Ava Anttila

By Ava Anttila

Thanksgiving ‘Tween Time

There was a time in Southern California when Summer ended, school started, and the world moved at a pleasant pace packed with tailgates and Fall football games until Thanksgiving.  Halloween was a signal that the season of hope and joy was about to begin!  Thanksgiving was the final ‘stop’ before the crescendo build up to Christmas with all of its magic and secret preparations to be sure the ‘little ones’ felt the promise, the glory, and the peace of Christmas.  I always looked forward to Thanksgiving.  I liked that there was but one purpose to the Thanksgiving holiday—to give “thanks” for all of the good people and good ‘things’ that were part of our lives and the blessings we experienced in the year past.  The focus is family, friends, food, and fun.  And, what fun it is!

George Washington made Thanksgiving a U.S. national holiday.  President Washington followed the example of the earlier Pilgrim settlers who invited their Indian friends for a feast in celebration of their harvest [key to survival in this harsh new land] because the Indians had shown them their ‘ways’.  On a less grand scale, we have tried to ‘pay forward’ a similar “thanks”.

Thanksgiving: to give “thanks” for all of the good people and good ‘things’ that were part of our lives and the blessings we experienced in the year past

For quite a few years now, we have made it part of our tradition to invite people who have not experienced a North American Thanksgiving [it is different from any other] and those who have no place else to go.  This ‘guest list’ concept began by inviting a newly arrived diplomatic corps from the Finnish Consulate—a great way to introduce them to their temporary new home.  They seemed to enjoy the day, as did we.  The roster grew to over 60 one year—but we only had about 30 this go-‘round.  Still, 4 turkeys [oven roasted, rotisseried, smoked, and Green Egg barbequed] with a combined weight of over 56 pounds, a big ham, more than a few ‘sides’, and more than a ‘few’ desserts seemed to put a smile on everyone’s face.  “Thanks” were had all around.  That is what it is all about.  And, that is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!

Whether anyone left our home and headed straight to the mall to ‘slurp’ up bargains, I do not know—nor do I want to know.  The cancer of ‘commercial christmas’ has now invaded Thanksgiving.  Bah Humbug!!  I will continue to hold on to the pattern of putting up the first of Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving Friday—while looking forward to hearing my sons (and, soon, my grandchildren) reading the Nativity scripture before our Finnish Christmas Eve feast.  We may try a bilingual reading this year—fingers crossed.

Big Happenings Near Suomi Kerho

For months we have all put up with the construction inconveniences along Magnolia Boulevard on our way to Suomi Kerho events conjuring our inner Finn [almost remembering forbidden swear words under our breath].  But now, something cool has arrived right next door at 10747 Magnolia Boulevard: a $32 million Senior Arts Colony!!  Southern California seniors age 62 and over with interests in singing, acting, photography, and writing now have their own NoHo [North Hollywood] Senior Arts Colony.  The place has its own 78 seat theater and offers free classes in the arts.  It is nice that the trendy NoHo district has come close to our own Suomi Kerho building.  Now, how perfect is that timing with our new younger generation Creative Hub arriving and connecting with established creative Finns.

NoHo (North Hollywood) Senior Arts Colony

The 126 unit Senior Arts Colony will cater to the ‘baby boomer’ generation in retirement [boy, what an oxymoron that is].  As the ‘bb’ wave grays, Senior housing will swell and some may prefer to retire in more urban settings. With transportation, shops, and restaurants within walking distance, the Colony could fill up quickly.  Other Colony amenities include a visual arts studio, a digital arts center, and an eco-garden for meditation.  The rents range from $1,750 to $2,340 a month for one and two bedroom apartments.  [There goes the neighborhood!]


The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s European Advisory Committee [Finland is a Founding Member] held their Roundtable Meeting with Sheriff Baca at the spectacular Greek Orthodox St. Sofia’s Cathedral.  The representative from Greece had made arrangements for a tour of the new facilities and of the Cathedral.  If you have never been there, I encourage you to go.  The Cathedral is breathtaking with its chandeliers, altar, and stained glass windows.  St. Sofia’s will remind you of the beautiful European sights so far away.   And, it is just off the 10 Freeway at Arlington, open to the public, and well worth the trip.  St. Sofia’s will inspire your soul!

