AROUND LA WITH AVA: “…JUST RIGHT”

 

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

The Christmas Holidays: Not Too Hot; Not Too Cold; …Just Right

by Ava Anttila

The “flurry” around LA this month is not snow, but a whirlwind of activities that began the day after Thanksgiving and will end on January 6th –the Day of Epiphany.  That is the day most people here take down their Christmas decorations, including their trees. 

tree

The terms “holiday season” and “happy holidays” are used here in the US as a descriptor and as a greeting.  To those of us with European roots, they have an odd sound since “holiday” –to us, means “vacation”.  My ‘take’ is that we have mutated “Holy Day” meant for Worship to “time off” –“…and on the 7th day He rested.” 

Unfortunately, you rarely hear “Merry Christmas” as people try to be ‘politically correct’ toward those of other religions who do not celebrate Christmas.  Somehow, to me, it seems more respectful to understand, honor, and celebrate the differences in beliefs rather than to deny them.  But then, I am a Finn!  “On this day a Child was born…” 

Pikkujoulu

Pikkujoulu

We Finns are crazy about Christmas!  We get our Pikkujoulu on as early as we can.  I guess there are some advantages to ‘monotheology’!  Thank you, Martin Luther. 

Season Settings

This year, the Christmas season news has been all about the hot and the cold.  Super cold nights require outer garments and extra blankets for comfort, but daytime trips in the car require the air conditioning to be running.  Of course, my temporal reference is to Southern California where 65º F to 75º F is our ‘custom’—not to Minnesota where I almost spent this Christmas.  There, everyone is happy if the night or day temperature gets above 0º Fahrenheit, not Celsius! 

Minnesota snow

Minnesota snow

And, despite the cold, YLE News from Finland reported that this last November was the “hottest” in weather history! 

Heslsinki in November (2013)

Heslsinki in November (2013)

We did get to have our LA Thanksgiving Feast outside in the yard, despite earlier predictions of cold, wind, and rain.  A few days later, the most beautiful Christmas carols at the Finnish Church services brought tears to our eyes and our thoughts to our ‘still cool’ homeland.  Our minds began and our ‘tummies’ continued  the transition of Holidays as we all enjoyed delicious treats [prepared lovingly by Finnish community volunteers] in the downstairs Parish Hall of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

We did get to have our LA Thanksgiving Feast outside in the yard, despite earlier predictions of cold, wind, and rain

We did get to have our LA Thanksgiving Feast outside in the yard, despite earlier predictions of cold, wind, and rain

Holiday Traditions

Pasadena was already all set up with bleachers for the New Years Day Rose Parade as I hit town for my friend Mona’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the stately Valley Hunt Club.  The historic Club is the originator of the Annual Rose Festival that includes both the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl.  The Club’s beautiful décor and Christmas decorations make the perfect setting for a Christmas Season kick-off.   The program is always a truly inspirational way to get into the spirit of the holidays.  A live concert by the Citrus Valley College choir made it an ‘over the top’ experience.

Pasadena was already all set up with bleachers for the New Years Day Rose Parade as I hit town for my friend Mona’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the stately Valley Hunt Club

Pasadena was already all set up with bleachers for the New Years Day Rose Parade as I hit town for my friend Mona’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the stately Valley Hunt Club

As with most traditional events, mini-traditions evolve.  For as long as I can remember, Mona has given an early Christmas present of an elegant tree ornament as a ‘table gift’ to each of her many guests.  The Season got off to another perfect start. 

my friend Mona’s Annual Christmas Luncheon at the stately Valley Hunt Club.

For as long as I can remember, Mona has given an early Christmas present of an elegant tree ornament as a ‘table gift’ to each of her many guests

Just when you think it cannot get any better, it does.  This year, Mona herself received a special Christmas present.  Her first Grandchild [part Finnish] was born the very next day! 

The Club’s beautiful décor and Christmas decorations make the perfect setting for a Christmas Season kick-off.

The Club’s beautiful décor and Christmas decorations make the perfect setting for a Christmas Season kick-off.

