Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb


In honor of International Women’s Day this week (March 8), we are featuring an Around LA with Ava column from a few years ago entitled WOMEN:


Things to Ponder Category:

Why is there a Women’s History Month when there is not a Men’s History Month?

Women still seem to be considered a minority even though they populate half of the world.  Most men will acknowledge that we women have been running ‘things’ for quite a while, even if in a quiet, ‘behind-the-scenes’ way.  However, now that so many men now report to women bosses in the workplace, it is best not to press that issue.


Anyway, I am all for celebrating.  Any excuse for a party, n’est pas?

The first Women’s Month celebration I can remember was hosted by dear friend Bitte Westerlund, wife of former Consul General Jörn Donner, during their tenure here in LA.  It was a remarkable event.  Attending were this area’s most prominent women in politics, business, film, and the like.  Nothing like this had been held before.  All of us attending were so excited to be a part of something new –we felt a universal bond.  Connie Rice [no, not the Secretary—she is a civil rights attorney], Beata Pozniak, Elina Vesara, Ruth Goldway, Dr. Leena Peltonen-Palotie, and so many others were brought together by Bitte.   It is hard to get Finns together collectively, but Bitte “leaned in” and her personal force has left an indelible mark on the LA scene and on the Finnish women’s dynamic.  We are eternally grateful in the Finnish community for her contributions during her time here.

Bitte Westerlund_Ava

Bitte Westerlund


This has been a big year for celebrating Women’s History Month.

Easter weekend marked the 100th anniversary of Suffrage for Women in the US [1913].  Finnish women gained full political rights in 1906, even before our homeland won its Independence.  Finland was the first nation in the world to have women elected to its Parliament [1907].

Women representatives at the Finnish parliament in 1907

Women representatives at the Finnish parliament in 1907

Finnish women have been particularly on my mind with their awesome accomplishments [no bias—just pride!].  I was led to reflect on the famous Finnish females who have graced our sunny Southern California shores when now retired Ambassador Maria Serenius  returned ‘home’ this March.  Maria was the first woman Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles.

Ava with Ambassador Maria Serenius

Ava with Ambassador Maria Serenius

As a ‘fringe benefit’ of being active in local Finnish groups and programs –and, if you are willing to get downtown for a 7 AM breakfast, you get to ‘visit’ with some really neat people.  Sometimes those visits are in a ‘small group’ setting as a few of us experienced with the then Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen who went on to serve as Finland’s President for 12 years.  I can remember the Finnish pride I felt as Minister Halonen answered a tricky question about Finland’s vaunted neutrality and the NATO participation requirement for membership in European Union that was in final formation stages.  The future President proved her diplomatic ‘chops’ with an answer she may have been ‘trying out’ for similar questions from a larger audience in the future: NATO participation is problematic for Finland.  Since we have the longest border with Russia, I propose that Finland secure that border and let NATO take care of the rest.  Poised, confident, and bold in her answer, there were no follow-up questions on the subject.

Finland’s First Female Ambassador to the United States Visits:

Speaking of famous Finnish females, I hope you got to meet Ritva Koukku-Ronde, Finland’s first female Ambassador to the United States on her recent West Coast visit.  The Ambassador joined Consul General Kirsti Westphalen and Honorary Consul Kathryn Mautino in San Diego before being the Guest of Honor and Keynote Speaker at the Finlandia Foundation National’s 60th Anniversary Celebration in Pasadena.

Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde at Finlandia Foundation’s 60th Anniversary celebration.

Finlandia Foundation National’s Performers of the Year:

Marja Kaisla (FFN Performer of the Year 2013) and Maria Mannisto (FFN Performer of the Year 2007) each performed in concert for the large and appreciative 60th Anniversary Celebration audience.

Finlandia Foundation National’s Lecturer of the Year:

Dr. Glenda Dawn Goss

As part of the 60th Anniversary Celebration, FFN showcased their 2012 Lecturer of the Year, Glenda Dawn Goss, on Friday night preceding the Anniversary Gala.  Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius.  She used music, historical slides, and personal descriptions in her scholarly evaluation.  Dr. Goss’s personal perspective comes as a scholar from Georgia (in the American South) who has lived in Finland since 1998.

Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius.

Dr. Goss made Finland’s cultural awakening come to life through her unique presentation on the life of Jean Sibelius

Those of us in the sold-out audience were taken back in time by a description of the life of Sibelius that also detailed how the Maestro came to be such an important and recognized figure in the United States.

She declared that Sibelius created “…what it means to be Finnish” and, thereby, paved the way for the Golden Age of Arts that was to follow.  This was the awakening of the Finnish Identity.  I think Finns all have the sounds of Sibelius’s music burned in our hearts, minds, and souls –an affirmation of our Finnish pride.

I can’t wait to read Dr. Goss’s new biography: Sibelius: A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland; University of Chicago Press; 2009.

A Little Girl Remembers:

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco

Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco

As a youngster my parents would put me on a Greyhound bus, alone, headed for San Francisco  from the San Jose depot [no one would dare do that today, I know—different time/different rules].  My Pirkko-täti (a vivacious single lady in those days) would take me to a record shop by Ghirardelli Square on those visits.  I remember the shop because Sibelius played in the background, just like home!  The owner of the shop had a ‘thing’ for my aunt, I think.  Once, he bent down and told me “ …you will never be fit to marry unless you know all of the symphonies of Sibelius”.

That long-buried memory came back as I listened to Dr. Goss’s lecture.  Still, I do keep playing those symphonies!

More About FFN Lecturer of the Year Program:

LOY is a national initiative by Finlandia Foundation National started in 2006.  The program’s aim is to promote Finland and to explain the Finnish-American connection.

