AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Flower Power

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Flower Power

Coachella Bound

The road trip to the Concert venue was complete with psychedelic vans, “magic buses”, cars with signs, RVs side-by-side with stretch limousines –all caravanning out toward the desert for the Easter weekend session of the Coachella Music Festival.  It was like Berkeley and the days of Woodstock, all over again!!  Those were the days!!!

 It was like Berkeley and the days of Woodstock, all over again!!  Those were the days!!!

It was like Berkeley and the days of Woodstock, all over again!! Those were the days!!!

Just like the ‘good ole daze’, the road was crowded with vehicles filled to overflowing with bare-chested, tanned, excited young people with “Coachella” signs and painted slogans—someone’s adventurous progeny sharing rides for the big happening.  One car had painted a sketch of a snail and the labeling word “Slowchella” on its side*–an appropriate ‘moniker’ for the state of the traffic out to the desert in Coachella Valley!

* The reference was likely a recollection of last year’s notable art: a 30-foot-tall snail slowly slithering its way across a field. 

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…the road was crowded with vehicles filled to overflowing with bare-chested, tanned, excited young people with “Coachella” signs and painted slogans.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival [commonly known simply as ‘Coachella’] started in 1999.  Coachella takes place over two Spring weekends in Indio, California—near Palm Springs.  Continuous music (hip hop, rock, indie, …) takes place on several stages among sculpture installations in the midst of what was once a polo venue in the California desert.  It is one of the largest (and most profitable) music festivals in the United States.  Last year’s festival has been estimated to have made over $60 million.

Hot Rocks Rock Hard

Apparently this year’s Coachella tickets sold out immediately.  They ‘ went like hotcakes’ or niinkuin kuumille kiville (like onto hot rocks) even though ‘regular’ tickets cost $450 per person per weekend [the steerage level cost only $375]!   And, boy, were there hot rocks out there in that 100º+F heat even before they cranked the hot rocking music!

Actually, Coachella has become so ‘in’ that premium packages have begun to evolve in our ‘see and be seen’ society.

I was tempted to ask, rhetorically, how people can afford such steep admission rates in this ‘iffy’ California economy, but I remembered that we all choose our priorities, all fun has a price, and making decisions is part of growing up.  Actually, Coachella has become so ‘in’ that premium packages have begun to evolve in our ‘see and be seen’ society.  Oh well, it is a very well run, well publicized, and social media hyped event.

Who ‘s News/What ‘s New?

This year’s festival included Arcade Fire, Lorde, Outkast, The Replacements, Pharrel Williams, Beck, Queens of the Stone Age, Preservation Hall Band, and many others.  [Yes, the old ‘coots’ from Preservation Hall in New Orleans still kick jazz that rocks in the 21st Century!]

The security for such an event is cleverly designed and involves specially activated bracelets that are sent to you along with your ticket materials in a fancy, cigar box like container.  They know you are coming from a mile away—literally!

Crocheted tops, layered long skirts, and floppy sun hats are perfect for the 100º degree weather and seemed to abound

Crocheted tops, layered long skirts, and floppy sun hats are perfect for the 100º degree weather and seemed to abound

For the adventurous, camping and RV spots have been available on site for the last few years […show me the way to go home!].  Recent additions have included showers, charging stations, and free Internet/WiFi facilities.  At Woodstock, the only showers came from the sky—and left lots of mud behind!  No mud (but lots of sweat) in the desert.

Ambience and glamour seem to have taken over Coachella.  For those dropping in for VIP tents, lawn parties, and late-night mansion soirees seeking to be free of the “carpoolchella” sweat snarled traffic, a $1,500/30 minute flight on SurfAir provided roundtrip convenience.  Or, you could enjoy life in a $6,550 “safari” tent (for two) that includes concierge service [whatever that means].  The paparazzi are there to catch photos of ‘whatever’ as long as ‘whomever’ is in frame.  Some celebrities try to go incognito—some celebrities bring stylists along for preparing their Coachella wardrobes/styles that will be watched and copied as new ‘trends’.  [Doing both when the paparazzi are nearby is the new PR gimmick.]  Clothing companies are promoting their lines and their brands.  Crocheted tops, layered long skirts, and floppy sun hats are perfect for the 100º degree weather and seemed to abound.  It is clear that this has become America’s most glamorous Music Festival and a “must be seen” destination for Young Hollywood.