Get There Early …Stay For The Fun

Suomi Kerho held its Annual Bake Sale and Christmas Dinner to a packed house.  The Hall looked Christmas lovely and was filled with Finns and friends having a wonderful time.  Everyone enjoys the delicious traditional foods served, but the Bake Sale sells out way too early! 

 Everyone enjoys the delicious traditional foods served, but the Bake Sale sells out way too early!

Everyone enjoys the delicious traditional foods served, but the Bake Sale sells out way too early!

Kids of all ages were excited to welcome Joulupukki [Santa Claus] who was introduced by lovely Mistress of Ceremonies, Liisa Linnala.  Liisa asked Santa how his trip to North Hollywood went.  Joulupukki happily reported coming from Korvatunturi [the North Pole] via Finnair and was really enjoying the warm California climate.

Kids of all ages were excited to welcome Joulupukki [Santa Claus] who was introduced by lovely Mistress of Ceremonies, Liisa Linnala.

Kids of all ages were excited to welcome Joulupukki [Santa Claus] who was introduced by lovely Mistress of Ceremonies, Liisa Linnala.

EASAC Turns 10!!

The European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council celebrated its 10th Anniversary at the Annual Holiday Luncheon held at Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park

The European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council celebrated its 10th Anniversary at the Annual Holiday Luncheon held at Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park

The European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council celebrated its 10th Anniversary at the Annual Holiday Luncheon held at Sheriff’s Headquarters in Monterey Park.  As a Founding Member, Finland has provided continuous support and leadership to EASAC.

Consul General of Finland Juha Markkanen

Consul General of Finland Juha Markkanen

The Annual Holiday Luncheon provides EASAC and the Sheriff an opportunity to welcome the Consuls General of the European nations with representation in Los Angeles and to hear from some interesting speakers.  Those speakers included the Consul General of Uruguay who is Dean of the LA Consular Corp, two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stars, and Sheriff Lee Baca himself.  As EASAC President, Elizabeth von Schlesinger served as MC, Vice President Jim Lynch reviewed the major events of 10 years, and, as VP, I got to give an overview of the EASAC history, identity, purpose, direction, and priorities.  Elizabeth, Jim, and I were given really neat Certificates of Appreciation by Sheriff Baca for our 10 years of work and support of the Sheriff’s Department and our European communities. 

Those speakers included the Consul General of Uruguay who is Dean of the LA Consular Corp, two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stars, and Sheriff Lee Baca himself.  Elizabeth, Jim, and I were given really neat Certificates of Appreciation by Sheriff Baca for our 10 years of work and support of the Sheriff’s Department and our European communities.

Those speakers included the Consul General of Uruguay who is Dean of the LA Consular Corp, two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stars, and Sheriff Lee Baca himself. Elizabeth, Jim, and I were given really neat Certificates of Appreciation by Sheriff Baca for our 10 years of work and support of the Sheriff’s Department and our European communities.

The strong Finnish presence at the EASAC Luncheon included Finland’s new Consul General in Los Angeles Juha “JP” Markkanen, journalist Tomi Hinkkanen, photographer Jonny Kahleyn, and yours truly.

Sheriff Baca got a warm welcome from his important guests and many friends on the Council.

Sheriff Baca got a warm welcome from his important guests and many friends on the Council.

Sheriff Baca got a warm welcome from his important guests and many friends on the Council.

SuomiKoulu/Katirilli Soirée

A cold night in Costa Mesa turned to a warm and welcoming Hall for the joint Suomi Koulu/Katirilli Christmas party.  How can you see a large contingence of adult elves with rosy cheeks and not get a smile on your face??

Mira Scott and Petra Kess led the festivities.  Children enjoyed crafts and play.  A Christmas tree was decked out in Finnish flags.  And, delicious Christmas food was served.

Mira Scott and Petra Kess led the festivities. Children enjoyed crafts and play. A Christmas tree was decked out in Finnish flags. And, delicious Christmas food was served.

