AROUND LA WITH AVA ®: Spooks and Saunas

AROUND LA WITH AVA ®:  Spooks and Saunas

Ava Antilla

Ava Antilla

The Sauna; Part 2

Celebrating saunas and the Finnish sauna culture should be a fun adventure in this year leading up to the Centennial of Finnish Independence in 2017!

While writing last month’s column about Michael Fyffe’s exhibition and seeing that Risto Matti Ratia (son of the founder of Marimekko) was in attendance, I ran across Mr. Ratia’s web store featuring wonderful designs for sauna related products.  The site was so appealing that I thought: if you don’t have a sauna, you will want to build one just to have his cool robes, towels, and accessories.  Then, I smiled a subtle Finnish smile at the Hollywood fashion consideration and ‘hubbub’ so far removed from the Smoke Sauna world which begins with nudity and ends in peaceful solitude.  Rodeo Drive and the birch forest really are pretty far apart!!

Ristomatti Ratia bathrobe

Ristomatti Ratia bathrobe

Still, it amazes and amuses me where Finns find places to have saunas such as on gondolas, flotillas, and the like.  [If you have not seen Miesten Vuoro (a fine film), check it out.]  The last time I was in Finland, there was a big Ferris Wheel erected in the Marina where the Viking and Silja Lines base.  There was a “White Star Champagne Cabin” that could be reserved for special events.  Now, that cabin has been replaced by an actual revolving sauna!!  Yes, you can book it privately for a ‘reasonable’ fee per hour.

Film poster for Miesten Vuoro

Film poster for Miesten Vuoro

Other unusual saunas that seem to tickle the Finnish fancy include a ski gondola sauna, a travel trailer sauna, and (coming soon) a sauna moving around the US to honor 100 years of Finnish Independence!  These creative sites for saunas always seemed natural to me since my Uncle Jaakko, a Professor at the technical university in Finland, made a sauna for his sailboat that he sailed to and spent time in on the Mediterranean.  Real Finns are never far from their sauna!!

A DIY Saunalautta Raft

A DIY Saunalautta Raft

For those who are several generations from Finland, don’t be “spooked” about the sauna.  There is nothing scary about it.  We should get ready for the Centennial Celebration and the Centennial Traveling Sauna with a little ‘sweat equity’ of our own!

If you know someone with a sauna, ask if you can try it out.  No dedicated Finn would turn you down.  Most home saunas (like mine) take about 40 minutes to be fully heated, so some advance notice is helpful.   Burbank Spa on Magnolia Avenue in North Hollywood is an excellent, authentic commercial alternative.  If you can find a member to host you, there is a nice set-up at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

Sauna at Burbank Spa & Garden

Sauna at Burbank Spa & Garden

October: What Season Is It?

The calendar year in our City of Angels does have seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and “…more Summer”!  Today, there is a drought and the warm/hot Santa Ana winds are blowing.  Even though Fall is about over, the thermometer is scheduled to exceed 100º F.

Today, there is a drought and the warm/hot Santa Ana winds are blowing

Today, there is a drought and the warm/hot Santa Ana winds are blowing

Don’t you miss those crisp, fresh Finnish, East Coast, Midwest, Upper Peninsula, New England Autumns that yield the European Oktoberfest vibe?

There are ways to kindle that nostalgia and kill two or more birds with one stone!  You could turn on the air conditioner full blast and I will share my recipe for authentic Finnish sauerkraut (Hapankaali) from the Asikkala region I picked up from the local newspaper decades ago.  Unfortunately, that recipe begins with a call for ‘about’ 40 heads of cabbage!  Maybe by next year I will have done the math to make the ‘making’ manageable for both of us!  But, the immediate solution for your Finnish/Euro Fall experience may be just a visit to LA’s own Alpine Village. They have homemade sauerkraut, award winning sausages, and wait for it…–a treasure trove of Finn Crisp.  They also have fresh quark.

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LA’s Alpine Village

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One of my father’s favorite soups he continuously asked me to make for him since I was a child was Siskonmakkarakeitto (translated: Sister Sausage Soup–I know, go figure why the name?).  It was one of his childhood memories and many other Finns’ favorite, too.  The closest sausage to the Finnish featured makkara I have found locally is the Bavarian Weisswurst (veal sausage).  SSS has much of the same ingredients as your traditional lihakeitto, with sausage instead.  My father insisted [“se täytyy olle suurustettu”] a slurry of milk and flour needed to be added to thicken, making almost a makkara chowder.  It is tasty, comforting, and kid-friendly.