An early FNN/LOY I supported at the Beverly Hills Library was a fascinating presentation by Susan Saarinen (granddaughter of Eliel and Loja Saarinen) and Mark Coir (architectural historian).  That too was an excellent program with talks that illuminated the international exhibit on Finnish architect Eero Saarinen’s life and work that toured the US for several years.  Saarinen’s work in the US [TWA at JFK/Dulles at Washington, DC—and his LA work with Eames of chair fame] is well known and admired.


Susan Saarinen by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

These programs are so well organized, inspiring, informative, and fun!!  When you leave, you want to be sure your fellow attendees know you are Finnish too—even though boasting is not permitted!

FFN Is 60!!:

The crown jewel of activities in the Finnish community this March was Finlandia Foundation National’s 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner and Concert.  Finland’s Ambassador to the United States Ritva Koukku-Ronde was the Honored Guest and Keynote Speaker.

Marvin Suomi served as Master of Ceremonies.  With Marvin was his lovely wife Marieclaire even though the whole Suomi family was leaving for Japan the next morning when the children’s Spring Break began.

Ava with Andrea McAleenan of Azusa-Pacific University

The evening was informative and entertaining.  It was a delight to meet the many Trustees of FFN.  Tarja Silverman (a FFN Trustee from New York) was seated at my table.  Between us was one of my favorite local Finns and long time friend Heidi Crooks (Chief Nursing Officer of the UCLA Health System).  Andrea McAleenan of Azusa-Pacific University (formerly in charge of the EU Center at the Claremont Colleges) dropped by to say hello and to remind us all to attend FinnFest ’13 being held on the Finlandia University Campus in June on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Finlandia University President Philip Johnson was in attendance, as well.

Hollywood in the Desert:   

After Awards Season in LA [aka Winter], the fancy gowns are out and everyone is still in a festive mood ready for the next big party.  When Hollywood quiets down, the real fun, social scene moves with the ‘glitterati’ to the California desert.  They are joined by the “snowbirds” from colder climates who have the resources and resolve to ‘get out of Dodge’ before the snow flies!

My dear old Hollywood friend (the late Greta Peck) loved her ‘Winter’ time with her ‘crowd’ in the warm and welcoming desert with all the activities and ‘goings-on’.  She loved to tell tales—but my lips are sealed.  In the sweltering Summer months, the place turns into a ghost town.  Now, in high season, the streets are bumper to bumper and dinner reservations at the top restaurants are a precious commodity.  The parties go on late into the night in this warm, happy party town.

Ava and Greta Peck

A desert resurgence has taken place as a new generation has taken over with second/third… homes in lavish surroundings.  Private jets now vie with commercial airliners for space at the Palm Springs Airport.  Those who can do live in leisure and luxury.  Even those who still work can carry an electronic ‘office’ and are able to shuttle back and forth depending on the season, the reason, or the event.  Smiles, tans, and good moods abound.  A strong sense of philanthropy dominates the social world and many charities benefit from those ‘goings-on’.

Golf, Tennis, Pools, and Pageants:

Golf, tennis, and pools have long been desert daytime staples.  Professional golf and tennis tours have major tournaments in the desert during March each year.  Following an afternoon of watching the professionals play, an evening of talk over cocktails and dinner, a good night of great dreams in the balmy, fresh night air, it is no surprise to find the sweet morning stillness at La Quinta Resort broken by the thuds of tennis balls and ‘grunts’.  The morning ‘jocks’ have been inspired by their heroes’ performances from the day [or their dreams of the night] before and seek to duplicate the same perfect strokes.  After a short bit, the gardeners take over with their equipment manicuring the grounds before the heat of the midday sun.  The sequential noise patterns combine to leave a ‘peace offering’ of grapefruit that have been ‘rattled’ from the trees for the guests to enjoy.

La Quinta Resort

As my friend from Washington, DC [VB] and I were quietly doing water aerobics in a small pool in Santa Rosa Cove at La Quinta we noticed Donald Rumsfeld [Gulf War I Secretary of Defense—among his many other accomplishments] ‘chilling’ on a poolside lounge chair.  Just another day at the beach—his war is over.

My concert pianist friend [DP] is also a superb tennis player.  The Tour Tennis Tournament was ‘on’ and all La Quinta televisions were turned to the tennis action 24/7 –especially in the pro shop where exquisite tennis gear can dress one for success on the court or in your dreams.

Fashion Week:   

Fashion Week is also big during this season in the desert.  That grand pageant was about to begin with exhibitions and special events scheduled back to back.  The night I was there, my architect friend [JJ] from LA was able to obtain much coveted tickets to The Fashions of Leonore Annenberg at the Visitor’s Center at Sunnylands.  [The Walter and Leonore Anneberg Estate Sunnylands is a must see recommendation for everyone.]

Fashions worn by Walter and Leonore Annenberg and modern interpretations of those outfits by designers were the focus of the Nightlife series at Sunnylands Center & Gardens

Fashions worn by Walter and Leonore Annenberg and modern interpretations of those outfits by designers were the focus of the Nightlife series at Sunnylands Center & Gardens

The Fashion Show on March 13th was abuzz with the beautiful women of the desert.  Each designer shown was interpreting (in their own contemporary perspective) the designs originally worn by Leonore Annenberg.  Mrs. Annenberg’s original gowns were on display and a runway presentation of the new designs was featured.  Among those guests present was iconic black fashion model Betsey Johnson.  A martini tasting of infused vodkas and hors d’oeuvres preceded the runway show.

[The Annenberg Estate ‘Sunnylands’ tour provides a marvelous view into American history, but must be deferred for another column. ‘Sunnylands’ (designed by US architect A. Quincy Jones) now offers tours to the public.  Tickets are hard to come by, but are worth the effort if you know you will be in the area.]

Leonore Annenberg:

Leonore Annenberg

Leonore Annenberg

Leonore Annenberg fits into the Celebration of Women for her accomplishments in the world of politics and diplomacy not only as the wife of an Ambassador, but because she held the rank of Ambassador herself when she served as Chief of Protocol for President Ronald Reagan.  More importantly, she worked quietly ‘behind-the-scenes’ facilitating the movers and shakers of American history, as well as, foreign leaders and royalty in historic preparations/negotiations in her homes.