Mira Scott and Petra Kess led the festivities.  Children enjoyed crafts and play.  A Christmas tree was decked out in Finnish flags.  And, delicious Christmas food was served.  Mira reported a very large attendance this year. Lots of people having fun set the tone for the Season and reminded us all what great joy can be found in the faces of children—even when we are all grown up!

Lots of people having fun set the tone for the Season and reminded us all what great joy can be found in the faces of children—even when we are all grown up!

Lots of people having fun set the tone for the Season and reminded us all what great joy can be found in the faces of children—even when we are all grown up!

Speaking of generations, as I was taking a picture of the cutest little girl playing with the bell on  her seatmate’s tonttulakki [elf cap], someone identified the munchkin as the Great Granddaughter of Eila Kartiala, the Founder of the  Katirilli Dancers.  My, how time flies—and what hope plays before us!

How can you see a large contingence of adult elves with rosy cheeks and not get a smile on your face??

How can you see a large contingence of adult elves with rosy cheeks and not get a smile on your face??

After finding some great bargains at the used book sale, it was time to head out for another event in Santa Monica.

I was taking a picture of the cutest little girl playing with the bell on  her seatmate’s tonttulakki [elf cap], someone identified the munchkin as the Great Granddaughter of Eila Kartiala, the Founder of the  Katirilli Dancers.  My, how time flies—and what hope plays before us!

I was taking a picture of the cutest little girl playing with the bell on her seatmate’s tonttulakki [elf cap], someone identified the munchkin as the Great Granddaughter of Eila Kartiala, the Founder of the Katirilli Dancers. My, how time flies—and what hope plays before us!

Food Bank Party

‘Back in the day’, the kids who went to U.C. Berkeley were ‘cool’!

guests were invited to a Foodbank to pack boxes of food for the less fortunate.  Each of us made a monetary donation, rolled up our sleeves, and went to work packing—definitely a different LA party!

Guests were invited to a Foodbank to pack boxes of food for the less fortunate. Each of us made a monetary donation, rolled up our sleeves, and went to work packing—definitely a different LA party!

My friend from Berkeley days [J.J. –now a renowned architect] hosted the most wonderful LA Christmas party in a refrigerated warehouse –brrrrr, it was COLD.  Actually, guests were invited to a Foodbank to pack boxes of food for the less fortunate.  Each of us made a monetary donation, rolled up our sleeves, and went to work packing—definitely a different LA party! 

After the hard work, guests mingled out back on the loading area that was decked out with Holiday décor and a forest of outdoor heaters –ahhhhh, WARMTH.  Fabulous refreshments included a punch bar, an artisan ice cream vendor, a hot dog cart, and a huge food truck from the famous “Two Hot Tamales”

After the hard work, guests mingled out back on the loading area that was decked out with Holiday décor and a forest of outdoor heaters –ahhhhh, WARMTH. Fabulous refreshments included a punch bar, an artisan ice cream vendor, a hot dog cart, and a huge food truck from the famous “Two Hot Tamales”

After the hard work, guests mingled out back on the loading area that was decked out with Holiday décor and a forest of outdoor heaters –ahhhhh, WARMTH.  Fabulous refreshments included a punch bar, an artisan ice cream vendor, a hot dog cart, and a huge food truck from the famous “Two Hot Tamales”.  Nice people, great fun, and rewarding help for the needy made for a meaningful evening.

Tasty Holiday Traditions

Speaking of tamales, you will see more tamales than rutabagas here in LA.  The food cases in supermarkets are filled with masa, the cornmeal paste that is spread on dried corn husks before the yummy fillings of green chile and corn, pork, or chicken are wrapped into pretty packages to be steamed in the Latin American mode.  Tamales are fun to make, but are so much work!  Still, tamales are definitely fun to eat!

We have been told that on Tapaninpäivä [Boxing Day —the day after Christmas], we will be receiving some of the best homemade tamales anywhere.

We have been told that on Tapaninpäivä [Boxing Day —the day after Christmas], we will be receiving some of the best homemade tamales anywhere.

