsummer celebration on June 22nd

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill.  Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+.  There were a multitude of delicious salads thanks to my favorite ‘Kitchen Ladies’.  Freshly baked pulla warmed our hearts.  Background music set the mood.  Lovely new table runners made by the ‘Sewing Circle Ladies’ decorated the dining areas.  Beautiful birch branches hung from the rafters [freshly cut from Eila Korpinen’s tree that morning].  All we needed was a lake to make the transformation to Finland complete.

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill.  Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+

Seppo Kotajarvi was at “Makkara Central” manning the grill. Perfection was achieved with the taste and the snap factor on those wieners—an A+

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

A properly adorned hall, traditional Finnish food, music, a libation or so, and, you guessed it, Finns from all around the community were in great spirits!

SUMMER IS NOW OFFICIAL!!

SYMPOSIUM ON FINNISH EDUCATION

As one of her final events as Consul General in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen hosted a meeting in conjunction with the FACC that focused on Finnish Education.  The film “Finland Phenomenon–A Documentary” was followed by a Panel Discussion moderated by Andréa Hautala McAleenan, PhD [Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University].  Dr. McAleenan was joined by panelists Carl Cohn, PhD [Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University], Jaana Juvonen PhD [Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA], and Dennis Sheridan, PhD [President of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University].  A lively discussion followed.  With an audience of educators, journalists, film producers, current and former teachers, and some regular people, there were many perspectives aired.

Andrea Hautala McAleenan, Ph.D., Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University (moderator)  Carl Cohn, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University  Jaana Juvonen, Ph.D., Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA  Dennis Sheridan, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University — with Carl Cohn, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University, Jaana Juvonen, Ph.D., Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA, Dennis Sheridan, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University and Andrea Hautala McAleenan, Ph.D., Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University (moderator) at Bel Air, Los Angeles.

The film “Finland Phenomenon–A Documentary” was followed by a Panel Discussion moderated by Andréa Hautala McAleenan, PhD [Special Advisor to the President, Azusa Pacific University]. Dr. McAleenan was joined by panelists Carl Cohn, PhD [Professor of Education, Director of the Urban Leadership Program, Claremont Graduate University], Jaana Juvonen PhD [Professor of Developmental Psychology, UCLA], and Dennis Sheridan, PhD [President of Educational Leadership, California Lutheran University]. A lively discussion followed.

Chef Sirpa Welch served up additional Finnish pride which featured delicious Salmon and rice piirakka, Caesar salad, and sweet bites and berries as refreshments.We were all reminded of the breadth of impact of Kirsti’s tenure here in Los Angeles when Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca had a Certificate of Appreciation presented to our own Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps.As Kirsti and Mouf go off to Thailand, we salute them as well.  We will miss their enthusiasm, their Finnish focus, their leadership, and their friendship.  Kirsti and Mouf: a “fond farewell” and a “welcome back soon” from your many friends.

Ava Anttila, VP of the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council presenting Consul General Kirsti Westphalen with a Certificate of Appreciation from Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca

[Through the years, I have been fortunate to know and work with many of Finland’s Consuls General in California—even one whose daughter attended the French School in Helsinki with me as a little tyke.   It is always sad to see a Consul General and family move away.  It seems like they just get here, get acquainted, do their great work in representing Finland and the local Finnish community, make personal and national friends –and it is time to leave.  Each is different, each makes their own ‘mark’, each stamps “Finland” with a different hue in this Southern California Finnish tapestry, each is appreciated –and, then, they are gone (not forgotten, however).]

INSPECTOR COMING = STUFF GOING

It is fun to have visitors—many come through.  Some amazing people have been here –“…if walls could talk”.  One of my most precious possessions is a photograph taken by and given to me by an internationally renowned Finnish photographer.  The beautifully framed photograph depicts an old Finnish building with large lettering on its side that says Kansantalo (the house of the people).  The sentiment he expressed when presenting it to me means so much: that this is a place where all are welcome –to share thoughts, ask questions, get helpful hints, have strong coffee, eat a home-cooked meal, and to learn something about the ‘American way’ [some So Cal freeway tricks, too] –a place where someone cares.  There is always an ear, a shoulder, and a warm hug [for almost everyone].

There are some “visitors” who come who are not as welcome as others.  Those who have followed this column for any time probably know that this gal’s plate is normally quite full.  Off to many places, doing many things.  The daily schedule is highly unpredictable –I may be able to tell you what I am doing for the month of August, but not know where I will be on Monday!

My ‘day job’ is attorney—lots and lots of paper, most of which must be kept for 7+ years.  Others may know that my dear, recently deceased, Mom was a dedicated ‘garage sale’ maven who took great pride in her various and sundry collections and clothes—lots and lots of clothes!  When my folks moved into my home about 5 years ago, we absorbed the contents of a 4 bedroom/3 car garage home—yes, that is a lot of storage space for 2 people!