LA Happenings

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There is so much going on in LA right now. Halloween is everywhere.

There is so much going on in LA right now.  Halloween is everywhere.  The Halloween phenomenon has gone out of control.  Supermarket ‘shelf space’ has been taken over by Halloween superstores.  Investigating what these ‘super’ stores held inside, I found some child costumes, but the stock was mostly adult items for dress up parties and costumes, scary decorations, and exotic props like fog machines.  With such additions yielding more ‘coin’, over 6.9 billion dollars will be spent on candy, costumes, decorations, and the like this year!

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[It seems like Halloween is becoming bigger than Christmas which the secularists may be trying to wipe out.]

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In Los Angeles, it is easy to attribute the rise of Halloween because “…this is Hollywood”.  As the center of the film industry, we are used to seeing people in crazy, outlandish garb—with or without ‘star trailers’ parked nearby.  We do live in a constant world of make-believe.  I thought nothing of seeing two women dressed as ‘pirates’ walking down the street in early September.  Maybe they were pre-Halloween celebrants, extras off to a movie shoot, or just plain ‘wackkos’ —of no never mind, it is all part of what we love about our City of Angels.  It is OK to be whatever you want to be!!

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Actually you cannot be what you want to be or do something that ‘offends’ if you command too much attention.  For example, all the major amusement parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Knott’s Berry Farm put on special events and features for Halloween.  Haunted houses are competitive features done professionally with ‘homegrown scary things’ coming out to scare people.  The scariest entry draws the massive target market of kids.  This year, Knott’s Berry Farm had to close their top attraction down because the scary, deranged man-figure that jumps out was considered to offend the mentally ill!  This was not “politically correct”.  Protests followed.  The feature was closed down.  So—the concept winner lost the $ race.  Business can be a bear on the scary market!

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[To me, what is not politically correct is the millions of mentally ill living on our streets or under our freeway underpasses and bridges, having altercations with citizens and the police, going in and out of the jail system, and not receiving the care proper to their condition.  California used to have a large system of hospitals for the study and treatment of the mentally ill.  Perhaps someone should create a competition for the system design and funding for their proper care!  The ‘prize’ would be shared by so many!!  And, serious progress could be re-made on a really serious scary problem!]

Speaking of Politics

Is the 224 page California Voter Pamphlet for November 8 thicker than the Helsinki phone book?

Tthe biggest item stuffed in mailboxes this fall may be the Nov. 8 statewide voter guide.

Tthe biggest item stuffed in mailboxes this fall may be the Nov. 8 statewide voter guide.

Finnish Community Happenings

LAFF Monthly Meeting

A lively meeting of the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation began with a showing of the movie The Cuckoo.   Imagine a movie with three characters not speaking one another’s languages with us (the audience) in the same predicament watching them while having a film experience of human connectivity.  Such is a metaphor for the current global situation, n’est pas?

'The Cuckoo'

‘The Cuckoo’

Jeff Neff (Coordinator of Development and Culture for LAFF) brought the film.

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Next month Al Jokela will be the featured speaker!  Don’t miss it.

Friends of Finland Meeting

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The regular gathering of Finnish community leaders was enthusiastically ready to hear all of the exciting news of each other’s organizations, as well as, of the programs developing for the Centennial.  I know you all have been excited about the Traveling Sauna.  Just as this column was going to press, I had an update from Risto Sivula.  Here is his website: www.finland100usa.com.  Please check it out.

However, the big news of the meeting was the announcement by Consul General Juha Markkanen that he will be leaving us.  The veteran group of Finnophiles was used to the natural turnover of government postings.   Still, we all felt that JP, Tuula, Juha, and Maria ‘just got here’ which is the supreme compliment for the wonders they did for Finland and California relations.  They won our hearts and inspired us to go forward with JP’s enthusiasm and call for togetherness.

Consul General Juha Markkanen

Consul General Juha Markkanen

Consul General Markkanen, you have done wonderful work here.  The Finnish American community appreciates your significant contributions and support.  We wish you well on future postings.  May they be as successful as your stay here.  We look forward to welcoming you back whenever you visit.

Back to business: Heidi Luukkonen presented much information of coming events including announcing of the Finnish Golden Globe and Oscar entry of Juho Kuosmanen’s movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki which was just named the Best International Film at the Zurich Film Festival.

