AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Manors and Manners

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Manors and Manners

Most little girls go through their ‘Princess’ stage; pretending they live in a castle where everything is just as it should be.

Most little girls go through their ‘Princess’ stage; pretending they live in a castle where everything is just as it should be.

Most little girls go through their ‘Princess’ stage; pretending they live in a castle where everything is just as it should be.

Finnish Manors

There are lovely historic old Manor Houses in Finland –mostly in the southern areas.  The logic of location by population concentration is amplified by the unique historic evolutions of Finnish Church and State.  ‘Kings Road’, Lutheran/Swedish/Russian control…: our past is fascinating.  Some Manors remain as such; some are now restaurants, museums, and/or hotels.

Haikko Manor

Haikko Manor

One such Manor is less than 35 miles from Helsinki on the way to the beautiful, historic town of Porvoo right on the Gulf of Finland.  Haikko Manor now houses a hotel, conference center, and spa.  Haikko sits on breathtaking, seaside grounds.  Non-the-less, the crowning glory is the stately Manor House.

IMG_3498

Haikko Manor

Arriving at the renowned 5 Star Resort at Haikko is like coming “home” –returning to a familiar place of wonderful past, memorable times.  The long entry road that leads to the majestic circular driveway with the white Rolls Royce parked in front of a light blue Manor House is the stuff of dreams.

A sturdy, tall, bright white flagpole stands proudly sporting the Finnish Flag snapping and waving in the ever present breeze that comes from the sea just below.  A long, slow, deep breath is needed at this sight.  Yes, the blue in the Finnish flag and the blue in the Finnish sky are a perfect match—a fact, not the ‘stuff of dreams’!

 A long, slow, deep breath is needed at this sight

A long, slow, deep breath is needed at this sight.

Which Came First: The Manor or The Manners?

“To the Manor born…” is a commonly used phrase with uncertain origins and vernacular.  But, should it be to the “Manor” or to the “Manner”?  In many languages there are words that are spelled the same but mean something different in context; other words are spelled differently but are pronounced the same—and so goes the linguistic roulette!

Does the phrase refer to the English nobility vernacular about a stately mansion or to the effete, worldly, mannered/cultured people properly trained in etiquette and the social graces?

Haikon Kartano

Finland’s Haikon Kartano chooses “both” as the answer to the question pending.  Haikko is a stately mansion and grounds on the seaside coast with superb, exacting ‘white glove’ service and world class cuisine “…where everything is just as it should be”!

Haikko History

Only 50 km from Helsinki, Haikko is one of the oldest and best known Manor Houses in Finland.  Its history dates back to 1362 when the Manor was owned by the Dominican Monastery of Vyborg (Viipuri).  One of its subsequent owners hosted members of the Russian Imperial Family.  Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt was also a guest.  For 24 Summers Edelfelt painted in his nearby studio, just a short walk from the Manor.

After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Russian Grand Duke Kiril Vladimirovits fled to Finland.  When the exiled Grand Duke, his wife, and daughter were in town, they stayed at Haikko Manor.  Son Vladimir was born and christened before they moved on.  Vladimir would go on to be head of the Romanov family.

The Vuoristo family bought the Manor in 1965 and opened it as a hotel for the first time.  The spa, hotel, and conference center came later in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Today, the old Manor House still brings guests back to the world of the Russian Imperial era of the Tsars and the Russian aristocracy.  The oval Yellow Room with paintings by Edelfelt remains a lovely spot to entertain visitors for high tea.  It is easy to conjure those days as you look past the terrace outside to the beautiful views of the Gulf of Finland and the Manor grounds.

[On my last Haikko visit, my Dad and I hosted a Finnish couple and their American traveling companions for a spot of tea.  Our guests were on their way to St. Petersburg with their Seattle visitors from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  I hope we did not spoil the Hermitage for them!]

Back to “Both”

Having made the trip from the modern Finnish highway into the historic Manor grounds, I was warmly and graciously welcomed as an old friend would be.