Female Finnish Conductor Coming to LA Philharmonic at Disney Hall:

Finnish Conductor Susanna Mälkki

Susanna Mälkki, Finnish Conductor and Music Director of the Ensemble intercontemporain, will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra on April 12, 13, and 14.  The Concerts will feature works by Poppe, Stravinsky, and Brahms.   www.laphil.com.

Scandinavian Festival:

The Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks at the Cal Lutheran University Campus begins on April 20th.  This is always a fun event.  Come meet fellow Finns and other Scandinavians.  Shop, taste treats, see friends, and enjoy entertainment.  Stand with Finnish pride.  Come say hello!

New Los Angeles County Jail Chief Is A Woman:

The largest jail system in the country has a new manager, Terri McDonald

Sheriff of Los Angeles County is an elected position.  As we know, politicians are noted for telling constituents whatever they want to hear.  We have learned to ‘filter’ statements and responses to questions, withholding judgment of our ‘leaders’ until we see their actions.

Lee Baca has mentioned how much he admires the strength and leadership of Finnish women.  Words of a politician—words of a diplomat—words to please a constituent—words to assuage a volunteer?  Proof is in performance.

Sheriff LeRoy D. Baca has just appointed a woman to manage the nation’s largest jail system.  His appointee (Terri McDonald) has earned a reputation as a tough manager.  Previously Ms. McDonald was with the California State Prison System where she helped institute major prison reform.

Other Women Warriors:

As I close this column, the ‘wires’ are humming with the news that Julia Pierson has been named the first woman in charge of the US Secret Service.

President Barack Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson during a swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office, March 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)




Ava by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Full Cosmic Cycle

Around LA with Ava®

Did you map your way to the path of totality of the eclipse this summer? Did you plan a special event, a meditation, perhaps on this unique first total solar eclipse that traversed America in 99 years? Are you in awe of interstellar happenings, looking to the heavens instead of downward at your daily steps, nose to the daily grindstone, your back hunched into your device, ruled by apps and emails?

Maybe it is time to look up more often, to be mindful of our place in the universe as nature takes its course.

Have you ever wondered why you ended up at a particular place you had not planned on? You could call it serendipity or “sattuma” in Finnish.

I personally was reminded that it was exactly 30 years to the date of the eclipse: the year was 1987, the date: August 17—the date of the “Harmonic Convergence”. That was the date that I learned later all the planets were supposedly aligned. That date my life took a dramatic turn that would last the next almost 30 years That magic date when all the planets were aligned and in a strange unavoidable force brought me to the place of a joyous path where oddly and unexpectedly the great love of my life would appear.

the year was 1987, the date: August 17—the date of the “Harmonic Convergence”.

Serendipity and “sattuma”– every day is full of wonder and unexpected surprises. The control freaks can try plan all you like to make things the way you want them, but a greater power may have other plans.

OK, truth be told in my personal situation, the friendship took 2-3 years before it turned to that OMG love. Those years took to reveal the character, integrity, intelligence, loving spirit, honor and work ethic of a man who would also become a hero to me and my children and entire family for the next 30 years.

Many of you who know I lost the precious “wind beneath my wings” this year. Our 30 year circle of life together was a blessing in every way on this cosmic anniversary. Like they say life is what happens to you after you have made other plans! So true, thank God!

If you have not already, dear reader, may you find your soulmate-hero on your joyous cosmic path!*

*(more happy endings in Finnish Happenings)

Is Mother Nature trying to tell us things?

The Eclipse

The Eclipse madness brought a full feeding frenzy with millions traveling to the area where already more than 12 million people were living in the “totality path”. The commercialization and hype of the event went beyond belief: t-shirts, mugs posters, iPhone cases to say nothing of the windfall for hosted home stays (some Airbnb properties went for as much as $7,500 a night).

Thank God the excited Americans made their way to be near the joyous event of the moon’s total eclipse of the sun that darkened 14 states for two minutes.

In only a matter of days after this celestial wonder and celebration later Mother Nature brought us to our knees with the horror and devastation of the triple-whammy of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. We are humbled at the fury of the natural world and left helpless in its cruel wake. As much joy as there was in the joyful communion of spirit of the solar eclipse across this land, the coming together of kindness and charity of the human spirit in helping ones fellow man was, and continues to be, on full display from every region of the United States. Kindness begets kindness and life comes full circle in the circumstances of our lives.

Things to Ponder Category

Have you ever wondered why Finns love and are so in tune with nature? One answer is obvious: Finland is such a breathtakingly beautiful country. The other may be that during the cold, brutal and dark seasons when nature wreaks its fury, the individual bows down to the inevitable to show reverence and respect for the elements and learns to live honoring what he or she cannot control.

Finnish Happenings

A wonderful Midsummer celebration took place at Suomi Kerho this past summer: musical performances, a sing-along, makkara and accoutrements (and comedy) courtesy of Miska Kajanus. A joyous feeling of a circle bringing us back to childhood brought out the inner child in all of us. Well done, Suomi Kerho.


-Decorated as Knight Order of the White Rose of Finland

On a personal note, a full cosmic circle with a joyous celebration – It was like yesterday… young girl untimely taken from extended family and beloved homeland, waiving what she thought was the final goodbye from the bow of a ship in Eteläsatama as her parents took her to life in a new land.

Full circle: a supreme honor bestowed by that beloved homeland in this special year, Finland’s 100th –Knight of the Order of the White Rose of Finland! For the little girl who never stopped loving Finland so much! So humbled and so honored….Thank you.

It is so interesting how after years go by something happens to complete the “circle”, “tie the bow”, cross the “t” or dot the “i” so things make sense or give closure to us mortals.

