Around LA with Ava®: Shades of May into Hues of Blue
A children’s ditty goes: “Spring has sprung, The grass is riz, I wonder where the flowers is?”
The traditional logic is that there are no seasons in Southern California. It is generally nice all the time. For those who insist on defining our City of Angels as having seasons each year they love to repeat “May grey, then June Gloom” as the official weather report. Yes, while in certain years spring has been somewhat overcast and bland, that has not been the case in 2017.
We have had “hues” (of color) and “floral profusion like never before. If you live here you have noticed the intense displays of color everywhere or your seasonal enjoyment.
Because of the vast amount of rain we had this season, the intensity in colors has been breathtaking. Like they say you have to take the good with the bad. The rain, wind, fallen trees mud, rockslides and damage, not to mention tightening fire department regulations, were a bit more extreme this year but Mother Nature’s color display brought shades of beauty not seen in drier years.
The normal May in the first week brings the periwinkle blossoms that appear as giant clouds on the Jacaranda trees. You virtually do not see any leaves, only the stunning colored flowers against their brown crusty trunks. As the blossoms fade and fall to the ground they create billowy carpets against the street’s black asphalt almost inviting one to come and dance in the petals under their canopies. (The small blossoms look lovely sprinkled on a table setting, especially for those of us having a Finnish celebration. The Agapanthus (Lilies of the Nile) also bloom this time of year at the same time as if to say a quiet “me too” with their identical color. Theses long-stemmed beauties are spectacular arranged in a long glass vase, but their blossoms can also be sprinkled to decorate a pretty party table or serving platter. What is nice is that they hold out for the Fourth of July.
The start of the summer here is always chock-full of special garden tours, design showcase homes and floral festivals, but this year is special for a couple of reasons.
The air has been clear, the sunshine here each day bringing spectacular lighting and the growth of nature especially flowers due to the overabundance of rainfall has blessed us with an amazing display of hues and colors with the spring blooms. It has been almost a Hollywood “technicolor” extravaganza of color in every neighborhood.
Bougainvillea all over town
We LA locals call them boogies (phonetically “buugies”)—not boagies. There was only one “Bogey” (Humphrey Bogart). Have you heard the song lyric; “We had it all, just like Bogey and Bacall”? It just would be the same with the name “Humphrey” !
They say you can’t kill a boogie-it grows like a weed, but unfortunately, my brown thumb has proven this adage wrong. The colors have been traffic- stopping this season causing some abrupt stops for photos Orange, purple fuchsia, red, white and striated all are calling attention. I am particularly happy with the pink specimen in the corner of the yard that is finally coming into its own to serve the purpose for which it was planted, not only to be spectacularly gorgeous but to serve as a fearless but strong Wonder Woman protector from bad elements trying to scale over fences. Those thorns are there for a reason! (A trip to the emergency room was required for a family member when one of the large spikes pierced a body part. Please note to wear a contractor’s helmet and gauntlet gloves to avoid any “Game of Thornes” gore.
Look around town; beautiful boogie blossoms are everywhere and they are around long-term! Various conservancies around LA have boasted of the “superblooms” for viewing in their venues. Would you believe even the keeper of the infamous “corpse flower” was promoting viewership after what has been a ten year hiatus of this foul smelling bloom. Go figure!
Tour de Pier Annual Event
May starts a time of parties, dance recitals and celebrations. A wonderful “raising money for cancer research” event called the Tour de Pier takes place each year. Dozens of stationary bikes set up in front of the Manhattan Beach pier are pedaled and money is raised for charity. It is a wonderful festival for a good cause. There is a Team Kory each year named for a young man I used to hold in my arms when he was a baby who succumbed to brain cancer a few years ago. This event makes goodness in the world from of his untimely death.
Mother’s Day and Birthdays
The birthstone for May is the emerald. No green jewelry needed for me—the delicious emerald green Thai crab soup followed by Hamachi crudo with avocado at a window seat at the Strand House restaurant with my eldest was good enough for my celebration!