Here in LA we call that initial interaction “checking in”.  As good as it feels, fantasy lasts only so long these days, so I did what I usually do after checking in to a hotel–I plopped on the bed in my room.  It felt good.  I felt good.  Life was good.

Haikon_Kartano

After a few good ‘ceiling’ moments, I remembered my room overlooked the sea!  I looked out through the treetops and realized that I had been removed from harsh civilization and had been transplanted into a Finnish forest!  What had felt good, got even better.

It is always fun to become familiar with the written materials, brochures, room service menu, and the like as you settle in to your temporary home.  As I perused the materials about Haikko Manor history, my mind was half a globe from San Diego.  Then, a photo of our beloved Southern California resident Armi Kuusela [the original Miss Universe from Finland] jumped off of the page and demanded my attention.  Ms. Kuusela was pictured with her husband Albert Williams in the late ‘70s.   Among other photos featured were Finnish President Urho Kekkonen laying the Haikko Spa’s headstone in 1973 and President Mauno Koivisto and his wife at a Haikko expansion ‘opening’ in 1983.  With such folks in residence, I am sure all guests and staff used their best Manners at the Manor!!

Of course, as a premier resort, Haikko rooms have premier amenities.

Of course, as a premier resort, Haikko rooms have premier amenities.

Of course, as a premier resort, Haikko rooms have premier amenities.  I was interested in something more mundane.  I turned on my television set when I remembered that I had not seen Finnish TV in years.  I found my fingers longing for channel surfing with the remote that is an everyday occurrence in LA.

Old Home Week

Literally, within the first hour of selective ‘surfing’, it was like old home week.  Seemingly with the press of a button, I could go from Porvoo to LA and back—with no evidence I had left!  Clicking channel to channel I found: my actress friend Anna Easteden with her new show; LA ‘wonder kid’ and friend Sauli Koskinen with his new show about ‘friends’; and long time friend Lasse Viren’s parents featured in retrospective interviews about their iconic son’s 4 Olympic Gold Medals and his more recent Parliamentary career—oh, incidentally, Lasse and Päivi had their wedding celebration at Haikko ‘back when’.

Clicking channel to channel I found my actress friend Anna Easteden with her new show..

Clicking channel to channel I found my actress friend Anna Easteden with her new show..

Still within that hour, a program on the TV Station featured Candy Spelling in her special series Selling Spelling Manor (Spellingin Kartano Myynnissä)–of all things.  It was like “It’s A Small World” overload hour.

Work Break

I was having way too much fun in my Haikko room—it was beginning to feel like a vacation!  So, it was time to plug in the laptop to get caught up on what was happening AROUND LA and elsewhere.  Checking e-mail is a pretty routine, almost rote activity in today’s world.  Not today.  Not the way things were going.

When my mail opened, there was a message from Anna Easteden.  She told me she was checking in from Zion National Park to say “HI” and tell me about her latest project.  As I read Anna’s e-mail from the US, I was watching that very project [hosting Wipeout] on Finnish TV.  Is this fun—or what???

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Anna Easteden by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

It is such a pleasure to follow the careers of the young fun Finns in our City of Angels.  Anna Easteden has taken Hollywood by storm.  She was the MC at the FinnFest Gala in San Diego a few years ago.  Lively, lovely, and talented, Anna did a great job as Master of Ceremonies there and now is doing the same on an international TV show.  It was such a pleasure getting to know her and her husband Rob.  Following her life and career is a delight.

Next on my ‘tube’ watching agenda was Sauli Koskinen’s Finnish show about his ‘best friends’ in LA.  This ‘wind-up-toy’ of a show host is already ‘best friends’ or ‘hope-to-be-best-friends’ with all of us who have met him or who follow him on his Ilta Sanomat blog.  Since Sauli barely stops to take a breath, his Finnish audiences may come away with the idea that ‘best friending’—and everything else, happens quickly in LA.  [And, maybe it will once again once the 405 construction is finished!]