This is often peppered with what I call serendipity.

History cycles

My grandfather, injured and full of shrapnel from the war had been a life career military officer. He had been shot down from an observation tower by the enemy. Most of his time he had to spend on the front lines away from his wife and small children. He was always reticent to talk about his experiences as were, and still are many of the remaining Finnish war veterans. We all think about what our ancestors and family members went through in the most sisu-challenged times imaginable. To think of their PTSD (post-traumatic stress): no drugs, no therapy, just sisu,”suck it up” and move on, with memories, some too painful to deal with.

What a full circle gift on this Suomi 100th for our family’s future generations- like found historical treasure!

Recent full cosmic circle: A bundle of actual letters (kenttä-posti) from my Vaari at the war front unearthed in my late Aunt’s files ! Can’t wait to read, translate and share with readers who may be interested. What a full circle gift on this Suomi 100th for our family’s future generations- like found historical treasure!

7/29 or in the Finnish: 29.07

7/ 29 brings back the wonderful Finnish summer memory of celebrating my dear friend. Päivi Viren’s birthday. Päivi, a fantastic Finnish cook gave me the new edition of Keittotaito the seminal Finnish cookbook. I have the original 1948 version someone gave my Mother as a wedding gift. Though it never got used by her, the pages are yellowed and it looks like a wartime relic! On Päivi’s birthday by the Finnish lake, she showed me how to make muurilättyjä. (Great memory).

Lasse Virén

Speaking of full circle, Päivi and Lasse Viren were here for the 1984 Olympics. It has just been announced that the Olympics are coming to LA once again 2028 and we will look forward to hopefully having the Virens visit again. By the way, it is possible here in L.A. to make muurilättyjä on our own local Califonia barbeque grills (look for a feature in an upcoming edition of Around LA with Ava)

7/29 Helsinki 2017

During their recent visit (see the last Around LA with Ava column), Dr. Pertti Rintahaka and Diana Covius were encouraging, almost pleading that I come to Finland for their joint 120th birthday party. You may remember from an earlier Finntimes edition Pertti’s romantic proposal on the way to the Presidential palace on Independence Day. Their insistence seemed to have another level I was trying to sniff out. Obligations and issues kept me from attending their 7/29 event at the Kamp Hotel. They came “full circle: You guessed it: it turned out to be their surprise wedding! Congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple.

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.

Another happy event7/29 in LA

A birthday celebration just few blocks down the street here in L.A., Virpi Sidler hosted a party for her Bill Russell’s big birthday. (Both are former Finnish American Chamber of Commerce Board Officers-President and Treasurer) Many in our local community were in attendance including Tomi Hinkkanen, Jonny Kahleyn, and Mirja and Ernie Covarrubias.

Serendipity (sattumat)

Whether it is cosmic happenstance of just a fun coincidence (I vote for the former) it seems we are tied in with connections that just appear in our everyday lives. Just as an example speaking of our Helsinki newlyweds, I went to have something engraved on their wedding gift. As I love to hear people’s stories, the Swedish lady behind the engraver’s counter started telling me about her life. She told of memories working as a waitress long ago. As it turned out it was the very same restaurant owned by Anja and Eino Nurminen (The Nordic Inn) in the valley many decades ago. Just another one of these “it’s a small world sattumas”)

There is probably no better time ever than now to learn about Finnish history and culture. Wonderful compilations are available (English as well) in many Finnish newspapers and periodicals). The Embassy and Consulates website has published a series of Finland through the decades in English. I have been saving to make into a personal scrapbook I know my future generations will enjoy reading.

Another “sattuma” I just happened upon. One day glancing to see Finnish news I opened the Ilta Sanomat website only to see Olli Kivioja on the front page. His story was one of 100 the publication is featuring for the centennial. It shows him as an 18 year old being thrown into the reality of battle from day one. We who know him here in LA honor him for his service.

Olli Kivioja

Recently Olli sent information of the wonderful celebration of the Kivioja family clan at “Marskin Maja” Field Marshall Mannerheim’s Hunting Lodge that has been restored for celebrations and gatherings. The website provides an interesting historical description in English. Check it out and plan a visit next summer. http://www.marskinmaja.net/english/index.html.

There is no better time than now to open you heart and home to share the culinary delights of Finland with your friends. Maybe closer to Independence Day we can discuss Vorschmack, (Mannerheim’s favorite dish)

Dinner Time

Did you participate in the Global Happening called “Finnish Your Dinner”? People were encouraged to host dinner parties in honor of Finland’s Centennial. This simultaneous cosmic happening took place in cities around the world. I wish they would have called it Your Finnish Dinner instead. “Finnish Your Dinner “sounds like an order from stern parents signed on to the “clean plate club” style of parenting.

For decades I have enjoying hosting Finnish dinners for friends and family.

Hopefully you will keep this kind of tradition to share regarding your heritage. For decades I have enjoying hosting Finnish dinners for friends and family. A summer party outdoors with a nature theme and a bonfire- sometimes even a sing-along has been great for our Los Angeles climate long into autumn. (As I write this it is 95 degrees F at 3 p.m. ). A Finnish winter dinner with themes such as Fire and Ice, the King’s Road, Eastern and Western Finnish dishes as well as traditional favorites have been much enjoyed by newcomers to Finnish cuisine. (A cookbook is in the works)

The recipe featured below will serve you well in any season.

OmaMaa 100 Everyberry Bites (a.k.a. Berry Totality)

Oma maa mansikka Muu maa mustikka* This old Finnish saying begs the question why not share the berry joy with everyone?

In developing this I tried to incorporate as many as possible of the Finnish flavors of summer for all those longing for the long summer days around their isomummi’s coffee afternoon repast. The inspiration was the home-baked goodness and hand-picked deliciousness from her own garden, plus butter and milk from the neighbor’s dairy farm…. (Mrs. Hasala always used browned butter in her baked goods)

*One of the things that Finland shares with the world are these nutrient-rich berry superfoods that grow in the woods for all to pick and enjoy.