We have been told that on Tapaninpäivä [Boxing Day —the day after Christmas], we will be receiving some of the best homemade tamales anywhere.   They are being made by the Mother of my late Mother’s helper.  I hope to twist her arm to give me a lesson next year –I would like to see a master at work and to learn her secret techniques if she will share them.  Maybe she would trade me for a Finnish kaalikääryle demonstration!
tamales fixins'

tamales fixins’

Fun Holiday Shopping

Shopping at The Farmer’s Market is always a must for me.  There is no Stockmann’s Food Hall here, but The Farmer’s Market (3rd and Fairfax) really has had the best offerings in LA for as long as I have been here—even before The Grove opened next door.  

Shopping at The Farmer’s Market is always a must for me

Shopping at The Farmer’s Market is always a must for me

As I entered The Market, a Caribbean steel band was playing.  Smiling people were gathering their Holiday meal goodies.  A little boy asked his Mother why those green “wastebaskets” were hanging on the tree.  If you are a regular, you know the iconic wooden carts that have been used since the early days by shoppers for their purchases as they go from farmer’s stand to farmer’s stand sort of like a golf ‘walking cart’ without the clubs!  If you are not a regular, at least you now know that those green things are there for your use—no charge!

  If you are a regular, you know the iconic wooden carts that have been used since the early days by shoppers for their purchases as they go from farmer’s stand to farmer’s stand sort of like a golf ‘walking cart’ without the clubs!

If you are a regular, you know the iconic wooden carts that have been used since the early days by shoppers for their purchases as they go from farmer’s stand to farmer’s stand sort of like a golf ‘walking cart’ without the clubs!

My favorite butcher told me of an upcoming Sausage Class he will be teaching this Winter.  His last class had a U.S. Supreme Court Justice as a ‘student’.  Yes, I know who it was, but I will defer!  Maybe I should sign up for that next course.

My favorite butcher told me of an upcoming Sausage Class he will be teaching this Winter

My favorite butcher told me of an upcoming Sausage Class he will be teaching this Winter

Back to my shopping:

  Ground beef for Christmas Eve meat pie  

  Center cut salmon fillets for gravlax

 Valencia oranges for fresh squeezed juice on Christmas morning

  International sausages for Christmas brunch

  Primo piece of beef for Christmas dinner

√√ A smile for my face, a bounce in my step, –and a grand lift for my spirit  ☺☺☺☺☺

Now, off to see Seija Gerdt [formerly Anttila] for the Finnish artist’s annual pre-Christmas sale.  Her studio and home are always so festive and fun.  I have been collecting her work for years.  Only very ‘good little girls and boys’ get on that list, however.  A jolly FACC President, Heidi Crooks, was spotted helping ‘Finnish Commerce’ and doing some good ‘elves’ work!

 A jolly FACC President, Heidi Crooks, was spotted helping ‘Finnish Commerce’ and doing some good ‘elves’ work!

A jolly FACC President, Heidi Crooks, was spotted helping ‘Finnish Commerce’ and doing some good ‘elves’ work!

Holiday Entertaining: Giving, Guests, and Gifts

While Finnish liqueurs used to make for a wonderful tuliainen or a nice Christmas gift for special friends, the ‘security’ liquid restrictions make it more difficult to bring these delights home these days. 

Thus: 

Following is a recipe I created many years ago after being inspired by those wonderful Finnish cream candies like Omar and Maija.  It is also reminiscent of the after dinner drinks our Irish friends make that our national airline has available to help us ‘off to dreamland’ on those long flights.  It does remind me of Finland.

You may recall that earlier I wrote about my dear friend Veli Matti who would come by every now and then after a hard day of studies at the UCLA Anderson School –always with his ‘patented’  inquiry: “What is happening in the Kitchen Laboratory tonight?”  Sometimes I was preparing a meal—sometimes I was concocting something new.  This concoction was one night’s “…what’s happening?” answer. 