So, when my home insurance agent called to say that my carrier wanted to send out an inspector to measure, photograph, and “inspect” every inch of my property inside and out, I thought it best to suggest a delay.

homeinspector_22

As it turned out, the dreaded inspector was quite a nice fellow

Southern California property owners know that each May 1 the LA Fire Department begins inspections of all properties in any potential fire hazard zones.  The requirements are quite specific and quite demanding—and the consequences of non-compliance are equally severe and range from losing your house to fire to thousands of $s in non-compliance penalties/costs.  Yesterday, the DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’ and that some of my Mom’s stuff did not make the ‘give-to-charity’ cut.  Still, the process was somewhat chaotic and took a long time to accomplish.  If nothing else, just the sight of 150+ 45 gallon trash bags waiting to ‘go away’ is enough to delay a ‘photo inspection’.

The DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’

The DWP picked up over 150 45 gallon trash bags (plus allowed loose items) so you know lots and lots of work was done to pass the ‘Fire Inspection’

A persistent “insurance inspector” insisting that he urgently needed to inspect, to measure, to photograph, and to do whatever else both inside and outside my home in order to make a report was about as welcome as a root canal without anesthesia!

The inspector’s coming reminded me of how we need to learn to luopua or give up things we hang onto.  Ӓiti did not have luopua in her vocabulary—did I?   Could I say goodbye to enough ‘stuff’ to pass a penetrating inspection?

As it turned out, the dreaded inspector was quite a nice fellow.  He was so excited about his son’s imminent graduation from UCLA—the teaching job awaiting the son in Italy was at least as important as not having to write any more tuition checks!  He told of his recent visit to inspect Eddy Murphy’s place [a 34,000 square foot crib with a shooting range and a bowling alley!].  I thought of telling the inspector man my Eddie Murphy/Ivy restaurant story shared with FinnTimes readers earlier, but things seemed to be going well and I was guessing that Mr. Murphy did not have 150+ 45 gallon trash bags sitting in his yard.

We Finns have always lived “green” with the ‘waste not/want not’ philosophy while Americans have been more a ‘throwaway’ society.  Sometimes people carry things too far.  For example, an elderly client of mine was so happy when I visited him at his place in Finland because he was able to show off the lampshades he had woven out of used Paulig coffee bags!!

Here is the question:  Is it better to use your used coffee bags to make a decorating/fashion statement as my “crafty” Finn did in his living room, or should the trash go directly to a landfill?

Difficult call n’est, pas?

GOING IN LA

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin.  You can get a great long distance view heading East on Culver Boulevard in Culver City […someone else should be driving!].  My favorite view is on Santa Monica Boulevard just under the 405 –if you are stuck in traffic, it is a delight.  Looking East, past the Century City skyscrapers, as the West setting sun spreads its pinkish glow toward the snow capped mountains, a traffic jam is a welcomed pause in our go-go-go world.

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin

One of the most delightful, often breathtaking, Los Angeles sights is the snow-capped mountains that hug the LA basin

I cannot believe I just voted for a traffic jam to remind us of LA’s favorite boast to non- Angelenos of skiing on a mountain top in the morning and swimming or surfing at the beach in the afternoon.

I love LA!!

GOING, GOING IN LA

Rumor has it that the “snowcapped” part of our wonders of Nature may be going away, forever.  By mid-century, scientists say that 30-40% of the snow will disappear from our local mountains.  Boo Hoo—traffic jams will turn nasty!

GOING, GOING, GONE IN LA

The Wilshire Grand Hotel [originally, The Statler and, later, a Hilton] in downtown Los Angeles has been a landmark since it opened in 1952.  The hotel was a competitor of the glamorous Biltmore as a center of business, legal, and society activities for as long as I can remember.  When LA was ‘famous’ for not having a ‘downtown’, the hotel was popular with international travelers and had a near ‘lock’ on the activities on the Southwest downtown business.

The Wilshire Grand Hotel

Heading up Figueroa on my way to Court the other day, I saw the huge empty pit with lots of demo going on at the corner of Wilshire where the Wilshire Grand once stood. GONE!

Early in my legal career, I worked near downtown and had many meetings, seminars, and meals at the hotel.  (Lots and lots of good memories.)  Somehow, we expect that places that were always there will always be there.

Heading up Figueroa on my way to Court the other day, I saw the huge empty pit with lots of demo going on at the corner of Wilshire where the Wilshire Grand once stood.  GONE!

Currently, they are working on the demolition of the underground garage.  Massive digging will begin in August.  The $1 billion Korean Air skyscraper will eventually grow taller than the US Bank Tower [what Angelenos still call the Library Tower].  The new structure will become the tallest building West of the Mississippi River.  The plans include a hotel, offices, restaurants, and stores.  Double-decker elevators and an observation deck will provide views to the ocean—and to my mountains (with or without snow—no traffic jam required).

This Korean Air skyscraper will rise in place of the now demolished Wilshire Grand.

This Korean Air skyscraper will rise in place of the now demolished Wilshire Grand.

