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.

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