And, your humble ‘mad scientist’ correspondent is here to guide you through the process.  No special equipment, oven, or stove is needed.  Just drag out and dust off those old bottles* you have stored in your attic for next year’s sima and let’s begin:

AVA’S ‘BAILEYS’ HOLIDAY SWEETNESS

This is a great “no cook” recipe you can whip up in minutes.

AVA’S ‘BAILEYS’ HOLIDAY SWEETNESS

AVA’S ‘BAILEYS’ HOLIDAY SWEETNESS

1 14 oz can      sweetened, condensed milk

1 cup               Irish whiskey [or cream soda for a nonalcoholic version]

1 tablespoon    chocolate syrup

1 tablespoon    vanilla extract [or 1 teaspoon Finnish vanilla sugar if you have it]

1 teaspoon       instant coffee crystals

1 cup               whipping cream

1 tablespoon    canned, sweetened cream of coconut

ice cubes

Finnish candies for garnish

Combine first 5 ingredients in blender; blend until coffee crystals dissolve.   Add whipping cream and cream of coconut; blend. Transfer to pitcher or decorative bottle.  Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Combine first 5 ingredients in blender; blend until coffee crystals dissolve.  

Add whipping cream and cream of coconut; blend.

Transfer to pitcher or decorative bottle.  Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

This makes 8 servings.

 

To serve: Fill glasses [beautiful Finnish glasses, of course] with ice cubes.  Pour stirred, chilled mixture over the ‘rocks’ and serve immediately—and often**, if no one is driving.

Alternatively:  Shake with ice and pour into a martini glass with the rim dipped in decorative sugar such as demerara

For Gifting or Storing:  Add a small ‘name card’ or label on the bottle reminding recipient that the contents need to be refrigerated when not ‘in use’.

Add a small ‘name card’ or label on the bottle reminding recipient that the contents need to be refrigerated when not ‘in use’.

Actually, small ornate bottles from oils and vinegars decorated with ribbons and ornaments make perfect vessels for giving if thoroughly cleaned. Especially nice is the cobalt blue glass in which some bottled waters are sold –if you can find them.

* Actually, small ornate bottles from oils and vinegars decorated with ribbons and ornaments make perfect vessels for giving if thoroughly cleaned.  Especially nice is the cobalt blue glass in which some bottled waters are sold –if you can find them.

**Enjoy responsibly.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!!!

Whether your Holiday is hot or cold, I hope it is warm with Love.

HELLO AND GOODBYE

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

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

REPORTER: TOMI HINKKANEN – LOS ANGELES

DATE: 5/23/2013

At the Consul General’s residence in Bel Air, a change of guards took place Wednesday night. Kirsti Westphalen, who has served as Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles for the past five years, bid a fond farewell to the local Finnish community and friends of Finland. Then she introduced the new incoming Consul General, Juha Markkanen. Finntimes was there to record the memorable evening and to interview both the incoming and outgoing Consul Generals.

Outgoing Consul General Kirsti Westphalen introduced her successor Juha markkanen to the audience.

Outgoing Consul General Kirsti Westphalen introduced her successor Juha markkanen to the audience.

The nature of the event was evident already at the front door. Both the old and new Consul Generals were there to meet and greet the guests. They then mingled in the crowd. People were eager to say farewell to Kirsti Westphalen and to meet her successor.

Susanna Golche and Ava Anttila

Susanna Golche and Ava Anttila

Henry and Eeva Syvänen, Kirpi Uimonen-Ballesteros and Tiina Purtonen

Henry and Eeva Syvänen, Kirpi Uimonen-Ballesteros and Tiina Purtonen

 

Scandinavian Film Festival director Jim Koenig and actress Irina Björklund

Scandinavian Film Festival director Jim Koenig and actress Irina Björklund

David and Mira Scott

David and Mira Scott

The new Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Juha Markkanen, will assume his post September 1st, 2013

The new Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Juha Markkanen, will assume his post September 1st, 2013

Juha Markkanen has had a long career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. He has worked in the  EU secretariat and the embassies of Tokyo and Bonn. His latest post was in the Embassy of Stockholm, where he served as Minister. He has also worked as Editor-in-Chief of the trade policy magazine Kauppapolitiikka and as Director of Information in the Department for Communication and Culture. He is married with Tuula Markkanen. She will be working on her Master’s thesis in education while in Los Angeles.