Actually, “GOING, GOING, …GONE” is what Vin Scully et al scream into their broadcast microphones when Yasiel Puig or some other Dodger [or Angel] star hits another ‘4 bagger’ [aka homerun]!  While there are some signs of improvement lately, for a while it did not seem as if either local baseball team knew whether it was COMING OR GOING.

COMING OR GOING

The adage of “…justice delayed is justice denied” has been parsed by those trying to explain the latest cuts to the LA County Court System funding.  Seven regional Courthouses will be closed and more than 500 jobs will be eliminated.  Budget cuts!

California’s largest Court system [here] has about 4,400 employees and approximately 540 Judges.  Last year’s operating budget was about $734 million.

Be ready for higher filing fees, longer waiting times, and further travel to your Courthouse.  Civil Courts (rather than Criminal Courts) have borne recent cuts more heavily with effects like: lines around the block/waiting for hours to dispute a traffic ticket have become commonplace.  If you are anxious to get a divorce, sue your landlord, have a custody battle, settle an inheritance matter, or get a certified copy of an essential document, be ready to pay more, “take a number”, and be patient!

The Clerk who helped me file a critical document looked harried and worried.  He has been there forever and really knows his ‘stuff’.  He said the latest ‘cuts’ had just kicked in—and more were coming.  This guy looks like he could play for the Lakers or the Clippers –I’ll bet he wishes he did!

Pondering:

How can we start building a ‘super train’ no one will ride between Fresno and Bakersfield before we even own the needed land [or have the $ to buy it], but we can take 30 days to process a Probate closing that used to take 3 days?  

BEEN THERE/COMING AGAIN

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!  No, I did not just ‘scoop’ TMZ.  I am referring to the ‘gold’ stars planted in the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalks, not the ‘humans’.  This ‘nip and tuck’ of the famous Walk began in September and will continue for the next 3 years –to the tune of $44 million!  As Governor Arnold used to say: “…I’ll be back!!!”

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!

Two hundred eleven (211) Hollywood ‘stars’ have just been sent to “rehab”!!

Stolen Lotus Blossoms Repatriated/Thief Thanked.

Recently, the annual Lotus Blossom Festival at Echo Park has had to be cancelled—no lotus blossoms!  For years, the quantity and quality of the lotus blossoms declined as the ‘stank’ and pollution of Echo Lake increased.  Finally, there were no blossoms to be ‘festive’ over and the event ‘disappeared’.  It was sad.  It was sooo sad….

A project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the Echo Park lake

A project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the Echo Park lake

Then, a project was launched to re-do and ‘purify’ the lake.  Too late—the lotus plants had died a cruel death in the stagnant waters.  The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue.  It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond.  Our thief was prepared to share his ‘bounty’ in exchange for amnesty!  The Lotus Blossom Festival at Echo Park should be on again soon!  No word, yet, on whether the lake will be re-named.

The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue.  It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond

The lamented loss was remedied when a ‘sheepish’ citizen came to the rescue. It seems that our hero had ‘borrowed’ some of the grand plants when they were still thriving and had propagated more in his own clean pond

Echo Park Lake with lotuses and all is now better than ever.

Echo Park Lake with lotuses and all is now better than ever.

ICONIC/WHO CARES

The TMZ and other Star Tours busses always visit—or at least talk about, the Capitol Records Building in Hollywood as they ply their fantasies about ‘tinsel town’.  Tourists from around the world include it as a ‘must see’ sight even if they have never seen a stack of phonograph records that the Building is supposed to resemble!!

The Capitol Records Building in Hollywood

The Capitol Records Building in Hollywood

Looking to boost its sagging circulation through controversy—real or imagined, the Los Angeles Times recently ran a piece highlighting the speculation surrounding, and the opposition to, two proposed towers that would “tower over” the iconic Capitol Records Building.  Rather than ruminating on the ‘appropriate’ height of the two, tall, circular buildings developers are proposing and architects are drawing, it seems the debate should focus on whether tourists will be attracted more to three ‘stacks of records’ than one when most do not know what a “record” is, was, or could be used for in today’s technology!   What is Chinese for “…why are we paying good US$s to look at 3 round buildings?”

WHO CARES/ICONIC

On to more ‘important stuff’!  Rumor has it that:

Going down the street in Brentwood, Harrison Ford was stopped for using his cell phone in his classic Jaguar.  Despite claiming he was on speakerphone, it did not set well with the officer.   

for_d

I CARE/CAREFUL

Crows (not Russell or a rock group) have come and they not going—well, perhaps I should clarify:

I know that there is an Alfred Hitchcock movie festival in town and that The Birds was one of his most notable films.  If you have seen that film—or even a promo, you already know that crows can be scary in the hands of a master film maker.  Let me tell you, they can scare the AH out of you in ‘real life’ too.

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded.  It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).  These birds are huge; they are loud; they are scary; and they are destructive.  Do we have to live the Hitchcock nightmare on a daily basis when the film is in re-runs???