St. Sofia’s EASAC meeting with Sheriff Baca

Finns love Greece as a vacation destination.  So, after your visit to the Cathedral, you can get a real feel and genuine taste on your A.L.A.W.A.* mini-trip to Greece by going to Papa Christo’s Greek Deli which is right by the Cathedral!  The baklava is to die for!  And, I just love the dolmas (rice stuffed grape leaves).  They are so delicious and adorable.  Dolmas look like tiny little kaalikääryleet (cabbage rolls).   [* Around L.A. With Ava]

Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, was built by Charles Skouras in 1952, in what was then the Greek section of Los Angeles

While the same Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles was an epicenter of the riots and fires a decade ago, today you can make your mini European Greek experience safely and save the air fare.  Yassou!

Lutefisk (Lipeäkala) Dinner

Ahh lutefisk; there is so much to be said about lutefisk …but I will not.  Suffice it to say, my children have banned it from our household for decades.  They BEG me not to make it a part of our traditional Finnish Christmas Eve dinner claiming it smells so bad—and looks worse!  My boys are grown and have their own families now.  Still, family folklore from their youth permits them to claim that one year when I was preparing lutefisk the ‘aroma’ started to peel off the wallpaper.  I did try keeping the doors open and the fans on –to no avail.

Lutefisk Dinner at Sons of Norway van Nuys

You can get your ‘lutefisk fix’ every year from the Sons of Norway.  My dear Dad loves the ‘stuff’ so I took him to the annual event this month in Van Nuys.  People literally line up around the block for the event.  Fortunately for non-Lipeäkala eaters, other Scandinavian dishes are included like meatballs, lefse, potatoes, beets, and rice pudding.  You get seated with your ‘new best friends’ who were in line with you.  It is always fun to meet new people—right?

One American fellow [apparently a regular] brought “lutefisk virgins” from his workplace whom he had dared to come try “fish jello”.  They loved it–and put him in his place by having him watch them consume three helpings each!

Lipeäkala is an important food at Christmastime for Finns.  Lutefisk [in Swedish] literally translated means lyefish, referring to the early preservation process.  The ‘process’ involves soaking cod fish in a lye solution made of birch ashes and dates from the 12th Century.  The fresh cod is cleaned and hung to dry on outdoor racks from January to April.  Stockfish (Dry Cod), along with skins and furs, is one of the oldest trading commodities in Scandinavia.  The dried codfish …

Whoa!  I said I would not!!  However, if you are going to make lutefisk this year –knock yourself out, have fun, and let me know.  I will lend you my red Lutefisk Chef’s hat!

Finlandia Foundation: Paul Halme

Paul Halme is Chair of the Paloheimo Foundation and Finlandia Foundation National VP –among his many Finnish related activities.  On November 18th , Paul made a thoughtful presentation in which he introduced his audience to George and Leonora Paloheimo, their background, their family history, and their legacy with an awesome program that brought the couple who mixed the cultures of Finland and the Southwest to life.  Paul’s presentation was a coup de gras.   His tale of this interesting couple was an important lesson in LA’s history.A full house was present at the Giddings Room at the Pasadena Museum of History.  It was great to see the Della Roccas, husband and wife; the Jokelas, father and daughter; Elida Maki; Tomi Hinkkanen and Jonny Kahlyen; Linda Homer; and many others eagerly learning about our collective Southern California history .

Paul Halme made a thoughtful presentation in which he introduced his audience to George and Leonora Paloheimo, their background, their family history, and their legacy

I have spent time with Paul and his wife Susan in Upper Michigan at Finlandia University.  And, while we were in New Mexico on Finlandia University business, Susan arranged a Santa Fe tour of El Rancho De Las Golondrinas and the Paloheimo Home where she prepared the most incredible dinner for our group.  It was an historic dé ja vu experience sitting in the Palaheimo’s dining room enjoying a wonderful meal on the same dinner service they used.

Attendees were invited for a tour of the Fenyes Mansion, which was converted into a museum after the Paloheimo family donated it to the Pasadena Museum of History.

