AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MAY-nia

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MAY-nia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring On Steroids?

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

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

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

Annual Scandinavian Festival

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

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

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

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

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

Friends of Finland Working Meeting

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

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

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

Sima

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sisu

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

Sisu Is In the Heart,

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

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

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

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

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

Closing the Loop

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking a Pass

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

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

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

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

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

Other Pleasant Distractions

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

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

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

Alek Hautanen

Alek Hautanen

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

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

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

A Super Soldier Celebrates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Party On—If the Weather Holds

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

FACC Vappu Event

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

Sometimes it is fun to be a Finn.

Creative Solutions to Joyous Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Vappu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mothers’ Day at the Finnish Lutheran Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFTERWORD

Vappu 2015 Menu

Keisarinsalaati Suomalaiseen Tapaan (Finnish Caesar Salad)

Makarooni Salaati (Macaroni Salad with Olives)

Kaalisalaatti (Green Cabbage Salad)

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

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

Ruisleipä Viipalietä (Buttered Rye Bread)

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

Savustettu Kinkku (Smoked Ham)

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

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

Suomalaiset Paistetut Perunat (Finnish Pan Fried Potatoes with Dill)

Pinaatti Piirakka (Spinach Pie)

Purjo Laattikko (“Leek Box” Casserole)

Porkkanat Kastikkeessa (Carrots in Brown Butter with Balsamic Sauce)

Juustotarjotin (Assorted Cheeses, Fruit, Crackers)

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

Pulla Paistos (Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce)

Kahvi (Coffee)

Sima (Homemade Finnish Fermented Lemon Mead)

Carlsberg on Tap

Modavi Sauvignon Blanc

Cava de Espania

AVA ANTTILA’S ODE TO MARK SALO AT 90

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARK, you make the Finnish community proud!

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

PALJON ONNEA!!

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Finnish Root Touch Up

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Finnish Root Touch Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finland’s Centennial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modern History Can Be Fun While You Live It!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Festivities for Finnish Independence

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

Have Your Own Red Carpet Party

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Blackwell by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Mr. Blackwell by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Finnish Activities Around LA

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

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

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

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

Full Circle

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

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

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

A busy few weeks followed starting with:

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

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

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

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

Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Film Screening

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

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

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

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

Thespians Tomi Hinkkanen and Marc El Khoury

Thespians Tomi Hinkkanen and Marc El Khoury

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

Giving Thanks

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

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

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

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

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

 Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage

Rejoice in your Finnish-American heritage

RECIPE

Finnstripe Parfaits*

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Finnstripe Parfaits ingredients

For Blue Stripe Layers:

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

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

For White Stripe Layers:

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

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

Assembly:

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

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

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

Serving:

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

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*Add or interchange colors for other occasions or nationalities!

 

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

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

AFTERWORD

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

Traditional Finnish pea soup

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

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A Pot of Finnish Coffee

and, by all means:

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

REMEMBER

Do As Finnish Households Do On Independence Evening

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

sssi

 

 

 

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: An LA Autumn

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

The Unrelenting Heat

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

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

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

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

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

Carson: It was really hot today in LA!

Audience in unison: How hot was it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossus Flameout

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

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

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

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

Blond, Blue Eyed Snake

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

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

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

Fire, Fire, Fire Everywhere…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“S” is for September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1985777_CA_OperaBroadcast_LKH_

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

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

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

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

< 18 ounces of golden glitter is used in each performance

Sunset Strip

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

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

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

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

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

Among Those Sounds of Saint-Saëns

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

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

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

Special Stops on Sunset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Final Meter by Finnish sculptor Eino Romppanen.

The Final Meter by Finnish sculptor Eino Romppanen.

Around LA with Super Heroes: Behind the Scenes

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

Whale Warrior

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

War of the Whales group photo

War of the Whales group photo

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

Joanne Jackson and Joel Reynolds

Joanne Jackson and Joel Reynolds

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

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

Joshua Horwitz's book War of the Whales.

Joshua Horwitz’s book War of the Whales.

Now, that is a Book Club meeting worth attending!

The Finnish Flash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Autumnal Equinox

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

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

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Finnish Fungus ‘Amongus’ Soup

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

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

Ingredients

1 lb wild mushrooms, sliced

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

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon oil

I large carrot, chopped

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

1 small (or ½ large) parsnip, chopped

3 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 cubes vegetable bouillon

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

¼ cup cream

1 tablespoon sherry

1 tablespoon truffle oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Double click on pictures above for full size view

Double click on image for full size view

Process

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

Peel and chop root vegetables.

Peel and chop root vegetables.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taste for seasoning.

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

Add truffle oil to finish.

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Serving Suggestions

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

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Fall Is Here, The Calendar Tells Me So!

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

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

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

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

See—the calendar tells you so!

Pumpkins Know It’s So

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

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

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

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

END NOTE

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

Enjoy our Autumn.

And, have a Happy LA Halloween!!

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Finnish Concert Mass in Santa Monica on September 7th, 2014

Finnish Concert Mass in Santa Monica on September 7th, 2014 featuring Gospel Star Pekka Simojoki, Music Director Terhi Miikki-Broersma, Concert Pianist Ruusamari Teppo and Pastor Jarmo Tarkki and the. What an absolute treat!

Pekka Simojoen lisäksi workshopissa sekä messussa ovat mukana pastori Jarmo Tarkki, kanttori Terhi Miikki-Broersma ja Dallasin kirkkomuusikko, pianotaitelija Ruusamari Teppo. Jos olet Sibelius-fan, niin tiedoksesi: Ruusamari on Jean Sibeliuksen tyttärentyttärentytär!