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded.  It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

My quiet little neighborhood has been invaded. It has been taken over by a loud, ‘swacking’, rowdy invasion of crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).

Seriously, LA, not only do they destroy the lawns we try so hard to keep looking nice, they “decorate” our cars, lawn furniture, and other indiscriminate targets with their output/offerings.

Two crows were fighting on my roof yesterday.  Hearing the ruckus, I went to investigate and was almost crashed into during their scrimmage.  The crows have gotten so big (like haukkas), I am afraid they are going to swoop down and carry off Sohvi-Koira!

While not quite as big, the crows have become like the coyotes who are not scared of humans –mere ‘shooing’ them away does no good.  Both are omnivorous scavenger pirates.  The crows have become the bullies of the bird world here lately.  Apparently they have become prolific all around LA and are here to stay.

I read recently that pesky birds (seagulls, in that case) are causing similar problems in Helsinki Harbor marketplace. We empathize.

Splat, splat be sure you wear a hat!!!

YOU CARE/CONSIDER CAREFULLY

Tuliaiset: Souvenirs and Hostess Gifts

If you are going to Finland for a visit, you may be thinking of what special things to bring along.

The tuliainen is brought to your Finnish host and presented upon arrival.  It is usually a thoughtful souvenir or ‘pre-thanks’ hostess gift for someone you are visiting –especially if you will be staying in their home.  It is always nice to bring a little touch of the USA, California, and/or LA with you.

Some like to bring a touch of Finland back home for “someone” –often ourselves when Finnish chocolate is involved!

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.

In the US, wine or a floral arrangement is nice to bring for a dinner party.  Here, a hostess gift can be presented upon arrival or sent after a stay at someone’s home.  A handwritten note provides a nice personal touch.  [Linens, stationery, a book, or an interesting household item are also appropriate.]

Gone are the days when an Angeleno going to Finland could be a ‘hero’ by bringing a nice bottle of California wine to a Finnish host/aficionado.  The new weight and liquid restrictions make the wine next to impossible.

[NTF:  You can get ideas from your Finnish friends who visit here from what they purchase to take back home.  Recent ‘discoveries’: Victoria’s Secret items are huge, even for the teen set; Apple computer products, especially new releases; cedar wood ‘moth’ balls for closets; and corned beef are among a few of the things I have seen packed for the homeland by Finns.  Of course, any official NHL game jersey with a Finnish star’s name on the back is pure gold!  When in doubt, ask.  As you know, there are some things Finns do not tell you unless asked!]

Whenever I am planning a trip to Finland, I try to remind myself that the best thing anyone can bring is your joy, love, and appreciation –it does not hurt to carry-on the makings of a California celebration for your friends, as well.

Even before I leave, I start to think about what I can bring home –I plan for suitcase space accordingly.  We all have our favorite Finnish things that best remind us of our stay: the tastes, the fashions, the art and design for the home, the little ‘reminder-things’ that will keep the memories of experiences alive as long as possible, or that make it easier for you to share with those back home.

‘Tis a shame, but that six pack of Lapin Kulta is better enjoyed while in Finland.  Liquids will be hard to transport even if there is a legal way.  I cannot help but think of my American friend Mona who is a converted conscientious cloudberry fan.  I always brought her a bottle of Cloudberry Liqueur –she now gets a Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream purchased in the US.  [Don’t tell her please –this will be our little secret.]

Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream

Lumene Cloudberry Face Cream

Things in my ‘coming home’ bag, always: smoking bags (available in any Finnish supermarket), tubes of mustard, Fazer chocolate bars, licorice (best purchased freshly-made from a farmers market), Oululainen’s hapankorppu, tubes of cardamom seeds, and anything not ‘sniffable’ by the NSA beagles […remind me to tell you about the accidentally hidden makkara one day].

Whether you are GOING, COMING, or just HANGING –HAVE A HAPPY SUMMER!!

Or as Arnold ‘Governator’ would say:

“Hasta LA Vista, Baabee!!”

 

THE MERRY MONTH

ava51

AROUND LA WITH AVA

THE MERRY MONTH

May is always fun.  It is a mad-cap month of May frolics, Motherly celebrations, Mexican fiestas, and Memorials.  May is a long month that always goes by so quickly!  Perhaps that is because it begins with back-to-back-to-back parties and, then, before we can recover it melts into what has become a long four day Memorial Day weekend that marks the semi-official start of Summer in America.*   Even though Californians have Jacarandas in flower and roses budding instead of the “April showers [that] bring May flowers”, ice tsunamis, or floods to mark our Spring, we do find everyone buzzing with new energy finalizing Winter projects and setting up Summer plans.  To those who have lived in Finland […to say nothing of those still there!], the prospect of Summer ‘right around the corner’ is intoxicating.