While fresh berries and rhubarb are a summer delight, this recipe incorporates preserves, frozen and even dried fruit which makes it a year round treat. This little taste of Finland is perfect to give your friends and family at a dinner party any time of year.

These little treats freeze well for unexpected company. Once defrosted, a sprinkling of powdered sugar “snow” is a nice touch.

For a “knock your socks off” presentation cut into rounds with a cookie cutter. Heat each plate in microwave until slightly warm. Place small ball of vanilla ice cream on top. Drizzle decoratively with cloudberry sauce from a squeeze bottle. (1/2 jar cloudberry preserves boiled with ¼ cup water. Let cool. Strain to remove seeds. Cool and refrigerate strained sauce until use.

I think we have covered every sweet Finnish berry, except the Mesimarja (brambleberry). If you can score it, a little Iittala shot glass on the side with mesimarja liquer will take you full circle!

Berry-butter layer

3 T European butter (of course Finlandia if you have it)

½ C. blueberries



½ C. fresh chopped strawberries

1 c. chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

1/3 C dried cranberries.

2 T/ brown sugar

Place butter in baking dish and put dish into hot oven until the butter bubbles and becomes golden. Carefully put mixed fruit brown sugar mixture over butter.

Have cake layer mixture prepared to put over it:

Cake Layer

1 & ½ sticks softened butter

1 C. white sugar

2 eggs

One Tablespoon Lingonberry jam

A dash of vanilla sugar or tsp of extract

1 &1/2 C flour

1 tsp baking powder

Sprinkle of salt

½ C. milk

4 Tablespoon lemon juice

Mix butter, sugar and eggs together; then the rest of the remaining ingredients.

Spread over fruit. Bake

Cool in pan for 10-15 Minutes. Flip pan onto tray. Let cool then cut into bars

As we experience fires, storms, hurricanes and even worse things that are out of our control as humans, finding goodness in ourselves and one another is important. Like we have witnessed in Texas and Florida, now Nevada and the giving spirit of those around us, let us be thankful. As small as we are in the cosmos and cycle of our lives, kindness counts.

Around LA with Ava®: Shades of May into Hues of Blue

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

“Koivut on hiirenkorvella” is always a big announcement of spring as the first  appear in the lovelies shade of green.

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.

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!

.. 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

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 Kahleyn Dieb

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.

Downtown Hues

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.

Wilshire Grand

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?

We all are dreaming of the colors and hues of a Finnish lake even if we may not have that experience this year.

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 !



Around LA with Ava® DEFLATED IN LA

Around LA with Ava® DEFLATED IN LA

Ava Antilla

A deflating and inflating spring in LA

Do you ever feel like the wind has been kicked out of you? If you are the Goodyear blimp, that is literally the fate you have been handed. The deflation of the last of the fleet has had the helium let out. A rip line was yanked, opening a section of the gas bag of the blimp. It crumpled to the ground in only minutes to look like a beached whale along the 405 freeway.

If you are the Goodyear blimp that is literally the fate you have been handed

This was a metaphor for how spring came in for those of us in LA this year. Many of us were feeling unable to catch our breath as life here sped along in the fast lane. Sometimes even in the grip of grief and struggle, life flows on without a speck of sympathy allowing you to gain your stride. Feeling like a deflated balloon as spring begins seems to be currently universal for many here.

Feeling like a deflated balloon as spring begins seems to be currently universal here.

The unbelievable historic rains this year brought havoc and damage even the dogs couldn’t figure out. One even came to church for comfort at the last Finnish church service.

The blimp

Anyone visiting LA and headed to San Diego or Orange County on the 405 has seen “The Goodyear Blimp” as it is parked right by the IKEA in Carson on your left heading south.

Anyone visiting LA and headed to San Diego or Orange County on the 405 has seen “The Goodyear Blimp” as it is parked right by the IKEA

If not there it has been hovering over our beaches, golf tournaments, football games, Rose Bowl, Rose parade, and LA Open for decades. Like a balloon and not like most forms of transportation in LA it has glided sweetly and silently over our City of Angels for many important events. If anything big was happening the blimp was hovering over it.   Sometimes you could just suddenly be in its shadow, look up and see our “mothership” doing her rounds. It was an oblong oval with rounded ends, kind of like a cucumber (not the European kind, but the shorter squatty California variety that requires peeling). At its bottom was attached a small basket-like structure, that is kind of like the metal drainer in your kitchen sink, called the gondola, open on the sides, just hanging on as an appendage for what was only very few people.

Did you ever wonder, who the heck is in there? Well, I do not have all the answers to the secrets, but I know one thing—it was not going to be my parents. A very kind, well-connected friend of theirs from their aerospace days, knowing it was about to be their 50th wedding anniversary, thought it would be such a spectacular gift to make arrangements (requiring all sorts of special permits) to surprise them on their special day.   She was ready and able to make it happen. What a thoughtful idea she had. But, then it was a good thing she asked me before making the plans. I had to tell her that getting Raija on that thing was not going to be a pleasant experience, neither for Raija nor her gifter. Just to get my mother on a commercial airline to visit her grandchildren required “high octane fortitude (her favorite: Harvey Wallbanger” put in baby formula bottles.

Deflation of Tires

The Goodyear Company also makes tires, other inflatable objects with air in them most of the time. With the recent weather, there has been a truckload of tire trouble, alignment and other car damage for many.

The Goodyear Company also makes tires, other inflatable objects with air in them most of the time

The pothole problem

Holes in the pavement on LA streets are the bane of existence for many on the roads. The number of potholes has tripled in the last year in LA. An example, heading East on Sunset by UCLA, the right lane is so full of potholes driving is almost like skiing the downhill slalom avoiding holes on your right and sideswiping drivers in the lane next to you on the left. Phew!