Juho Kuosmanen movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki

Juho Kuosmanen movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki

There was true excitement in the room as plans are coming together for the Centennial.  It was like a beehive of brainstorming.  What a joy to have Sirpa Selänne there sharing Teemu and her dedication and support for the pending plans.  A big hug and thumbs up for Sirpa on proposing a special event honoring our remaining Veterans and Lottas [‘stay tuned’ for an announcement when/if the details can be worked out].

Sports

I always try for a sports update when we are able –and Selänne equals sports to California Finns!

The proliferation of coverage has honored a retiring Southern California sports media icon –beloved Dodger Sportscaster Vin Scully.  His farewells and goodbyes were about as long [but well deserved] as his broadcasting career as The Voice of Dodger Baseball for 67 years.

Finns are often overshadowed due to their modesty and shyness, so I want to note the simultaneous retirement of the great Finnish sports broadcaster, nationally acclaimed Dick Enberg.

Finns are often overshadowed due to their modesty and shyness, so I want to note the simultaneous retirement of the great Finnish sports broadcaster, nationally acclaimed Dick Enberg.

Finns are often overshadowed due to their modesty and shyness, so I want to note the simultaneous retirement of the great Finnish sports broadcaster, nationally acclaimed Dick Enberg.  He had a long and illustrious career—just not quite as long as Vin Scully’s!

Finnair

Finnair non-stop flights between San Francisco and Helsinki begin in November for Slush –with Summer flights beginning in June.

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Suomi Kerho Anniversary Gala

A beautiful, elegant, monumental, and warm celebration was put together by Suomi Kerho in honor of its 60th Anniversary at the Courtyard Marriot Ballroom in Sherman Oaks.  What a warm, poignant event: a display of the history of Suomi Kerho, its Charter, a celebration of its original members, recognition of its past, and an appreciation for the current awesome team brought people from their seats in applause and reaching for their hankies with nostalgia!

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President Liisa Linnala brought the history of Suomi Kerho to life as she recognized the major players who have contributed so much to our Finnish American History in Los Angeles.  All in the audience sat proudly, basking in praise of the historic and present accomplishments and achievements.  All were warmed by the remarks from Consul General JP Markkanen about the state of Finnish American affairs here in LA.

Many thanks and kudos for the wonderful service and fellowship Suomi Kerho provides for our community.  We are especially grateful for the Finnish Club’s continuing support of our Veterans and Lottas’ meetings.  Let’s all get involved to learn, support, contribute to, and enjoy the offerings of our Suomi Kerho.  

Finnish Church

October 2 was the Saint Michael’s Day worship service which featured the Holy Baptism of Henri Alec Rodriguez.  A joyous congregation of over 50 were there for the first Fall event of the season for the Finnish Lutheran Church.  Dr. Veli-Matii Kärkkäinen delivered the Sermon.  It was wonderful to have Katrierrilli lead Pirkko Satola-Weeres welcoming everyone.  [We wish her well on her ankle surgery on October 26.]

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A real show-stopper that brought spine chills was the rendition of Amazing Grace by Lauri Helin, son of Pia and Jorma Helin.

What a treat it was to have Pikku Lotta Pirkko Liisa Mishenko (sister of Raija Anttila) in the Congregation with her caregiver Rhonda for the service.

Finnish treats and bites were enjoyed by all after the service

Tricks and Treats Redux

The traditional American Halloween involved little children in costumes and masks going to their neighbors holding a basket or plastic pumpkin seeking candy.  Upon the ‘target’ opening the door, the little ones squealed the traditional phrase “trick or treat” –meaning: give us candy or we will play a trick on you.  [The tricks threatened were like ‘soaping your windows’ or decorating your tree with toilet paper.  Tricks were mischievous, not malicious.]

Since this was not something Finland participated in in my youth, my first Halloween in the US turned out to be a real trick not just for me, but for every trick-or-treater who came to our door. Looking back, what we did do was really pretty diabolical (and not very nice).

I had been sick in bed with a case of the chicken pox –my face covered with big red pustules which, in turn, were covered in pink calamine lotion to prevent itching.  My Dad told me to put on my mother’s Marimekko (one with the classic pink dots on a red background pattern that matched my face).  My assignment was to answer the doorbell every time it rang and to pass out the candy.  What a nice way for the immigrant family to get to know their new neighbors, give them a ‘candy treat’, and ‘trick’ them with a case of contagious chicken pox!