Paul Halme [a fellow attorney in Southern California] is an amazing treasure for our community.  He has been decorated as Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland, with good reason.  Paul has all the qualities of an honorable Finn.  He goes about doing wonderful work with quiet dignity, never mugging to have his picture made public—quite the opposite, you have to chase him down just to get a quick shot.  Paul Halme’s stellar standing in our community has been well earned by doing amazing work behind the scenes.  By showcasing our local Finnish American Heritage, he makes us all proud.  Paul, Susan, their offspring –the whole Halme family, are and should be an inspiration to all of us. They are to me.

I especially love the story of Paul’s mother, Saimi K. Halme.  She was always there for the Finnish newcomers to Los Angeles.  Whether they wanted to pour their hearts out while sharing their problems, get a meal, or hear some loving advice, Saimi was there.  She was the welcoming wife of a Pastor.  Their front door was always open.  There was always a cup of coffee or a bite to eat, a shoulder to cry on, confidentiality without questions [like the attorney/client privilege Paul must practice as an attorney] —and the backdoor for a quick escape into the craziness of L.A..

Though I never met her, Saimi Halme’s legacy and memory inspire me.

FACC Event at UCLA Hospital

Heidi Crooks is Chief Officer of Nursing and Senior Associate Director, Operations & Patient Care Services for UCLA.  Heidi recently joined the Board of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce .  She arranged for a program: “The Balanced Life: Fact or Friction? Examining the Rub Between Personal and Professional Goals” presented by Dr. Robert Jakala at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Health System Executive Boardroom at the hospital facility.   Dr. Jakala has a Finnish sounding name, but is actually of Polish background.

Dr. Jakala (Left) /Heidi Crooks and Michael Berlin

After Dr. Jakala’s interactive presentation, the participants left with an understanding of the effects of stress on their lives and with tools for alleviation therefrom.  Kiitos, Dr. Jakala.

Following the presentation Heidi took the group for a VIP tour of the UCLA Ronald Reagan Hospital

Following the presentation Heidi took the group for a VIP tour of the UCLA Ronald Reagan Hospital, followed by lunch available at the facility.  Kiitos, Heidi Crooks.

Veterans Meeting

The Tuki Ryhmä for the Finnish War Veterans and Lottas, family members, and friends met last week at Suomi Kerho.  President Seppo Hurme, Pauli Majmaki, and Henri Aspen were ‘in charge’ as always.  They do a great job arranging for these meetings that mean so much to the Veterans, Lottas, and those of us who love and honor them.  Gunnel Kallbäck and her helpers in the kitchen provided a beautiful lunch.  Friends, food, and entertainment in the form a movie in Finnish make for a special afternoon of fellowship and fun.  Silakkalaatikko  (herring casserole) was the featured lunch entrée –along with pulla and cookies.

Gunnel Kallbäck and her helpers in the kitchen provided a beautiful lunch. Friends, food, and entertainment in the form a movie in Finnish make for a special afternoon of fellowship and fun.

All the Vets and Lottas are very excited about Suomi 95 on December 1!!  Come everyone and all to meet and honor those who kept Finland free. 

 Suomi Kerho Supports Suomi 95

A ‘garage sale’ was held to support the Suomi 95 Independence Day Gala.   Lots of good ‘goods’ were donated for sale to support the grand Independence celebration.  Would you believe a piano and a refrigerator (plus the usual clothing, tools, and toys) were offered and bought.  Coffee and pulla were on sale, as well.  Tiina Purtonen ‘signed up’ and brought in the crowds!

A ‘garage sale’ was held to support the Suomi 95 Independence Day Gala

SCAN Meeting

As Finland’s representative to the Scandinavian Center At Nansen Field, I attended the November Board meeting last week.  I think I set a record driving time to get to Palos Verdes from West LA:  2 ½ hours.  No—that was just one way!   Nansenfield is a great place run by a wonderful group of people who are getting Scandinavians together for fun and mutual support.

SWEA Christmas Event

Reminder:  The annual Swedish Women’s Education Association’s Christmas Event will be held on December 9th  at the Shrine Auditorium.  Scandinavian traditional food and other items for sale will abound.





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