Jacaranda Trees on Alta Drive in Beverly Hills

Jacaranda Trees on Alta Drive in Beverly Hills

Finns sense the impending arrival of Midsummer even without the benefit of a calendar.  For those of you going to Finland for the Summer Solstice celebrations, you are lucky! [Have your umbrellas and rubbers handy!]

Here, or there–now is the time to start planning your Finnish Midsummer Night using your ‘inner Finn’ as your guide.  Or, if you like, you can get a little LA help from ‘yours truly’.

Actually, if you live in Los Angeles where 70º F and blue sky/sunny by noon is a daily occurrence, a Finnish Midsummer celebration has less urgency to be on a specific date.  Here you can party outdoors on almost any night –Summer or not!  We can make our own heavenly Juhannus without worrying about whether or not the lake ice has fully melted.  [In case you are compulsive—or just like to pretend you are in the homeland, I will give some easy/fun suggestions and a recipe for Juhannus in this column.]

May Day

May Day is not really big in LA.  There is always a labor parade downtown, but that is usually pretty grim—more about immigration issues these days than the ‘springing of Spring’.  I know of only one May Pole with multicolored ribbons to be braided on the pole by dancing maidens with fresh flowers in their hair.  When The Archer School for Girls [Brentwood] bought the ‘old folks home’ on Sunset near Barrington, they kicked the ‘grannies’ and ‘grunties’ out to make their school but they actually kept the May Pole that used to grace the front lawn of the property each May.  A beautiful tradition continues to mark May!

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Maypole at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood

Cinco de Mayo

While it has been some time since Southern California was a part of Mexico, each 5th of May we re-live and celebrate a major Mexican military victory with a blast that has the same party-until-tomorrow ‘enthusiasm’ as Finnish Juhannus.  In March, Angelenos become Irish for a day.  In May, we all become Mexican for a long, joyous day—and many of us actually speak Spanish!

Cinco de Mayo celebration in downtown Los Angeles

Cinco de Mayo celebration in downtown Los Angeles

Mother’s Day

The second Sunday of May is Mother’s Day in the US.  Mother’s Day is big.  And on the 365th day, Mother rested—or something to that effect.  A day of rest and futile attempts by families to prepare breakfast-in-bed for Mom has morphed into a major shopping spree and a restaurateurs’ retirement plan.  But, as a Mother, I have no complaints!!

Mothers Day Brunch reservations are booked early even in ‘walk-in’ places.  Grand hotels and country clubs stage celebrations around LA that can be truly “over-the-top” extravaganzas.  This year, I got an “E Ticket”!  [For ‘newbees’, an E Ticket got you on the very best rides at old-time Disneyland while A, B, C, & D tickets got you onto/into lesser attractions.]

My younger Son made reservations and was host.  When I arrived at the designated location at the indicated time, I found myself in a ballroom sized room with numerous buffets, carving stations with prime rib and turkey, presentation tables with delicacies, a made-to-order omelet bar, a French macaroon display, a gravlax table with all the trimmings, a cold buffet, a hot dish table at least ‘a mile long’, a raw bar, multiple cheese platters, appetizer trays, side dishes, and salads!  Phew!

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The jumbo shrimp on the ice sculpture with “Happy Mother’s Day” inscribed on it was my favorite course

The jumbo shrimp on the ice sculpture with “Happy Mother’s Day” inscribed on it was my favorite course.  While such a lavish ‘spread’ could conjure diet-busting guilt, here there were ‘no worries’ –enjoying these myriad delicacies involved a lot of exercise walking to the stations and back!

The food was extravagant  and included a made-to-order omelet bar

The food was extravagant and included a made-to-order omelet bar

[I must admit to being a bit apprehensive as I headed toward Manhattan Beach that Sunday morning.  This was my first Mother’s Day, ever, without my dear Mother.  Still, it was special to be invited to be with my ‘local’ Son and his family.  The company was great, the setting was fine, the food was extravagant, and they gave me some cool Marimekko gifts. What a fun experience it turned out to be!]  

Finnish Community Happenings

Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and the Creative Finns

On May 15th, Laura Laaksonen gave a presentation to the FACC about her research on the Creative Finns currently burgeoning in the area.  The diverse group has an age range spread from 21 to 60, holds monthly meetings, and is up to 200 members now.

Ms. Laaksonen’s survey received 80 responses.  She found that the group is in film, television, and music –most of the members having a high level of education.  The Creative Finns are looking forward to working together with local service providers, to taking part in government and private fundraising, and to exchanging ideas with those in the education and scholarship fields as well as their own disciplines.

Laura noted that the next CF meeting would be the upcoming Friday night at the “Pink Taco” in West Hollywood.  Needless to say, your intrepid reporter ‘needed’ to be there!  While I pride myself in staying in touch with what is ‘happening’ in our tinsel town, I have never really been into the Friday night pub crawling scene.  So, first, there was need for some research so I would be at the right place at the right time.  As locals know, LA is crazy with multiple locations, several places (and even streets with the same names) in proximity to one another, and the same street changing names as you move from one ‘area code’ to the next.