Sauli Koskinen

Sauli Koskinen

To complete the ‘friends in strange places’ circle of TV viewing, one more click and there were the Spellings: Candy and Tori.  It was somewhat surreal to be at a Finnish Manor watching people I have known since my sons’ childhood talk about selling their home in LA (always known locally as “The Manor”).  The Manor is—or was, the largest home in Los Angeles with the ultra-exclusive Los Angeles Country Club and its two golf courses in its ‘back yard’.

.. program on the TV Station featured Candy Spelling in her special series Selling Spelling Manor (Spellingin Kartano Myynnissä)–of all things.

A program on the TV Station featured Candy Spelling in her special series Selling Spelling Manor (Spellingin Kartano Myynnissä)–of all things.

Much of the current Spelling episode showed Candy making decisions on how to compress her living space into only two full floors at the top of a new skyscraper being built in Century City—look for the shiny new oval building near where the Finnish Consulate used to be, but south of what was the Century Plaza Hotel.  With Aaron’s death and Tori living with her husband and children somewhere on another TV channel, Candy felt it wise to consolidate her space into what is now known as the “Manor in the Sky”.

 Candy felt it wise to consolidate her space into what is now known as the “Manor in the Sky”.

Candy felt it wise to consolidate her space into what is now known as the “Manor in the Sky”.

It is always interesting to follow the lives of your children’s classmates.  I must admit that, even in my strange life, this is not usually the way it happens!  I laughed at my tie to fame: Tori’s mother and I shared a page on a school cookbook fund raising project.  Her recipe was for popovers, mine for muffins.

I laughed at my tie to fame: Tori’s mother and I shared a page on a school cookbook fund raising project.  Her recipe was for popovers, mine for muffins.

I laughed at my tie to fame: Tori’s mother and I shared a page on a school cookbook fund raising project. Her recipe was for popovers, mine for muffins (double click on picture above to view enlarge).

Haikko Pool and Spa

Meanwhile: LA is known for having the most beautiful and spectacular swimming pools.  Personal homes and hotels/resorts spare no expense to provide “…the best Poolside experience in the world” and they deliver ambience, service, …, and sunsets daily!  For example, after visiting the Playboy Mansion one of my neighbors from the Spelling schoolmate era fashioned their new pool as a replica of the famous “grotto” there.  [George Clooney’s aunt now swims in that purloined pool.]

For an AROUND LA girl to go to Finland and ‘go gaga’ over a swimming pool should take some doing, nes’t pas?

 The swimming pool at the Haikko Manor took my breath away.

The swimming pool at the Haikko Manor took my breath away.

Well, it happened.  But, it happened because the pool was so Finnish!  The swimming pool at the Haikko Manor took my breath away.  The pool is indoors for reasons that need no elaboration.  When you get into the Haikko Spa pool, you are instantly in the treetops of a birch forest facing the Bay. You are enveloped in water and are swept away by real currents.  There is no edge to the pool, so a moment of panic can set in before you realize that you are not going to be driven out to sea!  It is an infinity pool.  The heated water moves and caresses you like a newborn just out of the womb.  You feel like you are bobbing up and down in a Finnish lake in the Finnish forest while (at the same time) coming to life as a newborn Finn.  [Finnish technology being what it is, you can push a button and, violá, you have the ‘swoosh’ of waves—too bad my surfboard would not stow safely in the overhead compartment!]

The Haikko Spa is a real adult playground.

The Haikko Spa is a real adult playground.

The Haikko Spa is a real adult playground.  Since I was almost always by myself when at the pool, I could easily fantasize the Ronanov life—even if the Spa had not been built then.  Back and forth to/in and out of …the sauna and the hot tubs with varying temperatures.  There is even a  minus-110º C Cryonic Treatment—if you dare!

Take it from this LA insomniac, you will sleep like a newborn Finnish baby after a Haikko Spa visit!  If not, you can turn on your TV to see some ‘best friends’ from LA!