Since that experience (even now), Halloween is my least favorite of the American holidays. There is an undercurrent of evil and bad guys run amuck.  Enough with the creepy clowns and their ilk.  I am always so happy to turn the calendar page after October 31 to the wonderful holiday month of November.

November features the beautiful and loving traditions of people coming together, immigrants and natives, helping one another in a new land with gratitude and sharing.

A Real Treat for You and Yours

One of the most fun days of research for Around LA for this Ava was my pilgrimage to Olson’s. This historic stalwart of Scandinavian goodness has been around since 1948 in Los Angeles.  What was, still is!  Olson’s continues on with new leadership and a new spirit.

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Yes, it is now possible to use a credit card, although I do miss those old cash-only registers that so added to the old world aesthetic.  Otherwise, you will not be disappointed.  Quite to the contrary.   Jill can answer every question you may have.

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My lucky day there began when I walked in the door to find myself in a ceiling high birch forest!  In answer to a question about Finnish candy, not only did they have Fazer Blue Chocolate Bars and Finlandia Jellies on hand with other Nordic treats, but Jill told me she had another large shipment on its way.  Check them out before holiday time.  They are aware of the Finnish Centennial celebration and will stock up on things Finnish.  We must do our part by patronizing this grand re-casting of an almost 70 year old Los Angeles ‘secret’.  There are some Finnish gift items there as well.  Stop by Olson’s on Pico near downtown for some early Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping.  Go to www.olsonsdeli.com for more information.

While at Olson’s, I was lucky enough to meet Caroline Nilsson, Scandinavian pastry chef.  Her business [www.swedcakes.com] sounds like something neat and sweet missing for a long time in LA.

Let the Festivities Begin-  a Sauna night, Spooky night or any time Suomi!!!

 

 

My dear, late mother used to say Finns will celebrate anything.  [Vaikka kissan ristiäiset = even a cat’s christening]

Start planning your celebrations –or be spontaneous.  Whatever your style, please put a smile on your face and feel love in your heart.  Enjoy your life, your family, and your friends —do something nice for someone you do not know!!   (e.g.:  I just secretly delivered a tureen of this soup to my neighbor and left it on her stove while she was sleeping—she calls me the “Food Fairy”.   Finnish Food Fairies unite!!!!

 

Triple S SSS Soup

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Sister Sausage Soup

Siskonmakkarakeitto Arin Tyyliin

Sister’s Sausage Soup Ari’s Style

 

8  cups water

1  ‘package’ of Finnish type soup combo of vegetables: parsnip, celery root, rutabaga, leek, and onion in equal parts (approximately ¼ lbs. each ingredient).  We are not measure here people—it is soup for goodness sake!

4-6  Yukon Gold [closest I have found to real Finnish] potatoes peeled and cubed

3  large carrots peeled and cubed

2  bay leaves

6  whole peppercorns

6  whole allspice berries

1  small vegetable broth cube

1  large beef bouillon cube

4  veal sausages (weisswurst)

 

1  cup whole milk

¼  cup flour

Parsley, chopped for garnish

 

Put first eight items in a large pot and simmer until vegetables are tender.

Peel casing from sausages and drop spoonsful into boiling mixture.

Mix flour and milk into a smooth slurry.

Mix slurry into boiling vegetable mixture until thickened.

 

Garnish plated soup with chopped parsley.

 

Serve with ruislimppu  rye bread or  Finnish crispbread with European butter to complete the experience

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: The Sauna Starts In Southern California

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: The Sauna Starts In Southern California

A benefit of being on Planning Committees is that you hear of lots of neat things before they happen.  Sitting on the Committee helping with plans for Finland’s 100th Independence Anniversary Celebration, I have learned that there are plans to introduce America to the unique Finnish Sauna Culture by sending a Sauna cross-country during 2017.  The launch point will be right here in our City of Angels.

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Realistically, many things could de-rail the Sauna launch.  All kinds of things could potentially quash the plans—natural or manmade disasters, controversy, a strike, politics, …!  Still, I think it is such a good idea that I would volunteer my own Sauna for the journey.  My Sauna was named the “traveling Sauna” by my parents who bought the Sauna shortly after emigrating from Finland to the US in the late ‘50s.  It was one of the first major ‘household purchases’ they bought once here.  The Sauna feels permanent, but breaks down into six pieces—and it moved with them through the years.  They moved many times!