[Schedule Note:  On June 12th, the Consulate General of Finland and the FACC will present an evening panel discussion event on the Finnish Education System.  Mark your calendar and be there to learn why and how Finnish education is ranked #1 in the world!! ]

Creative Finns Monthly Meeting On May 17th

I had not heard of the Pink Taco where the CFs meeting was scheduled.  But, enjoying both the color pink and tacos, I liked the cute name and wanted to be sure I got to the right location.  Searching the Internet for proper coordinates, I found that apparently the name is not so cute to some and that there are two locations in LA.  Leaving the controversy aside [check it out if you like—it did make the late night talk shows], the two locations presented a challenge to be solved before heading out.  [Actually, the’ pink taco’ is a menu item that has pickled onions in a lovely shade of pink as an accoutrement and garnish.  An opening promo did feature a poor donkey that was shaved and painted pink with the name “Pink Taco” on its side.]

Creative Finns Meeting at the Pink Taco

Creative Finns Meeting at the Pink Taco

Having found the meeting place even without the donkey to wave me in from the street, it was great to be with young, vibrant, Creative Finns.  Laura Laaksonen was there, as well as, Pekka Pekkala who writes his poignant observations in a column in Helsingin Sanomat.  What fun it was to sit with the ever-charming, effervescent Sauli whose blog about his life in Ilta Sanomat is such a kick to follow.

Truth be told, the hard driving, loud music made it difficult to have a conversation with anyone more than a few feet away.  [Ooooh—someone is not a ‘20 something’ anymore!]

Ava and Sauli Koskinen

Ava and Sauli Koskinen

The afternoon ‘happy hour’ was morphing into ‘Friday night on the Sunset Strip’ as the sun was setting into the Pacific.  Having retrieved my car from the valet, I did manage a quick handshake through the car window and an ‘air kiss’ with Kirpi Uimonen who has ‘arrived’ in Hollywood where many CFs dream to be one day!  Here was a mentor arriving to share experiences and give insights to the next generation of ‘stars’ –surely there are exciting things ahead for many members of the CF group.  We will be proud for their individual and collective accomplishments to come.  Finland and the local Finnish community needs to be supportive and helpful to the CFs –and will be, if I have anything to say on the matter.

“Kokko-itis” [Bonfire-Ban-Itis] Comes Home

Celebrating Midsummer [Juhannus, i.e., the Summer Solstice] in LA used to be easier.  If you have lived or visited here, you know the vastness of the beaches –our entire West border is the fun, scenic rim of the Pacific Ocean.  Southern California Summers are all about singing around a fire and roasting marshmallows at the beach. [Adult beverages are prohibited by local Ordinance, but occasionally consumed nonetheless.]  If you have lived in or visited Finland, you know that virtually every person able to be there is at the edge of a body of water at Midsummer to enjoy the “kokko” [bonfire]—and an occasional adult beverage.

The latest buzz on the California bonfires is that some local residents are said to be objecting to the smoke emitted.  One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways.  Having lived on the beach a mile or so from Dockweiler, I can testify that the air pollution problems near that beach do not come from 15 or 20 per evening kokko, when 15 to 20 jet planes take-off per hour and 4 lanes of cars stream by on Playa del Vista day and night.  Actually, the real offenders are the Scattergood Sewage Treatment Plant which is immediately South of Dockweiler and the Chevron Oil Refinery next door, both of which run 24/7.  [Have you noticed that reporters sometimes seek quotes that suit their story and ignore facts that do not?  Besides, what would you rather inhale—a burning birch log or the ‘stuff’ that comes from those other sources??  I rest my case!]

One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways

One of the most popular local LA beaches with fire rings permitting bonfires is Dockweiler State Beach which lies almost directly under the LAX runways

Next target: home fireplaces.  The Winter nights do get cold here—even Summer evenings at the beach.  There is something romantic about a bear rug in front of a cozy fireplace.  What is a Finn to do?  We need our flame!

But –why are we talking about fireplaces when May is about planting and planning “…the start of Summer in America”.

Midsummer in LA “102”

We begin our ‘course’ at102 because just having some Finnish blood justifies skipping the basic introduction materials.  Let’s get on with some advanced fundamentals.

One:  Heat your sauna –or call a friend who has one and ask them to “crank it”!!

Two:  Get some birch branches.  We really do see some beautiful birch plantings in LA.  If you are Finnish, you know you know where they are!  Now, I am not advocating you trespass to get your hands on some prime birch branches.  [Use your imagination: You could offer free tree trimming which is always badly needed in this lush growth spurt time and take away the discard.]  Do get enough for the vihtas you will need for your sauna and for decorating your doorways, interior and exterior.  The local birches lack the signature aroma of the Finnish variety, but topping off your sauna with birch scented shampoo and soap for your ‘wash up’ will give you that shot of olfactory nostalgia you need on this holiday.

sauna birch branches

sauna birch branches

Three:  Take that sauna!