The number of potholes has tripled in the last year in LA.

It takes what seems like forever to get the local city governments to fix these potholes. There was one that was so bad that it needed to have a fence put around it. It had not been fixed for a year. So, the people in that neighborhood decided to have a one year birthday party for the pothole! They gathered around, decorated the fence with balloons and celebrated!

Damage from weather after a record amount of rain this year could cost California $860 million. Road repair costs just in our City of Angels is estimated at $55 Million dollars. Governor Brown just got his wished-for tax hike legislation passed. Now we will have a gas tax and fuel will go up 12 cents a gallon starting next January.

Bucket list reboot

Big problem for Big Sur

For many visitors to California, a must on their “bucket list” is a drive along the coast between LA and San Francisco along Highway 1. Yes, it is spectacular. Personally, it is preferable to be on that road headed north where the pavement hugs terra firma rather than hanging out over the ocean on those sweeping driver-distracting curves.

A big problem developed along Highway 1 in Big Sur where the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was destabilized after a mudslide. At least $26.5 million will be needed for that repair. So, if you are making plans, better to check road conditions. It may take a while (October estimated) to fix.

Big Sur where the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was destabilized after a mudslide.

Even the animals did not get a break this spring

Deflated dogs and whales

Californians love and coddle their animals like family members, especially their dogs. These California critters are not the hardy Finnish pystykorvas or huskies of Siberia facing the elements without batting an eye.

he whales, though, are having some difficulties this year including one that is still caught in a metal fishing frame.

Sohvi koira tried to figure out why the hillside slid down and the winds decimated the yard. Even more, she wondered where her master and best friend went. Her little Beagle nose is still sniffing around for clues. This is whale watching season and a late afternoon visit at Terranea with family sharing grief in a beautiful setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean brought comfort for this homo sapien. Catalina Island, making a rare appearance this time of year was even visible driving down the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The whales, though, are having some difficulties this year including one that is still caught in a metal fishing frame. A third one was spotted off the coast in the last three weeks in the same predicament.

Finnish Community

Our local Finnish community took breathtaking losses in recent weeks:

Ahvo Linnala

Ahvo Linnala

Ahvo was a leader in the Finnish Community, a businessman and President of Hauli Huvila for several terms. The service for Ahvo was literally “standing room only” as he was so beloved and respected. Ahvo served in the US Air Force and was husband to Liisa Linnala, the current President of Suomi Kerho and father to Laura Linnala. Ahvo was not only warm, charming and helpful to all, he was a real “man’s man”. He loved golf, sailing, fishing, cars and riding his Harley. His sendoff to heaven was in quite a unique urn pictured here.

Seppo Hurme

Seppo proudly served as President of the Veteraani Tukiryhmä here in LA for the last few years. He is predeceased by his wife, Seija. I shared this sad news with Olli Kivioja recently because they had developed a friendship since Dr. Kivioja’s visit to California.

Seppo Hurme

More about Olli Kivioja below.

Pauli Uskali

Sad news came from Finland that Pali (Pauli) Uskali had passed away. Pali, along with his wife, Marja were stalwarts in the Finnish community here for many years, first with Polar Design on Robertson Boulevard near Cedars Sinai hospital and then Design Finland, a showcase of Finnish inspiration and goods at the Pacific Design Center. They proudly featured Finnish design, and hosted events with Finnish masters. We in the Finnish community all enjoyed and appreciated their work here. Pali’s memorial service in Finland was appropriately on Friend’s Day (Valentine’s Day) in Finland.

Huge personal losses included three family members and four friends including my oldest “BFF” of 42 years in a matter of weeks. The wind was certainly knocked out of this writing windbag! “March Madness” is where college basketball games (67 of them) take up a whole month of television coverage. Every year in March I was a just what they call a “sports widow”. Now it is the real thing.

Olli Kivioja: an Exceptional Veteran of Interest

A tip of the hat to Dr. Kivioja, a remarkable veteran with a Southern California connection.

As we continue to honor our War Veterans in this column, the reflections of Olli Kivioja are here for your viewing as he was recently interviewed on Finnish television on the Day of Finnish Independence.

Dr. Olli Kivioja

Dr. Kivioja a remarkable Finn in many ways graced our local War Veteran’s event as a special speaker a few years ago here in LA at our Suomi Summer Seminar honoring the veterans. He is a former pilot, a published author, and the former Surgeon General of Finland. He served as president of the Pilvenveikot (Brethren of the Clouds) the Finnish Air Force Veteran’s organization. In to his 90’s Olli is an active and accomplished athlete, skier, marathon runner and smoke sauna enthusiast.

Dr. Olli Kivioja

During his visit to LA his appreciative audience included many of his remaining Los Angeles contemporaries-Veterans and Lottas who fought against the Soviet Union to preserve Finland’s Independence. Dr. Kivioja spoke specifically of the activities of the Pilvenveikot, types of fighter aircraft used in the Winter War and the Continuation War, as well as, events in Finnish military history and their effects on the current world situation including Finland’s role in the European Union.

We thank you for sharing your experiences with us here in Southern California and honor you on your service on this, Finland’s 100th year.

Inflation, Enlargement and Bulges

If Inflation is the opposite of deflation then spring has definitely sprung in our neck of the woods here in the City of Angels.

Have you looked at the LA skyline lately?

Even the buildings in LA seem to be bulging outward as the area has its burgeoning downtown. Have you noticed that the skyline is not just going up, it is bulging out in curvaceous forms while doing so?

The sweetest thing ever in springtime is the renewal of life epitomized by the beautiful baby bumps you see around town that signal spring. Gone are the days of the “tent dresses” as maternity wear. Here in Hollywood the female form, as female as it can be, about to bear a child is fashionably celebrated in every curve-exposing clinging fabric.