Sounds like next year’s “…sooo last year” to me!

Old School/New School

Jackknifed trucks, downed motorcycles, and the normal Friday get-away traffic were relatively painless for me since my Son was driving the family van with GPS traffic apps that he actually knows how to use, 4+ freeway lanes our way, and a rolling Cineplex showing Disney movies to the most precious human cargo—the little ones.  While he was sweating the details of idiot drivers, alternate routes, and fuel consumption, I stopped video watching long enough to produce a great charcuterie: bacon wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates matched with French cheese (Delice de Bourgogne) on Finn crisp, which I passed front from the back seat.  Except for the children wondering what the ‘funny smell’ was, the trip was quite pleasant even with a GPS suggested detour through Chino.  The Chino jaunt took us along surface roads lined with prisons on one side and cattle grazing behind their enclosures on the other side.

Was that smell cheese or Chino??  Or, were we just getting close to Coachella???

Splash Down

Jumping into a cool swimming pool at your destination is a nice punctuation point to a pleasant trip.  I so enjoy breathing in the lovely desert air—it feels so fresh and ‘light’.  Turning down the RPMs for several days makes the ‘voyage’ worthwhile.

 I so enjoy breathing in the lovely desert air—it feels so fresh and ‘light’.

I so enjoy breathing in the lovely desert air—it feels so fresh and ‘light’.

The Springs in Spring

An Easter family reunion with my younger generations happened at The Springs in Palm Desert this Spring.  I was the only Boomer around and did my best not to spoil everyone else’s fun with ‘been there/done that’ stories. Though I was daydreaming of the past… Flower Power rock concerts attended in the ‘60s and ‘70s: Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, the Rolling Stones, Glenn Yarborough, Sonny and Cher; in the ‘80s: Oingo Boingo, Poison, the Rolling Stones… . 

Spring is the perfect time to make a drive to the desert, or anywhere out of LA.  Spring flowers abound.  That is what Spring is all about.

The wildflowers put on quite a show.  Here, in our City of Angels, orange poppies (the California State Flower) are popping out of cracks in the sidewalk, as well as, exploding on the sides of the freeways.

The wildflowers put on quite a show. Here, in our City of Angels, orange poppies (the California State Flower) are popping out of cracks in the sidewalk, as well as, exploding on the sides of the freeways.

The wildflowers put on quite a show.  Here, in our City of Angels, orange poppies (the California State Flower) are popping out of cracks in the sidewalk, as well as, exploding on the sides of the freeways.  Even with California’s serious drought (and alleged lack of Seasons), Spring is here –and the flowers prove it!

Of Poppies and Flower Power…

Marimekko’s Unikko celebrates its 50th Anniversary.

Maija Isola’s iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern dates to 1964.  This year is a big celebration.

Maija Isola’s iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern dates to 1964. This year is a big celebration.

Maija Isola’s iconic Unikko (poppy) print pattern dates to 1964.  This year is a big celebration.

Probably every Finn has some item with the Unikko pattern.  Sometimes you cannot stop creative impetus—or “Flower Power”.  Apparently Armi Ratia (the founder of Marimekko in 1951) was adamant that there would never be a “floral” pattern in the Marimekko line.  Somehow, Maija Isola’s creative spirit won out –and, look where we are now!

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I ran into Tuula Markkanen, wife of the Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles carrying (wait for it…wait for it) a Unikko bag, of course!!

Morning coffee comes from a Unikko tin and is drunk from a Unikko cup set on a Unikko tablecloth poured from a Unikko pot held by a Unikko potholder before the day starts but after drying off from our shower with a Unikko towel which we store in a Unikko bag along with our cell phone in a Unikko pouch, next to our Unikko notebook, Unikko cosmetic bag, and Unikko eyeglass holder. Whew!!  I am out of breath and worn out—and that was just the first minutes of a Unikko day.