Those lucky enough to have a pool to enjoy know what to do on your Juhannus sauna.  Otherwise, improvise: buckets, washtubs, a plastic kiddy pool, a garden hose, or any ready source of cool, clean water.  We have a cold water outdoor shower for a quick ‘shot’.  If all else fails, try turning on the lawn sprinklers and running naked through the mist.  [Don’t knock it until you have tried it!  Back yard please, not the front!]

Take a sauna!

Take that sauna!

Four:  Light the bonfire!!

Even if you are not on a fire permissive beach or do not have a fire pit on your back yard, safe substitutes are available.  Not long ago at a small Albertson’s, I found Estonian sliced pine trunk mini bonfire kits you can light for your adorable little “mini-kokko”.  When all else fails, just put a multitude of candles together and call it a bonfire –and raise a glass to the Finnish Juhannus tradition.

Light the bonfire!!

Light the bonfire!!

Five:  Drink a beer –maybe more than one if you are going to do the fun sprinkler run!

Just as it is for a Finnish Christmas Eve meal, beer is essential to Finnish Midsummer rituals. [If you are one of those aficionados into sahti, knock yourself out –you are on your own.]

Unless you brought home a case of Lapin Kulta from your last trip to Finland, you will need to settle for what is available locally.  Many years ago, there was a beer called Finlandia sold in California.  I had a special space in a closet just for my ‘stash’!

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Summer Solstice is a cream ale style beer brewed by Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, CA

 An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer.  I even like Kronenberg (French).  Both are hard to find.  I get Carlsberg for Finnish dinners at a place on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Berkeley Street in Santa Monica.

An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer

An adequate Scandinavian substitute we have used for years is Carlsberg, a good Danish beer

Things to Ponder Category

Why has no one imported some good Finnish beer?

If you are into stronger libations, you can make infused vodkas as schnapps.  I like to infuse Finlandia vodkas with various fresh essences such as lemon, dill, berries, and spices.  Shelf life is not a problem given the medium.  I enjoy serving them in ice encased Finlandia bottles for Midsummer, as well as, other Finn-themed parties. 

[If you have a lot of Finnish friends, you probably do not have to wonder when your next empty vodka bottle will appear—you just have to allow enough time for the infusion flavors to mellow and the ice to form encasing the bottle.  Hint: rinse out an empty paper juice or milk carton—boil some water and let cool before pouring around the vodka bottle you are going to put in the freezer over night (boiling makes clear ice)—insert some ‘seasonal’ decorations (e.g. birch bark and leaves for Juhannus or holly leaves and berries for Christmas) into the water before freezing.]

Ooops!  If you are going to sauna, drink beer and schnapps shots, run naked through the sprinklers, and mellow in front of a kokko, you had better serve some great Finnish food!

The Main Featured Recipe: Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

Pih-Mummi’s Special Sauna Lenkki

This special recipe is a makkara preparation my Paternal Grandmother used to make.  I watched and learned.  (There is probably a similar recipe in every Finnish household!)  We called her “Helsingin Mummi” or “Pih-Mummi” because she lived on PIhlajatie.  Go figure –but, she “rocked”!  Pih-Mummi was a grand lady, a concert pianist, and a little Finnish girl’s idol.

Speaking of the Mothers/Grandmothers we celebrate in May, apparently the ‘baby-boomer’ generation here (now becoming Grandparents) are bristling at the titles “Grandma” and “Grandpa”.  They are trying to come up with alternatives: something less “old-sounding” and/or more “hip”.  NaNa, GaGa, G-Mom, Gummi, NutherMother, BonBon, and such are now becoming popular.  The pair that got me is the couple who have actually asked their Grandkids to call then Chablis and Cabernet!  Only in California!!

But, I digress.

Speaking of wine….

Buzz in Bel Air

I digress again…but it is worthwhile.

If you have been to the Finnish Consular Residence, you have been by a winery in Bel Air!  The most expensive real estate in the world and grape vines are planted on the rocky sloped back yard!  If you take the Getty tram to the top, look East SouthEast and you will have a spectacular view of the Vineyards of Moraga.  This stunning prize of a Bel Air property was ‘uncorked’ by none other than Rupert Murdoch of News Corp fame.  Kippis to you, you lucky fellow!!

Vineyards of Moraga in Brentwood

Vineyards of Moraga in Brentwood

The 16 acre property brought in the range of USD$30 million.  The seller was businessman Tom Jones (no, not the singer with the tight pants) who lovingly created magnificent –and very expensive wines.  The expense comes from the exceptional quality and the limited production.

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I used to see Mr. Jones in his Prius with wooden cases on the back seat

I used to see Mr. Jones in his Prius with wooden cases on the back seat.  Often, he was headed for Wally’s in Westwood making a delivery to one of the best wine shops in the country.  [OK, OK –I did follow him once out of curiosity to be sure my hunch was right and to be sure that nectar got to a place it could be found when the time was right.]