Juha and Tuula Markkanen get refreshments at the residence.

Juha and Tuula Markkanen get refreshments at the residence.

We sat down with Juha Markkanen for a chat.

Please introduce yourself to us.

-My name is Juha Markkanen. I think I’m going to use the name JP Markkanen – it’s easier here. I’m the new Consul General of Finland as of the first of September here in LA.

-I am 50 years old and I’m coming from Stockholm, Sweden. I have been in foreign service for the past 22 years. I hope to be of assistance here in promoting Finland in various ways and deepening the Finnish – U.S. relations. That is my task and I need co-operation with the locals. Let’s make this a win-win situation!

What did you do in Stockholm?

-I’m the number two at the Finnish embassy in Stockholm – the Deputy Chief of Mission. That work entailed a lot of administration and also reporting on various subjects.

-Here in California, I will also deal with Arctic issues, since Alaska is one of the states under the Consul General’s territory. In Stockholm I was evaluating the Arctic perspectives.

-Last week in Kiiruna, Northern Sweden, we had a ministerial meeting that the Secretary of State, John Kerry attended.

Juha Markkanen with Abdellatif Moufakkir, the spouse of Kirsti Westphalen.

Juha Markkanen with Abdellatif Moufakkir, the spouse of Kirsti Westphalen.

You couldn’t come to a more different place than that – Los Angeles – have you been here before?

-No, unfortunately I haven’t. We have only been here since this past Sunday – four days.

What are your first impressions?

-It is an enormously interesting and challenging city and state – huge traffic problems, but very friendly people.

Juha Markkanen will become the next Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles.

Juha Markkanen will become the next Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles.

Tell me about your family?

-I have two children – daughter Maria, 16, and son Juho, 18. We are now seeking high school options for my daughter and a college or university for our son. We have considered both public and private high schools. I have asked people’s opinions tonight and I also learned about a couple of schools nearby.

Your son could complete his undergraduate studies during your four-year term?

-Yes, that’s his wish. I think Santa Monica City College will be his starting point.

When you formally start this fall, what are the first items on the agenda?

-I need to have a chat at the office, because we have moved to a new, more affordable premises. Kirsti Westphalen fought for the survival of the Consulate General of Los Angeles (that was under the threat of being shut down). I need to meet with many people to gain knowledge on issues in order to start my work.

You don’t come in with a set agenda?

-No, no. I need to learn, I need help from my friends – Finnish and U.S. citizens, the media… This is a collaboration.

Is there anything that surprised you upon arriving here?

-Well, I knew that people would be friendly here, but that turned out to be an understatement. I have been received very warmly – also at the schools I’ve been evaluating for my children. After having spent four days in California, I am starting to understand how it is up to oneself to accomplish one’s work. You are on your own.

-I had a chat with the former Consul General Maria Serenius two months ago in Helsinki and got good advice from her. I highly respect both Maria Serenius’ and Kirsti Westphalen’s work here. We have had two excellent ladies here. Now it is a man’s turn here and I am trying to do my best.

-I am enormously excited!

Honorary Council of San Diego, Kathryn Mautino, gave Kirsti Westphalen a picture depicting San Diego.

Honorary Council of San Diego, Kathryn Mautino, gave Kirsti Westphalen a picture depicting San Diego.

An endless stream of well-wishers inundated the outgoing Kirsti Westphalen and her husband Abdellatif Moufakkir. I finally got a change to catch up with Kirsti at the end of the evening.

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen with Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen.

Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles, Kirsti Westphalen with Finntimes publisher Tomi Hinkkanen.

We are sad to see you go. Thank you very much for the wonderful five years that you’ve been with us here. Now you are heading toward new adventures as the Ambassador to Thailand – your feelings?