Treatment of Veterans

I was at Haikko Manor to accompany my Dad [as required by the Finnish government for him] to attend his “rehabilitation” (Kuntoutus).

 was at Haikko Manor to accompany my Dad [as required by the Finnish government for him] to attend his “rehabilitation” (Kuntoutus).   On behalf of a nation grateful to its sons and daughters who preserved Finnish freedom against the Russian attacks in The Winter War and The Continuation War, the Finnish government has hosted a fully paid* ten day Spa Retreat [several premier locations about the country] with physical therapy and other amenities for its War Veterans.

On behalf of a nation grateful to its sons and daughters who preserved Finnish freedom against the Russian attacks in The Winter War and The Continuation War, the Finnish government has hosted a fully paid* ten day Spa Retreat [several premier locations about the country] with physical therapy and other amenities for its War Veterans (Photo: Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava)

On behalf of a nation grateful to its sons and daughters who preserved Finnish freedom against the Russian attacks in The Winter War and The Continuation War, the Finnish government has hosted a fully paid* ten day Spa Retreat [several premier locations about the country] with physical therapy and other amenities for its War Veterans.  This awesome benefit of gratitude has been offered for decades without great fanfare, as is the Finnish way.  I am writing about the grand benefit now because the special program is going away quietly as our heroes and heroines pass the age where travel is safe or beneficial.                                           [*For my Dad, not me!]

The Veterans at Haikko Manor

About a dozen Veterans were at the Manor as part of my Father’s group.  Most of the ‘crew’ were from local areas: Helsinki, Espoo, the lake regions … .  My Dad was the only one who made the trip from abroad.  The War Veterans were all in their late 80s.

About a dozen Veterans were at the Manor as part of my Father’s group.

About a dozen Veterans were at the Manor as part of my Father’s group.

The Conference Center/Hotel section was the center of Veteran activities with our properly pampered octogenarians shuffling about in ‘uniforms’ of slippers and terrycloth robes as they worked their way through a tough day of saunas, swims, massages, facials, pedicures, and other specialties of the Spa.  The mini-platoon moved en masse.   Breakfast and lunch were mere steps away from the Spa facilities which were mere steps away from the guest rooms when rest breaks were in order.  Conversations were as animated as Finnish men’s conversations get.  The volume tended to be loud—whether that was because of hearing issues or enthusiasm was not apparent.  There was always a friendly hum and a warm greeting for new friends and familiar staff.  The guys were having a really good time—buddies, one and all.

It was great to hear everyone’s stories; their recollections, their thoughts, and their perspectives.  Of course, their responses to my interrogation on their family traditions, on fishing techniques, and on preferred food preparation were eagerly absorbed and noted.  Most of the conversations I was privy to took place at the dinners at the Manor House dining room.

Manners at the Manor

Dinner at the beautiful Manor House in the exquisite main dining room was the highlight of the day.  The Veterans who were received promptly at 17:00 were always properly turned out in jackets and ties.  [While my Father and I were there promptly and never late, we were still the last ones to arrive—how can you be on time and be late/last?  I guess that is the American way.]  Other than Veterans’ family/aides such as me, no one else was in the dining room.  The white-gloved staff was there to respectfully serve these beloved War Veterans and Lottas.

Dinner at the beautiful Manor House in the exquisite main dining room was the highlight of the day.

Dinner at the beautiful Manor House in the exquisite main dining room was the highlight of the day.

Meals at the Manor proceeded with military precision.  Salad, Sir; main course, Sir; dessert, Sir.  Everyone evacuated as quickly as they had arrived.  No lingering to absorb the ambience or to dally in idle after dinner conversation.  The ‘crew’ was out of barracks and on protocol!

Retrospective

My parents had many memorable visits to Haikko through the years.  One year, the daily flag lowering ceremony was to be in honor of the gathering Veterans.  Apparently my late Mother who had a beautiful singing voice was the only one who showed up.  No matter!  Nothing was going to stop her Lotta spirit.  She started belting out Siniristilippumme with all her might.  Needless to say, she gathered quite an appreciative crowd in no time.  There was not a dry eye around that flagpole that night.  A national representative of the Lotta organization was there for that performance and made sure my Lotta mother was recognized and honored.