Spring Baby Shower

Attending a dear friend’s daughter’s baby shower tea was a joyous note in an otherwise sad spring.

A gathering of prominent LA families showering a lovely mother-to- be with love and gifts in the most gracious and fun event was just the antidote for a guest’s respite from grief.

As I write this I get the news: a sweet baby girl has arrived!

Inflated and Bulging

Have you ever been to more than one IKEA location? Once inside, you could be in Carson, Atlanta, New Jersey or even Vantaa in Finland and everything is the same; well except at the Vantaa store, you can order a beer with your meatballs.

You will not believe how the Burbank store has “inflated” itself. (Actually it has moved) .The restaurant there seats 600 people! This Burbank Behemoth takes up several blocks, has 500,000 square feet of retail space and room for 1,700 cars in its parking not. It even has its own street name: IKEA Way! It is the largest IKEA in America. You can really experience life in LA with the restaurant  window “view” seating featuring tall banks of widows where you can watch the freeway’s endless stream of cars whizzing by.

Good Goodyear News

Thought the last of of the blimps has been deflated of helium, there is good news: the flight program will continue with new semi-rigid dirigbles.The new draft will be 246 feet long and 50 feet longer than the old blimps. It will be able to fly at over 70 mph and will be able to take off and land like a helicopter. So the new aircraft won’t go flat.

As the last iconic blimps is deflated by Goodyear, the future is in its dirigibles which will take their place over LA skies.

If you are feeling like a deflated balloon like many of us these day, just remember to take a deep breath. Vappu right around the corner. You need to fill your heart and your lungs. You will need it to inflate those festive balloons and your spirit for Finland’s big celebrations.

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Around in Circles


AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Around in Circles

It’s here! Welcome to 2017, Finland’s 100th year of Independence. The collective excitement is palatable and unbounding as this year opens and we begin celebrating, learning and remembering.

Finland Centennial “101”

While this column usually focuses on quirky and sometime irreverent everyday life in Southern California, let us now also focus on making this year one of revering and honoring Finland in its 100 year glory.

Many in the Finnish community, including Sirpa and Teemu Selänne, are on board to honor and show our local remaining Veterans and Lottas how much we appreciate them.

One example of Finnish greatness here locally I would like to introduce you to through some photos is Lotta Elma Maisack. Elma, along with the amazing Sirkka Toth are the Lottas here who are still with us. Mark Salo and Veikko Kautiainen are among the Veterans we cherish.

It is appropriate that we celebrate Elma. Coincidentally, she shares a birthday with Finland: December 6th! You can imagine her level of Finnish pride!

Elma’s son Gary is often see wearing a T-shirt that reads “Finnish Air Force” as he attends events with his mother. Imagine yourself living Elma’s life as you view this photo montage and consider how a young woman faced what she did as a proud Finn “back in the day”.

Elma and her son Gary

With the current innovations and the heights of human achievement in so many fields, we are so impressed by Finland. But, let us remember Finnish independence is grounded in the dedication, determination and sacrifices of our Veterans and Lottas like Elma, who, during their youth gave to their homeland, where our greatness was born and still resides. Never forget.

The Circle of Life

Looking back to where Finnish Independence started and viewing circumstances to the present day is now timely. We are now closing the circle of 100 years from Finnish Independence and are many degrees and miles around the globe from our homeland here in our city of Angels. Perhaps it will bring perspective and insight. Though Finns of the younger generations may now say we don’t look in the rearview mirror; if ever there was a time to do so, this, the 100th year would be a good one for recollection.

Though Finns of the younger generations may now say we don’t look in the rearview mirror; if ever there was a time to do so, this, the 100th year would be a good one for recollection.

Goings On

The whirlwind of activities in the Finnish American community brought joy to young and old in December. From the Suomi Koulu fundraiser, Suomi Kerho Christmas party, LAFF Pikku Joulu and FACC gathering we all enjoyed our holiday Finnishness. At home this year after an epic Finnish prune tart and cookie baking session and dinner with the Haavisto family, Finnish Joulu pukki must have known about all the Finnish children in the house. He decided to actually stop in for a visit. Katja, Tapani and Rony joining our family made for a joyous Christmas Eve for us all.

…Finnish Joulu pukki must have known about all the Finnish children in the house. He decided to actually stop in for a visit. Katja, Tapani and Rony joining our family made for a joyous Christmas Eve for us all.

Suomi Koulu fundraiser with Finnish visitors, the Lius and Jukka Vuorenmaa.

All eyes on Planet Earth seem to tune in on our fair city and the beautiful Rose Parade over New Year’s. People camping on the sidewalks, bleachers at the ready since Thanksgiving, Christmas friends and family living the dream here in sunny Southern California our city felt like the center of the universe for its shining moment.

The Rose Parade was particularly fun to watch as my dear friend Mona (whose daughter in law is of Finnish heritage) and her family were honored guests riding in a rose covered carriage!

The Rose Parade was particularly fun to watch as my dear friend Mona (whose daughter in law is of Finnish heritage) and her family were honored guests riding in a rose covered carriage!

Driving Around LA recently

Driving North on La Cienega from the 10, the Hollywood Hills were shining bright with the sun’s reflection ahead. I had just left the hospital relieved that my sweetie’s surgery had gone well. At that very moment it seemed many things within blocks of my drive were happening. To my left Debbie Reynolds had just been taken to Cedars Sinai Hospital with a stroke. Straight ahead on Hollywood Blvd. a makeshift memorial was burgeoning on the sidewalks on the Walk of Fame for Star Wars’ “Princess Leia”, Debbie Reynold’s daughter, the actress Carrie Fisher who had just passed away. To my right, passing Lawry’s restaurant there was a gaggle of news vans with satellite antennas and hordes of autograph seekers for some event. Serious life and death issues all around but what was that going on at Lawry’s? Oh yes, it was that annual crazy LA tradition called “The Beef Bowl”. Just another quirky LA happening, this vegan-averse carnivorous carnival features the team members that are competing against each other at the upcoming Rose Bowl football game on New Year’s ‘eating unspeakably huge amounts of prime rib roast at Lawry’s, the restaurant that has been famous for this dish for decades since the 1970’s.