Apparently Armi Ratia (the founder of Marimekko in 1951) was adamant that there would never be a “floral” pattern in the Marimekko line.  Somehow, Maija Isola’s creative spirit won out –and, look where we are now!

Apparently Armi Ratia (the founder of Marimekko in 1951) was adamant that there would never be a “floral” pattern in the Marimekko line. Somehow, Maija Isola’s creative spirit won out –and, look where we are now!

As I was contemplating all of this glamorous history and composing the ‘clever’ construct, I went to the Post Office on Sunset and Barrington.  I ran into Tuula Markkanen, wife of the Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles carrying (wait for it…wait for it) a Unikko bag, of course!!

Consul General Markkanen had the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board for a business breakfast meeting at the Consular Residence recently. We were all inspired and delighted with the lovely Spring table that was set with the pink and green Unikko tablecloth.  Darn, I had the exact pattern in matching clogs I could have worn for the occasion!  There I was in my new Marimekko Converse ‘high tops’ that matched my outfit.  I doubt that the Consul General noticed, however.

Darn, I had the exact pattern in matching clogs I could have worn for the occasion!

Darn, I had the exact pattern in matching clogs I could have worn for the occasion!

So, Unikko is ubiquitous.  Don’t you find a smile on your face and feel a twinge of Finnish delight when you get a glimpse of that pattern while out and about anywhere in the world?  Someone else loves Finland too—whether they know it or not.

A Marimekko Flower Child Hosts A Global Cultural Event

My Berkeley classmate of ‘then’, Joanne Jackson (famous woman LA architect, ultimate Finnophile, and Marimekko fan) hosted an event featuring international scholar, Kalpana Sharma.  Ms. Sharma was in LA by special invitation to speak elsewhere on her decades of writing about women’s issues in South Asia.

My Berkeley classmate of ‘then’, Joanne Jackson (famous woman LA architect, ultimate Finnophile, and Marimekko fan) hosted an event featuring international scholar, Kalpana Sharma.

My Berkeley classmate of ‘then’, Joanne Jackson (famous woman LA architect, ultimate Finnophile, and Marimekko fan) hosted an event featuring international scholar, Kalpana Sharma.

Joanne’s home is her own beautiful architectural creation with an awesome view and a most interesting visual perspective of LA.  That magnificent setting was the scene of the event.  Joanne’s assembled friends responded with interest and enthusiasm to Professor Sharma’s presentation.  Her research and her vast experience as a reporter, columnist, and author of four books made for an informative session that offered perspective on current day India and its upcoming elections.  Ms. Sharma’s lifelong pursuit has been to advance the rights of India’s 500+ million women in a fast-changing society.  This world we live in is fascinating, indeed.

LA can be such fun and so stimulating.  Spending an evening in a beautiful home as the guest of the person who conceived and executed that beauty would be a great time for most anyone.  Add in interesting guests such as, for example, Freida Mock [an Oscar winning filmmaker, producer/screenwriter and co-founder of the American Film Foundation whose documentary on Anita Hill has just been in theaters] and other comparable talents who listen to, consider the work and thoughts of, and pose questions to a UC Berkeley Visiting [from India] Professor from their own perspective and you have to go home thinking: Wow, that was fascinating—can we do this again next week?

pending an evening in a beautiful home as the guest of the person who conceived and executed that beauty would be a great time for most anyone.

pending an evening in a beautiful home as the guest of the person who conceived and executed that beauty would be a great time for most anyone.

While I do not have the capacity to synthesize the evening’s dialogues, unequivocally I can say accept any such invitation you receive.  When the focus issue(s) is outside of your expertise, competence, or comfort zone, there is even more reason to be there.  I think we all benefit from an occasional reminder of how connected we all are globally –with our cultures and with the issues we face.  Our solutions are often disparate because our histories, cultures, and processes are disparate.  If we learn nothing else, we learn how important it is to be informed and to stay engaged.