Lotta Raija Anttila

Lotta Raija Anttila

Seeing that flagpole each day of our last visit made me smile—and let a tear well up, as well.

The staff at Haikko is always welcoming and gracious.  But, somehow, I think they winked at each other in years past when they saw this cute elderly couple (my parents) arriving because they remembered them as the ones who kept regularly sliding out of bed onto the floor and calling for help.  My Mother said the sheets were slippery.  But, there may be more to the story than needs to be said here.

Things to Ponder

Cultural differences can be fun to observe and ponder.  I have written about and been a speaker on cross-cultural differences in customs, processes, and social/business practices.  It is a fascinating subject.   For example, consider this: one of the most remarkable—and significant, differences between the Finnish and American ways of doing things is “Arrival Time”.

Arrival Time Manners

Finns new to America and Americans going to Finland (business or social—matters not) take heed!

In a Finnish environment (social or business), people arrive early to be polite and to be ‘ready’ when the ‘doors’ open promptly on schedule.  Really early, by American practice.  It may be as a sign of respect for your host or the guest of honor; it may signal that you are happy to be there; or it may simply be because that is the way Finns do things.  Most Finns do not talk unless necessary—and, certainly not about anything they assume you know, or should know.  Consequently (and without instruction) plan to be ‘on location’ well ahead of the scheduled hour—do not be surprised to be in line waiting to ‘enter’ at the established hour.  Each event has its own ‘life cycle’ or timing—for now, just follow the lead of the natives.  Have no fear—they will know when to leave!

If you are invited to a Finnish home for dinner at a specific hour, you are expected to be prompt and you are usually escorted right to the table and served food.  But, that is another column for another day!

If you are invited to a Finnish home for dinner at a specific hour, you are expected to be prompt.

If you are invited to a Finnish home for dinner at a specific hour, you are expected to be prompt.

If you are invited to an American home for dinner—well, that is a horse of a different color.

There is quite a difference here in the United States, not just here in ‘laid-back’ LA.  The general ‘rule’ is that you arrive 15minutes later than the appointed hour—particularly for a dinner party.  This 15 minute ‘buffer’ is to give the hostess/host a little breathing time to get herself or himself ‘together’.  Do not expect dinner to be served until 1 to 1½ hours later.  [However, it is considered impolite to arrive after dinner has been served—particularly for a ‘sit down’ dinner.]

Americans like their ‘social’ aka cocktail hour.  Mixed drinks, wine, and hor’s doevres are usually served at a location other than the dinner table for this duration.  Back ‘when’, non-alcoholic libations required a special request—now, not so often.  Cocktails and socializing usually occur at a free flowing location that facilitates interaction and conversation.

Look carefully at what is being served. Once what I thought was a hot appetizer (bagna cauda) was actually a potpourri mixture of flower petals in perfumed oil with a flame under it to produce a nice aroma!  And, keep your shoes on during your visit—unless you see a stack of mixed leather at the door.  Usually Americans do not remove their shoes when entering a home.

Usually Americans do not remove their shoes when entering a home unless they have just stepped in “something”.

Usually Americans do not remove their shoes when entering a home.

Manners As “How”

Social Manners are just protocols showing kindness and proper respect for others.  (Hyvät tavat) Manners are the way we act, interact, and perform in specific situations—or should.  In a different day and in a different way, the ‘rules’ were clear and specific.  If you were not certain of the proper way to respond or act, you could actually look up the ‘rule’ in a book or ask an elder.  Manners were meant to shape a frame of mind receptive to civil interaction.  The ‘rules’—written and unwritten, defined a culture.  I guess they still do, but it is harder to be sure!  The base concept of kindness and proper respect for others has eroded, dimmed, disappeared, or otherwise become indefinable in a ‘by-the-numbers’ rule.  Does rudeness rule by default?  Can noblesse oblige survive in some fine form?