When my folks retired, they left their prized Finnish possession in my care when they returned to Finland and Spain for their Summer/Winter bases.  My Sauna is electric, so we would need a really long cord for a cross-country trip!!

Sauna Secrets-Pondering A Local Conundrum

Because of my family’s ‘traveling Sauna’, I grew up as children do in Finland.  The Sauna is a natural part of everyday living—and a weekend without a Sauna is not a weekend!  The silence of the warm Sauna, the aromas of the vihtas, the bracing cold water ‘splashes’, and the peace of being alone and at home at the same time knows no national boundaries and flies no special flags.

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In a word: the Sauna is Finnish—not a natural part of local generations’ experience

One surprising secret I have discovered in much of the area Finnish American community is that there is hesitation, misunderstanding, embarrassment, and even trepidation about the Finnish Sauna.  In a word:  the Sauna is Finnish—not a natural part of local generations’ experience.

 I asked myself how many of my local contemporaries had actually had been in a Sauna—to say nothing of having the peaceful, cleansing ritual as an integral part of natural existence. The answer has to be: far fewer than I thought!

I asked myself how many of my local contemporaries had actually had been in a Sauna—to say nothing of having the peaceful, cleansing ritual as an integral part of natural existence. The answer has to be: far fewer than I thought!

As I pondered this ‘secret’, I asked myself how many of my local contemporaries had actually had been in a Sauna—to say nothing of having the peaceful, cleansing ritual as an integral part of natural existence.  The answer has to be: far fewer than I thought!

A Personal Revelation

Then, I recalled attending a special dinner party shortly after becoming a newly single years ago  where a popular producer/bon vivant properly attired in his velvet smoking jacket played host and his trophy wife orchestrated magnificent food courses.  A bit nervous at being “…out and about” in my new status, I had to think long and hard on how to answer the host’s provocative dinner party conversation-starter of a public question of the evening: “… what has been your second most pleasurable experience in life?”

… what has been your second most pleasurable experience in life?”

… what has been your second most pleasurable experience in life?”

I gave my truthful, heartfelt answer to the dinner guests.  I described a Finnish Sauna with the beauty of the lake, the silence (except for the occasional fish jumping), the warmth exuded by the rocks, the light scent of the birch switches soaking in the water bucket.  Sitting on the beautiful hand-made/hand-loomed laudeliina watching the never-ending sunset over a mirror-like lake on a perfect midsummer night, the exquisite beauty of nature at that very moment spelled perfection to me—and still does.

I described the memory of a 10 year old sent alone to visit my homeland for the Summer with Uncle Jarmo and Aunt Kaija. 

The conversation that night stopped except for the many questions about the Sauna, Finnish nature, and how that ‘Maslowian’ peak experience became my retreat and antidote in moments of sadness or stress.  I may have subverted my hosts’ evening conversation plans, but many “Finnfans” were born that night—many of whom subsequently reported positive experiences visiting Finland and having a Sauna in the Finnish countryside by the edge of a beautiful lake!

The Sauna Simplified

If you have not gotten into the experience, it is hard to wax poetic about it.  The Sauna is really not complicated.  You go into the hot room until you sweat, go out to cool off, repeat as you like!  Throw water on the hot rocks if you feel like it!  Cool off.  Shower.  You have Sauna’ed!!  Time for a makkara and a Lapin Kulta!!  My secret guilty hydration pleasure is a glass of bubbly (White Star-with a strawberry) enjoyed out of an Iittala Archipelago champagne flute! Result: happiness, inner peace rosy cheeks and a big smile!

The Sauna is really not complicated. You go into the hot room until you sweat, go out to cool off, repeat as you like!

The Sauna is really not complicated. You go into the hot room until you sweat, go out to cool off, repeat as you like!

The Sauna Complicated

When you read about the Sauna in Finland, it is often described as a public communal experience.  Business and political meetings—and negotiations, are transacted in the Sauna.  If you are not Finnish, this seems counterproductive unless the idea is to get everyone’s defenses down!  I guess that is called getting down to basics!!