A brunch at Spago preceded this on Mother’s Day with a multi-course feast/multi generation morning of wonderfulness. Veal tartar served in marrow bones as a starter…need I go on?
Finns in LA and Special Happenings
We Finns have a special hues of greens and blues happening this year to celebrate.
I hear the official word from Finland that “the birches are wearing mouse ears. No not the Mickey Mouse Disneyland kind (thought that is a funny visual) “Koivut on hiirenkorvella” is always a big announcement of spring as the first (tiny rodent ear shaped size specks of green) appear in the lovelies shade of green) Finns are so eager for signs of the end of winter that even during Easter, tiny pots of real grass are part of the promise of rebirth that signal hope of the long awaited spring and summer.
Drs. Perttii Rintahaka and fiancée Diana Covius make a “House Call”
Former LA resident and Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board Member, Dr. Pertti Rintahaka with his lovely Diana, visited while in Southern California for a medical conference. Not to let Finland with its Big Birthday this year take all of the spotlight, the two of them are celebrating the “120th” joint birthday with a big bash in Helsinki this summer. A visit to the beach and Fisherman’s Village in Marina Del Rey watching to boats come in was a fun excursion.
The next night Heidi Crooks, former Chief Nursing Officer for the UCLA Medical system was to join us for dinner. I served a “blue plate special” on the new dishes with a big blue flower I just had to have, for this year’s parties ready for Finland 100 get togethers. Sometimes one needs a pair of shoes, sometimes an outfit, but in this case something festive to dress a table this celebratory year, besides, the price was a steal!
LAFF-Los Angeles Chapter of Finland Foundation
The L.A.F.F. meeting featured the Pasadena Sister Cities Program. The organization has several sister cities around the world including Järvenpää, Finland, the home of Jean Sibelius. Angie Gomez gave background on the organization’s work, and told of their group trip to Finland on this Centennial summer. We had a chance to meet a young lady going to Finland as part of the exchange program. The next time I went to the Paloheimo Mansion to catch up with LAFF, there was an artist on his knees rendering a huge portrait on the cement in front of the steps that looked like a huge comic book version of Wonder Woman (and no, no, I don’t think it was a portrait of Eva Feynes Paloheimo ! There was a local festival going on, not a regular LAFF meeting though Ellen Harju was there dedicated as she is, giving tours of the Tupa.
The Finnish church – Santa Monica, California
Coincidentally in 2017 the Los Angeles Finnish church also has its 100th birthday centennial this year. The May service It was quite the celebration with congregants in Finnish attire and National Costumes, a majestic processional of the choir, ministers including Bishop Guy Irwin. A bounty of delicious cookies, pulla, homemade donuts, and cakes made it a true “groaning board” as they say here in the U.S. My contribution was the voileipäkakku. I should have skipped that second cup of coffee in the morning; my hands were shaking trying to form the zeroes in the “100” decoration made from little fresh peas on top of the cake!
Another Special Milestone
The same day the Finnish Church in LA celebrated its 100th, Jonny Kahleyn Dieb fans celebrated his birthday. Jonny, who recently confirmed his percentage of Finnish ancestry through a DNA search, was celebrated by friends from near and far. We all already knew he must be Finnish by his creativity, work ethic, humility and modesty.
Jonny’s background has included information technology at UCLA Transplantation Services, and now, Occupational Health in addition to his film production, and photography. Above all….. (I am so excited as writer of this column, to actually use the longest palindrome I know in either Finnish or English; Here it is He is a saippuakauppias!! He is a soap seller. He is actually the entrepreneur behind the La Vie en C Brand you see advertised in the finntimes pages. Congrats to a true Renaissance Man!