What was that going on at Lawry’s? Oh yes, it was that annual crazy LA tradition called “The Beef Bowl”.

This brought to mind an old high school classmate. There were three of us admitted to Berkeley that year; one was anointed (maybe it happened here at Lawry’s) with the nickname “Baby Beef”. This football player, whose real name is Loren, ended up playing for the Pittsburg Steelers and has at least one Super Bowl victory ring, if not more.

News vans, mini-skirted cheerleaders, paparazzi, the Trojan Band, and autograph seeking sports fans were all on hand for this testosterone fueled beef bacchanal, while most civilized westsiders were having a light spot of tea with chamber music playing in the background in one of our lovely hotels at this hour of the afternoon.

Broken Heart syndrome

While no one has announced an official cause of death for the mother/daughter duo, it is believed that Debbie Reynolds’ demise was caused from the Broken Heart, medically known as stress induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo syndrome, a condition that can strike even those in good health with no previous heart conditions.

The emotion of losing a loved one can trigger this medical condition, one that affects women more than men and can even be fatal. I was thinking of this while driving by Cedars Sinai Hospital where, in a matter of hours, Debbie Reynolds would succumb and join her daughter in death.

This sad Broken Heart scenario had just played out in my own family where my dear aunt Pirkko, recently lost her husband and within a couple of weeks, declined in health herself as she was missing her beloved husband. You often hear about people in long term relationships where the surviving partner follows in death in less than 6 months.

Having felt the pain of a broken heart must not have been new to Debbie Reynolds. Years ago she lost her husband to another woman whe when he left her for Elizabeth Taylor in an epic Hollywood story. Many were not aware that Debbie and Eddie Fishers’ offspring, Carrie, would end up as everyone’s heroine, Princess Leia, in the Star Wars saga years later.

Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds.

The pain of loss, stress and heart- related problems has been a part of Finnish heritage for many families, through evacuations out of Karelia, the loss of the fallen who fought for independence, and other sacrifices made. The rewards are of peace, love of friends and family, devotion and honor. When we have those things and feel the epitome of joy it is time for our souls to rejoice As Finns, the proud times in our personal as well as collective lives with the everyday gifts we have been given engender reflection and reverence. Perhaps that is why Finns revere their silence.

You have heard of long term couples who are so close “they finish each other’s sentences”. Then there are those who are so symbiotic, so telepathic and so connected to each other that words are not even needed between them to communicate. (Yes, it does happen)

Karjala (Karelia)

Did you hear that Norway had considered giving Finland a mountain for a 100th birthday present last summer? Halti Mountain sitting on the border with its peak on the Norwegian side was part of a proposal of moving the country’s border about (130 feet). What a sweet kind and neighborly thought that was of the Norwegians.

Halti Mountain

Gift to Finland suggestion

For all whose families came from Karelia, who fled on evacuation wagons from their land…A nice gesture in honor the Finland’s 100th from the eastern neighbor: how about a little payback border adjustment? What an awesome show of goodwill that would be in this political climate. Then there is the issue of that missing Super Bowl championship ring President of the Patriots, Jonathan Kraft never got back… Let us call it a draw.


This much loved iconic Finnish dish is a must for anyone’s culinary repertoire as we start Finland’s centennial. Like Finland itself it is simplistic beauty and perfection even for a novice cook.

Paisti means roast and Karjalan means of Karjala. It is actually a layering of assorted cut pieces of various meats with Finnish spices (peppercorns and allspice) covered in water or broth left to cook covered in an iron pot in a slow oven for many hours.

In Finland, the residual heat from baking ovens was the source for many wonderful dishes including jälkiuunileipä(“after oven bread”) and Karjalan paisti. Many casserole dishes that benefited from the long warmth that not only warmed Finnish homes but brought delicious life to the stars of Finnish cuisine that live on. In Finland nothing was wasted not even the waning heat of the hearth or oven.

People talk about “love” being an ingredient for a cook as he or she prepares a meal for someone. There are some dishes, Karjalanpaisti being one, which we make because of the love and connection we want to experience and share about Finland. There is a joy in the ceremony of taking down the Finnish Timo Sarpaneva iron pot, bringing out my favorite knives with handles made of birches from Karelia to trim the meat, the layering of spices and meat all the while thinking of Finland and its history while making it.


4-5 lbs beef, pork or lamb, cubed.

Whole peppercorns 10-20 or so

Ground allspice


Layer meats with spices and salt between in a Timo Sarpaneva or other enameled iron pot. Add about 1 C water or beef broth down side of the pot. Put on lid. Bake 3 to 3 ½ hours at 300 degrees F. Do not stir. The topmost morsels should have a slight “crust” peeking through.

The topmost morsels should have a slight “crust” peeking through.

Serve over mashed potatoes with the broth. Garnish or serve with a side of dill pickles and beets. Lingonberry sauce is a nice accompaniment.


It is Friday afternoon again in LA traffic heading up La Cienega with the Hollywood (now defaced to read “Hollyweed”) sign in view just like earlier, leaving after a visit with my loved one in the hospital. I am making “the rounds” going in the LA Friday circle of traffic again. A quick stop at the post office for mail.

Usually there is a big stack of mail; today there is only one envelope. Arriving home there is voicemail relaying the awful sad news from the hospital of the passing of my beloved. I opened the envelope I had picked up; it was addressed to him. It was from the hospital, a “customer satisfaction survey letter” asking him what he thought of the latest experience he had just had there!   Talk about “things to ponder” This could almost be funny if it was not so sad.

Life can be so cruel sometimes, but then again this is the circle of life we all experience.