Business and political meetings—and negotiations, are transacted in the Sauna

Business and political meetings—and negotiations, are transacted in the Sauna

Truth Be Told

America is a Puritanical country in many ways.  Nudity is uncomfortable and public nudity is not accepted.   Those of us who have spent most of our lives here are much more modest than our Finnish ‘cousins’.  It is difficult to fool the initiated as a dowager friend of mine discovered when visiting Finland.  She spent over an hour in the dressing room pretending she had been in the Sauna alone.  Her hosts smiled knowingly, but were not offended, when she re-appeared with her neatly coiffed “helmet head” hairdo still in perfect shape!

Those of us who have spent most of our lives here are much more modest than our Finnish ‘cousins’

Those of us who have spent most of our lives here are much more modest than our Finnish ‘cousins’

If you have not “made your body into your own personal work of art” through rigorous workouts and physical discipline—or cosmetic surgery, you do not have to be an exhibitionist.  It is OK.  I have simple solutions for you.  [Two words = Big Towel!  Three words = Two Big Towels—one to sit on; one to wrap yourself like a big burrito!  Problem solved!!]

Sense and Scents

Food good.  Sauna good.  Food in the Sauna not good!

While I have heard of people strapping a roast to their engine block on a long ride here in California—and, I do admit to poaching a whole salmon in my dishwasher before the day a glorious, huge French copper fish poacher came into my life [more later, maybe].  The Sauna, food preparation, drinking, and eating are separate events!  First you have a Sauna; then you drink; and then you eat!

Part of the beauty of the Sauna experience is the silence and the clean aromas: the cedar of the heated interior walls, the birch switches essence as you flagellate yourself or beads of birch water drop on the rocks from the spray you create

Part of the beauty of the Sauna experience is the silence and the clean aromas: the cedar of the heated interior walls, the birch switches essence as you flagellate yourself or beads of birch water drop on the rocks from the spray you create.

Part of the beauty of the Sauna experience is the silence and the clean aromas: the cedar of the heated interior walls, the birch switches essence as you flagellate yourself or beads of birch water drop on the rocks from the spray you create.  These aromas—even fresh human perspiration, are part of the proper scents experienced in a Sauna.

[Warning: California Birch trees do not produce the expected Finnish aromas!]FYI You can purchased frozen birch vihtas in Finland but USDA customs may not approve.

Among the aromas that have no place in the Sauna include: dripping makkara grease, spilled beer, and young male ‘contestants’ creating their own ‘steam’ when left to their own devices—if you get my drift!

Sauna Food

Don’t get me wrong about Sauna Food.  Cooking with the best ingredients in nature and from nature defines Finnish cuisine.  Good Makkara as part of a post-Sauna meal is a match made in heaven.  [Please see “Isomummin Makkara” in an earlier ALAWA column.  Add a nice Finnish potato salad with dill dressing, homebaked Finnnish bread and an ice cold olut!! (beer)  Just be sure the cooking is done on your outdoor grill or indoor oven—not on the Sauna rocks!!]

Good Makkara as part of a post-Sauna meal is a match made in heaven.

Good Makkara as part of a post-Sauna meal is a match made in heaven

As a little tyke, I did take ‘brain notes’ on the best foods related to the Sauna.  Again, Isomummi rules!  Every morning started with a swim in the lake; then, it was time to check the katiskat (traps) for fish.  The two of us went off in a rowboat for the adventure.  She was most excited when there was a nice, big lahna (bream) flopping around in a trap.  She knew just what to do with it!

Next stop, the fish cleaning station on the shore where we went to gut and scale this flat, oval shaped beauty!  Isomummi was a concert pianist and her fingers flew in whatever she was doing.  That bream was cleaned, scaled, and salted in the wink of an eye.  The scales were large and looked like sequins from a mermaid’s costume to this excited toddler.

The salted bream was wrapped in parchment paper which was further wrapped in about 6 large pieces of newspaper forming a tight pouch.  Once wrapped, the package was dipped in the lake and put into the fire compartment of the sauna water heater.  After about an hour, the fish was done.  The newspaper turned to wet ashes.  Once peeled away, the parchment package revealed a delicious fish to be enjoyed later for dinner.  [I have used the same technique with a whole salmon on top of a barbeque grill. I added dill, lemon slices, and salt on the inside.  Be sure the salmon fits on the grill with the top closed. Takes about an hour to cook.  Let rest before opening.  A salmon I prepared with this method was a big hit at a local Chumash Indian wedding reception.