What a wonderful, stimulating life we can live right here in Los Angeles!

THINGS TO PONDER CATEGORY

 ...who took the first bite of a lobster or a crayfish—and why?

…who took the first bite of a lobster or a crayfish—and why?

Did you ever wonder how the very first person decided ‘something’ was edible?  For example,  who took the first bite of a lobster or a crayfish—and why?  Dead, they become slimy and they smell.  Live, they are really hard, difficult to handle, and they bite back—really hard.

An Edible California Flower: The Artichoke

The same goes for the California artichoke.  Some who encounter this ‘armored flower’ for the first time (even now) wonder what to do with it.

Some who encounter this ‘armored flower’ for the first time (even now) wonder what to do with it.

Some who encounter this ‘armored flower’ for the first time (even now) wonder what to do with it.

When my family first moved to the Bay Area in Northern California as immigrants, some local people took us to Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital of the World”.  There we saw field upon field of tall bushes with strange looking green, spiky flowers.  As a kid from Finland, I did not ‘get’ what all the excitement was about.  Confusion reigned when ‘they’ talked about eating these strange ‘things’.  Then, when I was instructed that to eat one, you had to painstakingly remove each leaf individually and ‘scrape’ the bottom off with your teeth!  After all that hard work, you got to the inedible center with a dry, scratchy, hairy thistle inside that needed two handed surgery to remove.  [Not exactly a kid-friendly ‘happy meal’ prospect to this then 7 year old!]  It took several years before I warmed up to artichokes but, since then, I am fascinated by them.  Playing with artichokes can be rewarding if done properly.

When my family first moved to the Bay Area in Northern California as immigrants, some local people took us to Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital of the World”.

When my family first moved to the Bay Area in Northern California as immigrants, some local people took us to Castroville, the “Artichoke Capital of the World”.

When Springtime comes (and the ‘flower’ prices drop) cooking, serving, and eating artichokes is actually a treat.  Artichokes are a special California ‘delicacy’ that I often prepare for my Finnish visitors who stop in when they are exploring California.  [Yes, that delicacy descriptor is used intentionally, but cautiously!]

When Springtime comes (and the ‘flower’ prices drop) cooking, serving, and eating artichokes is actually a treat.

When Springtime comes (and the ‘flower’ prices drop) cooking, serving, and eating artichokes is actually a treat.

Once you know how to handle artichokes, there are some fun ways to serve them.  Begin with my secret to perfect artichokes:  just boil the heck out of them!  The rest is easy—and tasty.

Ava’s Way To Play With Artichokes

(aka: ‘Artichokes For Dummies’)

Preparing Artichokes for Boiling:

Pull off the little leaves on the stem and discard

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Cut off the stem (optional—keep stem if you are going to cut into quarters)

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Cut ¼ of top off of artichoke with a serrated knife.

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Trim tips (if desired) of the bottom leaf layers with a scissors
(This will keep the tip thorn from ‘biting’ the leaf remover during dining.)

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Put the artichokes in pot with water enough to cover

Add a sprinkle of garlic salt and the ‘squeeze’ of half a lemon

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Cover and boil for 40 minutes to 1 hour depending on the size

Artichokes are done when a skewer or toothpick (poked in the ‘bottom’) meets no resistance and/or a leaf pulls off easily

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Remove each choke from the water and cool upside down so the water can drain

If serving hot, keep covered with foil until serving time.  Serve individual artichokes with melted or browned butter (bagna cauda is also nice).  This makes a nice first course.  [Be sure to have a ‘used’ leaf collector dish (known in Finland as a risteiliä) available for the debris.]

For an appetizer [as featured in the photos on the yellow platter], place one artichoke on a serving plate and spread out the outer leaves gently. Remove and discard the light- colored leaves.  A hairy hockey puck-like ‘choke’ is left.

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Remove the remaining hairy center of the choke by pulling or cutting carefully with paring knife.