A Marriage Milestone for Erkki andI llona Kanto (40 years)
Shades of grey (smoke that is) along the way from LA
Erkki and Ilona invited me to their party. Inspired by the colorful flowerbeds on the Sunset Strip median, I made mousse-filled flower cups to bring to the party. Heading north on the 405 a glance in the rear view mirror was cause for alarm. Smoke was rising rapidly from where I had just left my neighborhood as I ascended into the Santa Monica Mountains. Turning on the traffic news, that comes on every six minutes, confirmed that indeed it was what would turn into a large fire. All the rain that brought beautiful flowers to us also brought dangerous amount of flammable vegetation. a fire. It was like déjà vu all over again. There was no choice but to head back home. The last time this happened I could not get home to my family which then included my bedbound mother (described in a previous Finntimes column). Fortunately the fire department did a good job and were able to isolate the fire to the west Side of the 405 freeway. It turned out to be over 30 acres!
Ilona and Erkki were kind enough to invite me for a visit the next day. I had their company all to myself and we had a delightful time. They still seem like newlyweds and were planning their summer which will include time in Finland and Pakistan. Ilona loves to cook and had made gluten-free mämmi for dessert. Now truth be told mämmi is not the prettiest of desserts (in fact it’s pretty much the end of the scale on visual) but it was quite delicious.
Things to Ponder Category,
There are so many birthdays in May and June, including a three week period on my calendar with each day marked. My theory is that in counting back nine months, people (especially Finns) have been inspired and motivated at the end of the summer, to as my dear and funny late father would say, people decide to make new people!
Finnish Ladies Night
Speaking of birthdays, Heidi Crooks got a Finnish serenade from the Finnish Ladies group. We were meeting the group gathered at the bar at Pancho’s in Manhattan Beach. Unbeknownst to most the others the bar was packed to the gills because of the NBA finals. Manhattan Beach is extremely sports-oriented as many Sports celebrities live in the area.
If you go to Pancho’s, make a left, take a step up and look to the right: there is photo on the wall in the bar on the north side of a couple fishing. (The family owns the restaurant)Talk about Wonder Woman—the woman in the photo (my dear friend) caught that fish!!! It is bigger than she is! It would be fun to see how she does with her skills on a Finnish lake.
Pancho’s is really one of the prettiest restaurants in this area. Each step you take down the stairs is like descending into a secret lush green garden of a private Mexican Hacienda with twinkly lights and aromas of the special night to come. For decades it has been a destination spot for celebrations… We certainly got the attention of the place when 30 of us began singing. It was a fun festive Finnish night and what a joy to meet such great and accomplished women.
On the theme of explosions of color and overgrown things, the Wilshire Grand, the tallest building now west of the Mississippi River, has just opened. It will be featuring enormous (most likely fender-bender inducing, driver-distracting lighting displays. Remember when the construction was going on and this column described the largest construction concrete pour celebrated by a parade by the USC band? More to follow in the next ALAWA column.
Hues and Blues
Ah yes! Finland.
As we move into the Suomi Summer let us move to hues of greens and blues. Think of the lovely blue/green jigsaw puzzle you see below, the lakes and the forests, welcoming you upon landing over Finland as seen from your airplane seat, truly natural beauty of the planet’s most incredible. How is it for you upon landing? Does a tear well in your eyes as your inner voice starts to sing Maamme Laulu? Does your mind think about how soon you can get to that lake you love that is calling you, ready to sit and take in the in the beauty of silence, to float in a rowboat, to eat blueberries?
But since it is Finland’s 100th….. Making this will make you think you are on the edge of a Finnish lake in a little (white rose petal boat) soutuvene in our homeland’s aquamarine waters. Pretend you are the blueberry (after more than one of these, it will be your virtual reality)
This is LA and cocktails are created by mixologists (what they used to call bartenders) like chef’s specialties. And especially for huge things, like perhaps a 100th birthday????
The Suomi Centennial Sip
2 ounces blue Hypnotiq liqueur
2 ounces Pear Vodka
White sanding or pulla sugar for frosting the rim
Garnish: white rose or tulip petal “boat”, blueberry
Wet rim of glass and dip into sugar. (May be done ahead; may take two coats) Put ice cubes in cocktail shaker with the alcohols. Shake and pour into a blue or white martini glass. Garnish with your little rowboat petal and blueberry passenger!
Note: You can make this a nonalcoholic “mocktail” by substituting a blue juice or sports drink.
Party on like it’s 1917 !