Manners and Veterans: Here and There

Finland’s remaining War Veterans are held niinkuin Herran kukkarossa (like in God’s wallet) and like Guests of Honor wherever and whenever they appear.  Because Finland is such a young country, many of us today are in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations of free Finns and we feel the recentness of our Independence.  Our history is part of how we think and feel as Finns since our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents ‘wrote’ Finland’s story with their blood and treasure.  Most Finns alive today know someone who was there when the bombs began to fall.  Our freedom is so recent that it can remain ever fresh in our minds.

Our local Finnish War Veterans and Lottas at the 80th Independence Day event (1997) PRR947

Our local Finnish War Veterans and Lottas at the 80th Independence Day event (1997)

AROUND LA WITH AVA® took me to the regular June meeting of the Southern California Finnish War Veterans club [Veteraani Tuki]Suomi Kerho opens its clubhouse to our Veterans, honoring them by giving them a home, a meeting place, a meal together, and even a movie in Finnish.  Our hearts are warmed by the Veterans presence even as their own memories of their valor fade.   Respecting them and thanking them is ongoing.  Future generations will read of their role in our lives—we are privileged to live with them and love them as family.

Gary Maisack with his mother Lotta Elma Maisack at the Veterans' Meeting on 6/11/14

Gary Maisack with his mother Lotta Elma Maisack at June meeting of the Southern California Finnish War Veterans club [Veteraani Tuki].

In the United States, Memorial Day is as sad as Thanksgiving is joyous.  Both share the distinction of being focused on gratitude—not “getting” things!  Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer in the United States.  In many parts of this country that get Finnish type winters, the month of May brings sufficient sun and warmth to permit the snow and ice to melt enough to let folks believe that summer and real warmth will arrive one day soon.

There is a National Cemetery near my home—like Arlington Cemetery in Virginia near Washington, DC, that is run by the Veterans Administration.  The Cemetery is on Sepulveda Boulevard just off of the 405, north of Wilshire and east of the massive Veterans Administration Hospital campus.

There is a National Cemetery near my home—like Arlington Cemetery in Virginia near Washington, DC, that is run by the Veterans Administration. The Cemetery is on Sepulveda Boulevard just off of the 405, north of Wilshire and east of the massive Veterans Administration Hospital campus.

On Memorial Day we follow proper flag Manners and fly our American flag on the 25’ flag pole in front of our house.  The flag is set at half staff until noon in memory of those who gave their lives—then, the flag is raised to full staff to fly proudly for the freedoms earned/preserved by those who served.  Such is the prescribed protocol.  Such is our practice.

There is a National Cemetery near my home—like Arlington Cemetery in Virginia near Washington, DC, that is run by the Veterans Administration.  The Cemetery is on Sepulveda Boulevard just off of the 405, north of Wilshire and east of the massive Veterans Administration Hospital campus.  Each grave of the thousands there is decorated with a flag placed by hand by Scouts who honor our passed American heroes each year.  I drive through the Cemetery as a personal moment of pause as we approach each Memorial Day.  Being inside the gates, with or without flags, creates reflection, awe, and honor.  It is quite inspiring.

IMG_0816

My dear friend, the late Greta Peck had that spirit of honor for the Veterans.  Though she was born in Finland, she “…grew where she was planted” here in our City of Angels.  Greta was truly a humble, though often secret angel.  For 50 years—over half a century, Greta drove from Beverly Hills to the Long Beach Veterans Hospital with sandwiches she had made herself; with magazines and books; with grooming products and special things she bought or made to hand out to the Veterans hospitalized there.   Wounded in body and mind, they knew Greta was their friend.  Greta’s spirit and smile were irresistible.  Most important to the Vets was the knowledge that Greta would be back next week and next week… .

My dear friend, the late Greta Peck had that spirit of honor for the Veterans.

My dear friend, the late Greta Peck had that spirit of honor for the Veterans.

Greta exemplified the perfect combination of committed American volunteer spirit and Finnish hard work, dignity, and humility.