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Remove any ‘fuzz’ gently with a spoon.   Put a container of your favorite homemade dip near or even in the artichoke bottom.  [Tell your novice guests that to eat an artichoke you put dip on the bottom of the leaf (wide end) and pull that bottom section of the leaf (inside down) over your bottom teeth to scrape off the dip and ‘meat’ –discard the leaf and repeat as desired.]

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The artichoke “money-piece” is the remainder round bottom left after the leaves have been cleared.  Many consider this their reward for all of the work.  The heart can be cut into small pieces to be eaten with a fork and knife by itself or to enjoy the dip remaining.

Some Recommended Artichoke Dips

Mayonnaise, plain

Mayonnaise, with curry powder

Mayonnaise, with cumin

Mayonnaise, with lemon juice (add dill for a Finnish touch)

Note: In a future column I will share my fabulous, but easy artichoke

tree centerpiece I have been making for years.  It will be a fun project !

Vappu Party

LA Realtor Maria Rowe –a new addition to the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board, hosted a Vappu party on May 1 as is Finnish tradition.  Consul General and Mrs. Markkanen joined FACC Board members, new and old, for the festivities, the refreshments, and the good company of fellow Finns.  Fun was had by all!

LA Realtor Maria Rowe –a new addition to the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board, hosted a Vappu party on May 1 as is Finnish tradition.

LA Realtor Maria Rowe –a new addition to the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board, hosted a Vappu party on May 1 as is Finnish tradition.

It had been a long time since the FACC had a Vappu party.  This year’s celebration brought back memories of what had become an annual tradition of fun Finn times: Vappu at Greta Peck’s home, the California Yacht club, and even one at my home that was dubbed “Silli de Mayo” because the celebration day fell between May 1 and May 5 (Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican holiday celebrated enthusiastically by all in LA).  No, don’t worry, we did not serve herring tacos!

Those FACC Vappu parties were lots of fun.  We had homemade sima, makkara, song sheets, and a great sing-along!!

Thanks to Maria for ‘raking the coals’ and breathing some oxygen onto the embers of the memories.  Hopefully, the flames will burn brightly again in future years.

Pacific Council on International Policy

Proving that it takes stamina and a facile mind to thrive as a Diplomat in Los Angeles, Consul General Markkanen quickly shifted gears and led a delegation of local Finnish leaders to a major international policy event in downtown LA the very next day.

Proving that it takes stamina and a facile mind to thrive as a Diplomat in Los Angeles, Consul General Markkanen quickly shifted gears and led a delegation of local Finnish leaders to a major international policy event in downtown LA.

Proving that it takes stamina and a facile mind to thrive as a Diplomat in Los Angeles, Consul General Markkanen quickly shifted gears and led a delegation of local Finnish leaders to a major international policy event in downtown LA.

The exclusive California Club was a proper setting for what was billed as “A Conversation with The Honorable José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission”.  Barroso, the former Prime Minister of Portugal, who is serving his second consecutive term as President of the European Commission, spoke on TRANSATLANTIC TIES THAT BIND: Deepening EU-US Cooperation.  The Honorable Mickey Kantor, a former member of President Clinton’s cabinet as Secretary of Commerce, introduced the guest speaker and former United States Ambassador to Finland and to the European Union Rockwell Schnabel moderated the program’s lively question and answer session regarding the current European situation.  The large audience was populated by thought leaders and super stars from many local and worldwide endeavors.  With the Russian bear licking his chops in Eastern Europe, the titled Cooperation has major consequences for our Worlds.  Of course, the local Diplomatic Corps was out en force.

Driving home after such a thought provoking and informative event, I had a moment of flashback to a similar occasion 11 years ago when, as President of the Council of European American Chambers of Commerce, I had the honor to welcome then President of the EU Commission in Washington, Dr. Guenther Burghardt to an event we sponsored with the venerable Los Angeles World Affairs Council.  That was at the time the EU was beginning its rapid expansion and Dr. Burghardt’s presentation EU Enlargement: Confronting New Unknowns anticipated some of the possibilities that are today’s realities!

