AROUND LA WITH AVA®: FULL COSMIC CYCLE

Ava by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Full Cosmic Cycle

Around LA with Ava®

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*(more happy endings in Finnish Happenings)

Is Mother Nature trying to tell us things?

The Eclipse

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

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

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

Things to Ponder Category

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

Finnish Happenings

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


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-Decorated as Knight Order of the White Rose of Finland

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




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

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









This is often peppered with what I call serendipity.

History cycles

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

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

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

7/29 or in the Finnish: 29.07

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

Lasse Virén

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

7/29 Helsinki 2017

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

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

Another happy event7/29 in LA

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




Serendipity (sattumat)

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

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

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

Olli Kivioja

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

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

Dinner Time

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Berry-butter layer

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

½ C. blueberries

 

 

½ C. fresh chopped strawberries

1 c. chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

1/3 C dried cranberries.

2 T/ brown sugar

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


Have cake layer mixture prepared to put over it:

Cake Layer

1 & ½ sticks softened butter

1 C. white sugar

2 eggs

One Tablespoon Lingonberry jam

A dash of vanilla sugar or tsp of extract

1 &1/2 C flour

1 tsp baking powder

Sprinkle of salt

½ C. milk

4 Tablespoon lemon juice

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

Spread over fruit. Bake


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



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

Around LA with Ava® DEFLATED IN LA

Around LA with Ava® DEFLATED IN LA

Ava Antilla

A deflating and inflating spring in LA

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

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

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

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

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

The blimp

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

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

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

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

Deflation of Tires

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

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

The pothole problem

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

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

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

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

Bucket list reboot

Big problem for Big Sur

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

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

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

Even the animals did not get a break this spring

Deflated dogs and whales

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

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

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

Finnish Community

Our local Finnish community took breathtaking losses in recent weeks:

Ahvo Linnala

Ahvo Linnala

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


Seppo Hurme

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

Seppo Hurme

More about Olli Kivioja below.

Pauli Uskali

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

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

Olli Kivioja: an Exceptional Veteran of Interest

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

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

Dr. Olli Kivioja

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

Dr. Olli Kivioja

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

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

Inflation, Enlargement and Bulges

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

Have you looked at the LA skyline lately?


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

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

Spring Baby Shower

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




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

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

Inflated and Bulging

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




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

Good Goodyear News

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

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

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

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Around in Circles

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Around in Circles

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

Finland Centennial “101”

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

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

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


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

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

Elma and her son Gary

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

The Circle of Life

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


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

Goings On

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

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

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

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

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

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

Driving Around LA recently

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

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

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

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

Broken Heart syndrome

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds.

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

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

Karjala (Karelia)

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

Halti Mountain

Gift to Finland suggestion

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

Karjalanpaisti

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Whole peppercorns 10-20 or so

Ground allspice

Salt

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




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

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


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

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

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

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

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

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Gratitude

Ava Anttila

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving

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




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

Finnish Independence

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





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

What an honor.  What a thrill.  What memories.

AUTUMN GOINGS’ ON

Los Angeles Fnlandia Foundation

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




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

Finlandia University

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

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

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

Dinner with Education Forerunners

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



Biotech Plaza

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




Finnish Diplomatic Talent Posted to Los Angeles

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

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

LA’s new Consul General Stefan Lindström

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

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

Finnair

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

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

American Election Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go figure!!

Back to Important Matters

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


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

Window Wonder

2 Liters warm water (about ½ gallon)

3 Tablespoons potato starch* (perunajauho) or cornstarch

Apply to glass with sponge and scrub

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

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

 

Happy cleaning and Christmas Preparation !