Manors, Manners, or Both

YES

OTHERWORDS OR NOTEWORTHY

Liisa Niemi

We learned over Memorial Day weekend that Patrick Swayze’s widow, our Finnish Liisa Niemi, remarried.  Blessings, peace, and joy to Liisa and to her new husband.  He will soon know for himself what so many of you already know “…Happiness Is Being Married to a Finn”!

Blessings, peace, and joy to Liisa and to her new husband

Blessings, peace, and joy to Liisa and to her new husband

FACCLAFF Creatives Night

May 15th was a record setting heat wave of a night in our City of overheated Angels.  A networking event for the Creative Finns, Finlandia Foundation, and the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce was held in the garden at my home.

My philosophy generally (and for this night specifically) is that authentic Finnish home cooking brings out a spirit of bonding, cooperation, and fellowship whenever expatriate Finns assemble.

My philosophy generally (and for this night specifically) is that authentic Finnish home cooking brings out a spirit of bonding, cooperation, and fellowship whenever expatriate Finns assemble.

My philosophy generally (and for this night specifically) is that authentic Finnish home cooking brings out a spirit of bonding, cooperation, and fellowship whenever expatriate Finns assemble.  So many are so busy making their way in a challenging new world that they do not have time (even if they have the interest and resources) to pursue preparing our heritage cuisine.  Since I have that passion, I took the time because I thought it would be fun and a nice way to facilitate comfortable interaction and stimulate conversation.

IMG_0775

I should have checked the weather forecast before I volunteered to do the cooking!

I made gravlax, poached salmon, smoked whitefish with sauces, and various salads.  I made pea soup, cabbage rolls with lingonberry sauce, and individual meat pies.  There was a large dish of boiled New potatoes with dill, of course.  Desserts included: rhubarb crisp, fresh strawberries and blueberries, with a large mound of vanilla ice cream (a must on this hot night).

There was a large dish of boiled New potatoes with dill, of course.

There was a large dish of boiled New potatoes with dill, of course.

As the meeting hour approached, the temperature kept creeping up.  We were now into “triple digits”**.  An ‘ice run’ to Smart and Final was in order—for me, if not for the beverages that needed chilling.  A trunkful of ice and cases of Carlsberg were loaded up and brought home.

Despite my stated “Philosophy”, I quietly “deep sixed” [i.e., ‘buried’/eliminated] the hot and hearty pea soup from the menu.  On this night, even the most imaginative ‘creative’ could not conjure an image of us feeding the Finnish troops on skis in the winter.  The cabbage rolls and meat pies even seemed wrong for the season, but there was not enough time to re-do the menu—or my philosophy.  Usually LA nights are cool even on the hottest of days, but not this one.  It felt like we were in the tropics.

With enough ice and Carlsberg, the stoic Finns carried on.

IMG_0776

Let me tell you, there is something special about sitting under a two hundred fifty year old oak tree in LA on a warm summer evening sharing heart to heart with the likes of Niina Sallinen.

Let me tell you, there is something special about sitting under a two hundred fifty year old oak tree in LA on a warm summer evening sharing heart to heart with the likes of Niina Sallinen.  Having long been a big fan of Niina, it was fun to hear of her latest news.  She was in Macedonia for a One Person Show Award Ceremony recently.  I was able to give Niina personal congratulations and good wishes on her latest two Awards!

The event was designed to give locals and newcomers to LA an informal opportunity to meet and to spend a few enriching moments together.  Juulia Merisalo and Heidi Luukkonen are two new dynamos working at the Consulate who got to ‘meet and mingle’ with some of their interesting constituents.  Their boss, Consul General JP Markkanen shared his vision of teamwork in the Finnish community.  We toasted his efforts and service as a catalyst to bring us all together for a productive and pleasant evening.

[**Triple Digits means over 100º Fahrenheit = over 37º C.]