FINNS THIS SUMMER

“Midsummer” In LA

Literal Midsummer on Juhannus began with news of a “beached whale” on the shores in the LA South Bay at Dockweiler Beach.  Please do not make any connection to the theme of this column, even though the afterglow of a Sauna might make you feel like a ‘beached whale’!

The whale washed up right at the Hyperion Water [= Sewage] Treatment Facility.  Curiously, this is the premier parking location throughout the year for campers, ‘glampers’, and RV enthusiasts, themselves, for their vacations.  Go figure.  The next ‘premier’ stop going South is the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.   So, go figure some more!!

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Many were not able to catch up, including the ever popular SCAN Nansenfield Shrimp Fest

Official Midsummer seemed to come too early this year.  Many were not able to catch up, including the ever popular SCAN Nansenfield Shrimp Fest.  ‘Maypole marvels’ Mons and Anita were in Sweden in June this year.  They usually spend hours making the beautiful floral May Pole on the soccer field that the crowd dances around.  This year a floral arrangement on a chair was all that was needed to get the folks dancing.

Finns I spotted supporting SCAN included Virpi Sidler with Bill Russell.  Jukka Vuorenmaa was there with his crew in tow.  All of us enjoyed watching a wonderful Norwegian peeling his shrimp and adding his special Norwegian mayonnaise to his treasure.  He created quite a homemade delicacy before telling that the Norwegian Seamen’s Church in San Pedro has the secret mayonnaise for sale.

Finns I spotted supporting SCAN included Virpi Sidler with Bill Russel

Finns I spotted supporting SCAN included Virpi Sidler with Bill Russel

The SCAN Brits have the best kept culinary ‘stash’ for those not into shrimp: makkara!  Andy (the pleasant, dedicated caretaker at Nansen Field) was manning the grill.  These were not conventional bangers.  He made the best veal sausage with caramelized onions that was worth the drive from LA to PV.  Add dessert of fresh strawberries and kringle –what could be better?

Paal Berg, Erik Mikkelsen, Sue, and others made for a fun evening and a joyful celebration.  I can’t wait until next year.  I love being the Finland representative at the SCAN meetings and have had nothing but fond memories since being asked to represent Finland at SCAN by our Consul General Kirsti Westphalen during her tenure.

This is a great dedicated group of people who are lots of fun.  The SCAN location is just fabulous up there in Palos Verdes.  It is a wonderful party venue for all sorts of indoor and outdoor activities that is available to Nordic organizations at reasonable rates.  Check out their scheduled programs and events, as well as, the new Heritage Memory Walk where you can donate a personalized brick to a loved one in your family or create another special memorial.

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Anu Partanen Book Launch

What an exciting evening celebrating noted author and journalist Anu Partanen as she began her US book tour on her thought provoking treatise The Nordic Theory Of Everything.  Consul General JP Markkanen hosted an interesting group of local Scandinavian ‘movers and shakers’ to hear Partanen’s presentation on Nordic Values which elicited very lively comments from the assembled participants.  Thank you, Anu.  Your work gives us much food for thought and great grist for discussions ahead.

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The Ambassador Came to Call

Family weddings and other personal business brought Ambassador Anne Huhtamäki, husband Veli-Matti Mattila, and daughter Eeva (a newly ‘minted’ Medical Doctor) to Los Angeles for a very brief visit.

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We enjoyed a fun evening of reminiscing and learning about her life and the current situation in the Balkans

When they arrived, they brought “regards” from having spent an evening with Bitte and Jörn Donner at a concert in Tammisaari in the prior few days.

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We enjoyed a fun evening of reminiscing and learning about her life and the current situation in the Balkans.  The menu theme was meant to reflect places Anne has served it was probably too subtle and was lost. Because of the warm evening, almost everything was chilled : ahi tuna avocado boaths, noodle almond ginger slaw, poached chicken in a tahini garlic sauce, salmon Nicoise salad, baby lamb chops with roased shallots, fruit tart with orange flower essence.