-Well, we are going to be really sorry to go. We are going to have wonderful memories of California. And I’ve got to tell you: California is going to follow us in our footsteps. I have a life-long interest in anything that is new, dynamic, progressive, sustainable – that is what California is to the United States and to the world.

-So, I am sure I will be following this sort of dynamics, wherever I will be in the world.

Kirsti Westphalen with real estate agent Janice Hiltunen.

Kirsti Westphalen with real estate agent Janice Hiltunen.

Over the years, what has been the biggest surprise to you here?

-I had lived in California as an exchange student, as a youngster. I was always fascinated by the diversity in California. Through this more professional approach, it has not been a surprise, but I have been so grateful of the fact that I have gotten to know so many talented people. I have learned so much of the direction that the world is going to take in the future – how people are going to consume, how they are going to behave online, what the world is going to look like and what direction it is going to take and what California is going to predict for Finland as well.

Ava Anttila and Christel Pauli from the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Chapter handed a plaque of appreciation to Kirsti Westphalen.

Ava Anttila and Christel Pauli from the Finnish-American Chamber of Commerce Pacific Chapter handed a plaque of appreciation to Kirsti Westphalen.

-It has been tremendously rewarding working as a liaison, communicating what is best in Finland to California and to the United States – for example, education. But also communicating vice versa, because the world is not a two way street. The world is a place of networks. Where the best brains, that counts. And that’s where the Finns should be.

And indeed you have been very active in communicating with other countries as well, in addition to Finland and the U.S.?

-This has been a particular honor that has been bestowed upon me last year, when I became the dean of the Los Angeles consular core, where we have the representation of 98 countries altogether. Virtually the entire world is present here in Los Angeles diplomatically.

Actress Lisa Niemi and Kirsti Westphalen

Actress Lisa Niemi and Kirsti Westphalen

-Part of the honor of representing the consular core is that you have the opportunity to take part in so many events and that you meet people from all of these countries. And you meet important Californians. You get to hang out with the mayor and the governor!

Tell me about the new premises of the consulate?

-We, as a part of the Finnish government, are counting our pennies. We want to make sure that where we use money, it is wisely used and invested. So, the premises have been changed to more modest and smaller ones.

-This has brought on important savings of taxpayer money. So, while we can cut down on fixed costs, like rent, we are able to retain the basic core functions of the consulate – servicing our Finnish community nearly ten thousand strong in 13 western states.

-And the important political tasks that we have here, in communicating what is best in Finland, whether it’s education, science and innovation, clean technology, sustainable solutions, whether it is supporting our creative Finns in the “Silicon Beach” kind of thinking that is so important to the growth of Los Angeles, California and Finland in the future.

Is there a particular item that you were able to accomplish that stands out that you are proud of?

-Perhaps I can say that the new way of doing things in a wider Finnish foreign service and Finnish public service – the team Finland thinking, in which all of us have to pull together to achieve results. That is what we have done here in California – not only during my time, but the time of my predecessors.

-I’m very grateful to see that the rest of Finland is going California way!

Abdellatif Moufakkir and Kirsti Westphalen are getting ready to move to Thailand.

Abdellatif Moufakkir and Kirsti Westphalen are getting ready to move to Thailand.

And now onto the new challenge – what do you know about your upcoming post as the Ambassador to Thailand?

-Well, I wish I knew more. Our embassy in Thailand covers countries of Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. This is a new part of the world and our employer is so kind as to always offer us new challenges, which I really will have in front of me. I have lots to learn.

-You referred to the fact that the consulate here was in danger of closing and we have been able to save the consulate through savings. I want to thank you personally, Tomi and Finntimes and all your efforts in getting the Finnish community organized and in communicating the strong desire of the local Finnish community here in supporting the activities of the consulate. Not only its service functions, but the fact that we are doing important work for the success of Finland here. So, I’m very grateful of that.

And I’m sure I will speak for all Finntimes readers in saying that we are glad we were able to help.

The Finnish community toasts Kirsti Westphalen.

The Finnish community toasts Kirsti Westphalen.