The Scandinavian Center Brown Bag Lunches

The Scandinavian Center at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA concluded its Spring Brown Bag Lunches on May 29th with Finnish Consul General Juha (JP) Markkanen speaking on “The State of the Finnish Economy”.   Quoting Fred Tonsig, he noted that the Finnish economy is “hot”; Finnish international trade is “hot”; innovation and invention in Finland are “hot”; the prospects for the future are “hot”; and the Finnish people are “hot”.  Certainly no one who had been in my garden for our earlier quiet assembly was going to argue with his assessment!

 The Scandinavian Center rounded up its Spring Brown Bag Lunches Finnish Consul General Juha (JP) Markkanen


The Scandinavian Center rounded up its Spring Brown Bag Lunches
with Juha P. Markkanen

Friends of Finland

Another great event was hosted by Consul General JP Markkanen for what he labeled the “Friends of Finland”.  The Consul General invited leaders of various organizations, journalists, artists and other creatives, business people and other professionals, our Lutheran pastor, and others to share their backgrounds, ideas, and visions in a brainstorming roundtable.  We liked being called Friends of Finland—and everyone felt that the time spent and the information shared were very worthwhile.  Our gratitude and thanks to the Consul General for bringing his spirit of cooperation to the community.

The Consul General invited leaders of various organizations, journalists, artists and other creatives, business people and other professionals, our Lutheran pastor, and others to share their backgrounds, ideas, and visions in a brainstorming roundtable.

The Consul General invited leaders of various organizations, journalists, artists and other creatives, business people and other professionals, our Lutheran pastor, and others to share their backgrounds, ideas, and visions in a brainstorming roundtable.

Spring Is Breaking Out All Over

You know it is Spring in Los Angeles when the jacaranda trees come alive with bursts of blue all over the city and the adorable hummingbirds are building their tiny nests on the most fragile of branches.

You know it is Spring in Los Angeles when the jacaranda trees come alive with bursts of blue all over the city and the adorable hummingbirds are building their tiny nests on the most fragile of branches.

You know it is Spring in Los Angeles when the jacaranda trees come alive with bursts of blue all over the city and the adorable hummingbirds are building their tiny nests on the most fragile of branches.  My garden path is a blue carpet of fallen blooms.  Three tiny, pea sized eggs sit in a golf ball sized nest waiting to come into their tiny lives in this wild, ruthless, gargantuan civilization called Los Angeles.  Good luck little ones!  I hope those pesky crows and neighborhood cats mind their Manners and do not invade your cute, munchkin Manor.

 Three tiny, pea sized eggs sit in a golf ball sized nest waiting to come into their tiny lives in this wild, ruthless, gargantuan civilization called Los Angeles.  Good luck little ones!

Three tiny, pea sized eggs sit in a golf ball sized nest waiting to come into their tiny lives in this wild, ruthless, gargantuan civilization called Los Angeles. Good luck little ones!

End Note

Southern California is a fabulous and fun place to be any time of year—even at 105º F.  Really stimulating things happen here, if you know where.  Seek them out.  Occasionally, Finns need a fix of fresh Finnish air, too.  Your scribe has lived, raised my family, and worked in Los Angeles for a lot of years.  Still, an escape to the Homeland permits bridging both worlds and I cherish that opportunity.  Sharing the good, the bad, and the fabulous/ugly is what AROUND LA WITH AVA® seeks to do.  Some of our friends even show up on TV.  All things Finnish are celebrated wherever and whenever just ‘because’.

ALWA topics are catholic—history, culture, traditions, work, play, sight-seeing/sightings, local ‘hang-outs’, public/social service, travel, faith, food, people, LA/desert/Finnish life, fun, events past and pending, politics, the future of the world…whatever.  Whether you are an intellectual, a TV celebrity or just one of us regular folks; a Manor Manner minder or just one of us observers; a ‘mover’ or just one of us ‘shakers’; a seasoned traveler or just one of us wide-eyed wanderers, welcome to AROUND LA WITH AVA®.  We applaud those who learn the Manners of the Manors you visit!

Ava Antilla

Ava Antilla

468 ad