In the interceding decade, the Europe Union has blossomed; it has bloomed, evolved, matured, and survived a multitude of problems and issues.  Some were anticipated, some were not.  Some were easy, most were not.  Going forward will certainly not be challenge free.  Where the opportunity occurs to be witness to the movers and shakers as they anticipate problems and grapple with solutions, be there!  Connect the ‘dots’ between what you hear and what happens—it is fascinating.  And, know that the people who build the ‘roads’ from here to tomorrow are worthy warriors who often work out some of their most difficult challenges just so they are prepared to answer the questions they are afraid some member of their audience may ask!

I remember vividly having breakfast with former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen when she was Finland’s Foreign Minister and was in Los Angeles for a major policy speech to the World Affairs Council.

I remember vividly having breakfast with former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen when she was Finland’s Foreign Minister and was in Los Angeles for a major policy speech to the World Affairs Council.

I remember vividly having breakfast with former President of Finland, Tarja Halonen when she was Finland’s Foreign Minister and was in Los Angeles for a major policy speech to the World Affairs Council.  Our small morning ‘coffee clatch’ gave her the opportunity to try out responses to important questions involving Finland’s position on joining the EU and adopting the Euro.  Of course, she was exceptionally well prepared before she left Helsinki—after all, she was a major player in the formation of those positions.  Still, her response to one of our intimate group’s questions about the pending NATO participation requirement for full EU membership was telling.  First, she took a slow, deep breath and smiled.  After a pause and a fleeting glance at the ceiling, Minister Halonen bought time by declaring the question to be interesting, important, and difficult—given Finland’s vaunted Neutrality.  Without hesitation, but with clear indication that she was thinking of her answer as she was giving it, she smiled broadly and turned off any need for follow-ups with her answer.  A few hours later, after her fine speech to hundreds of ‘movers and shakers’ at the World Affairs Council luncheon, the same question was asked by an audience member.  Again without hesitation but with clarity of conviction and a twinkle in her eye, the future President of Finland, Halonen gave exactly the same answer she had formulated around the breakfast table—with exactly the same results!  Her breakfast audience had smiled approvingly—her luncheon audience roared with applause!  Just another fun day in LA.

Living in one of the world’s greatest cities, our own City of Angels, we are fortunate to draw such distinguished leaders to our stage for important discussions.  I cannot help but feel that seeds are planted at these occasions.  I have been present in the past as the ground was cleared and cultivated, the seeds planted and nurtured, and life cycles evolved into fine, if not perfect, products.  As complicated as the world is today, the process really does work over time!  So, while Juha (J.P.) Markkanen as Consul General has stated that foreign policy in not on his agenda, he has reaffirmed in his goals and theme of “cooperation”.  By fostering Finland’s active participation in events such as the Pacific Council on International Policy program building US and EU ties and by sustaining the relationships with highly visible friends of Finland such as Ambassador Schnabel, the Consul General practices a most effective form of foreign policy.  This Spring’s cultivation and seed planting is bound to ‘blossom’ ahead.   May a thousand Finnish flowers bloom from each seed planted here in LA!

I admire the ‘sowing’ effort, will help with the watering, and, hopefully, will be around to enjoy the blue and white blooms!!!

Stay tuned.  More beautiful things will happen.

End Note

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be any time of year.  Occasionally really stimulating things happen here, if you know where.  Seek them out.  Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years.  Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.  All things Finnish are celebrated just ‘because’.

ALWA topics are catholic—work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA/desert life, fun, events past and pending, history, politics, the future of the world…whatever.  Whether you are an intellectual, a celebrity or just one of us; a diplomat, a visitor or just one of us; a ‘mover’ or just one of us ‘shakers’; a planter or just one of us pickers welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®.  We applaud those who plough, plant, water, weed, and harvest ideas and actions that make our world a better place.  Grow where you are planted.  Keep on keeping on—but, do stop to smell the Unikko!  Better yet, take a sniff and carry the stem to the next person who invites you to a session where new ideas are explored!

Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.

Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.

 

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