Changing of the Guard—and Consuls General

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

Kirsti Westphalen and Juha Markkanen welcome Andrea Hautala-McAleenan to the residence.

I was thinking of the Jones/Murdoch property transfer while on my way to the Finnish Consul Residence for the official “Goodbye” to Consul General Kirsti Westphalen [and husband Mouf] prior to her posting as Ambassador of Finland to Thailand.  The “Hail and Farewell” event at 1100 Moraga Drive was also a grand “Welcome” to Consul-General-In-Waiting Juha Markkanen [“…call me JP”] and his family who will soon hold court beneath the Moraga Vineyard.

[Please see Tomi Hinkkanen’s recent interview of Minister Markkanen for FinnTimes.]

The Finnish Consul Residence is such a proud property.  The Residence lends dignity to any event—and Finns are always pleased to be invited there to greet, learn, or celebrate.  The grace and dignity of the facility is enhanced by the culinary wizardry of Finnish Chef Sirpa Welch who sets a ‘mean’ table of tasty homeland specialties.  I so enjoy her enthusiasm and her skill.

Sirpa Welch oversees the lavish buffet

Sirpa Welch oversees the lavish buffet

 Now to the Nitty/Gritty Serious Makkara Recipe??

First, another detour.

A Most Important Décor Suggestion

You already have the birch branches absconded from your neighborhood, now go get some river rocks!  Since the Los Angeles River (and its kin) is lined with cement, you will have to look for the large, smooth gray pebbles at Home Depot or your local hardware store.  Gray is nice, but if you can find some recycled blue ‘sand glass’, that is all the better.

Next, in most any good grocery store produce section they sell cubes of wheatgrass or catnip.  You will also need some little tea lights which most Californians have in their household for emergencies and most Finns have just because we Finns must have our candles!

Now, form an undulating creek bed down the length of your table with the stones.  Place the wheatgrass alongside of the rocks as if it were the lawn or reed grass along a Finnish stream.  Place tea lights strategically in the wheatgrass down the length of your table.

If you can get your hands on those little ‘toothpick’ Finnish flags to place into the wheatgrass “tablescape” for your party, your guests will exhale Oohs and Aahs complimenting you with your creation in tribute to Finnish Summer and Finnish Greatness!  The Finnish Tourist Board website will get a ‘kazillion’ more hits from your friends saluting your efforts!!

Finally, The Food: Makkara/Grilli-Linkki with Boiled New Potatoes and Dill

Some Finns like to cook on their sauna rocks.  To me, that is like Americans who strap food to their car engines so it can cook while they drive.  While these ‘techniques’ may make a great TV Tip Clip on multi-tasking or eco-sustainability, some ideas just don’t work!  I prefer to keep the sauna rocks—and my car, as pure and pristine as possible without the stench of burned salmon when I get trapped in traffic on the 405 Freeway!  [If you do put the makkara ‘on the rocks’, it should be a ‘no brainer’ to wrap it well in heavy duty aluminum foil.  If you strap it to your engine block, watch out for melting cheese—it burns!]

In the oven, makkara is best baked uncovered on a cookie sheet or in a sturdy oven pan.

Pih-Mummin Makkara

(4 Servings)

1  Ring Bologna  – This is as close to a Sauna Makkara or Sauna Lenkki as you can get in LA.  You can also use a Kielbasa which is spicier, but may be easier to find.

Brown Mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle

1  Onion, thinly sliced

1  Tomato, sliced (Roma preferred because they handle heat better)

3  Pieces of a white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

 

Ingredients: 1 ring bologna, brown mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle, 1 thinly sliced onion, and 3 pieces of white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

Ingredients: 1 ring bologna, brown mustard in a tube or squeeze bottle, 1 thinly sliced onion, and 3 pieces of white cheese, sliced into strips (Finlandia brand, of course)

Directions:

Make an incision running the length of the top of the sausage about ¾ of the way down into the ‘flesh’ to create an opening.

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Put the top of the tube or the bottle of mustard into the incision and squirt mustard all along the incision bottom.

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Put slices of cheese, onion, and tomato all around, stuffing the makkara opening as neatly as you can.

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Place sausage on a cookie sheet or oven pan and into a 375º F oven, baking for about 20 to 30 minutes until the sausage begins to brown and the cheese melts.

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Serve with additional mustard.  New potatoes boiled with dill sprigs make a nice accompaniment.

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Ice cold beer is the perfect drink.

HAPPY SUMMER PLANNING!!!!

*Memorial Day in America honors those who sacrificed to make and keep America free.  It is not just a day of barbeque and shopping.

To experience the solemnity, pride, and joy that makes Memorial Day so special, visit the United States Veterans Cemetery in Los Angeles that runs from Sepulveda to Veteran between Wilshire and Montana.  Worthwhile visiting anytime, it is a sight to behold on Memorial Day weekend each year when the 88,000 graves of the fallen are decorated with flags reverently and precisely placed by local Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.   
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