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Ahi tuna avocado boaths

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Noodle almond ginger slaw

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poached chicken in a tahini garlic sauce

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Salmon Nicoise salad

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Fruit tart with orange flower essence

Dinner is served: from top: ahi tuna avocado boats, noodle almond ginger slaw, poached chicken in tahini garlic sauce, salmon nicoise salad, baby lamb chops with roasted shallots and mint

Dinner is served: from top: ahi tuna avocado boats, noodle almond ginger slaw, poached chicken in tahini garlic sauce, salmon nicoise salad, baby lamb chops with roasted shallots

Artist Daniel Fyffe in Helsinki–Tuonetar Opening at Makkaragalleria

I had been contacted by Bitte Westerlund about local LA artistic treasure and friend Daniel Fyffe.  She was excited about his opening presentation of his artwork in Helsinki.  Somehow, perhaps because I have an Uncle and a Cousin living in the same neighborhood as the Gallery, I ended up sponsoring sausages for the event.

LA based Kaya Kouvonen made it to the opening.  She is pictured with the artist.  You may also recognize Ristomatti Ratia, an artist and designer himself—and, the son of the founder of Marimekko, Armi Ratia.  If you missed the Helsinki opening, you will be happy to hear there will be a Los Angeles event sometime soon.   Let’s keep up the theme and have makkara refreshments!

More Makkara

There is always makkara around when it is Summer.  This year, the biggest thing at the box office on a recent weekend was Sausage Party!

There is always makkara around when it is Summer. This year, the biggest thing at the box office on a recent weekend was Sausage Party!

There is always makkara around when it is Summer. This year, the biggest thing at the box office on a recent weekend was Sausage Party!

‘They say’ there are two things you do not want to see ‘made’: sausage and politics!  This political season, there is a strange absence of the bumper stickers you normally see during a Presidential election year.  There are some “Feel the Bern” Sanders left over.  The few Hillary stickers around have a big H with a right arrow through the middle that looks like a traffic sign saying “…this way to the hospital”.

The most accurate ‘they say’ sign I have found is depicted in a photo I took at the Huntington Gardens parking lot last week that is pictured here.  Perhaps it reflects a general consensus.  In a strangely ironic ‘coincidence’, the name of a Senatorial Candidate for California this year is “Kamala” which means “Terrible” in Finnish.

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Can you imagine what Mr. Trump would do with that translation???

Fact checkers and political strategists must be multi-lingual today!  ‘Spinning’ that translation has its difficulties!!

As we begin to move into the big celebration year HAVE A SAUNA!!!  Relax!!  It is time to enjoy all things Finnish!

As we begin to move into the big celebration year HAVE A SAUNA!!! Relax!! It is time to enjoy all things Finnish!

As we begin to move into the big celebration year HAVE A SAUNA!!! Relax!! It is time to enjoy all things Finnish!

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Cookies for Fun—and Eating

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Cookies for Fun—and Eating

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Dear Reader:

Are you worn out from  shopping?

Do you need to keep houseguests busy?

Do you need to keep children occupied?

Do you wish you were a kid again?

Do you miss playing with Play-Dough?

Do you feel you have to bake something Finnish to make your end-of the-year complete?

All of the above?

Here is an answer for all your problems. It is so easy –and such fun!

This basic Finnish butter cookie dough can become your artistic medium for many fun versions and diversions. The beauty is in its simplicity!! Once you have mixed the dough, you can make a lovely platter of cookies for a gift or you can just throw a ‘blob’ on the kitchen counter and challenge the creativity of your children, friends, and or family.

It’s OK, I’ll give you’re a little trick that should win the first challenge round without fancy kitchen equipment, cookie cutters, rolling pins, or messy frosting. It is a quick “triple-play” delight (dough goes into thirds).

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: A Talk at the Tupa

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: A Talk at the Tupa

Following is the text of a presentation made by Ava Anttila to the Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation at the Pasadena [CA] Museum of History on October 18, 2015.

It is so wonderful to be here today!! The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation has a special place in my heart. Thank you for inviting me.

As a Finnish born/American educated immigrant, I have consistently sought the company of ‘Friends of Finland’ in my new home. I began my search early [age 7—-seems like yesterday!!].

I have been fortunate to have been consistently successful in finding others who cherish their Finnish heritage, ancestry, culture, and language. Actually, as a little girl, my primary challenge was to learn the new language everyone around me spoke—except for my Parents!

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Typically ‘Finnish shy’, I learned SISU before I knew how to spell the word—in either Finnish or English. Gone were the days of blond-haired, blue-eyed friends at the French School my Uncle ran in Helsinki!! I was a stranger in a strange land—my immersion French did me no good.   Now, I stand here before you giving a speech in English with three degrees from good American schools behind my name.

In other words, I am just like you and your kin who made the long trip, found a new home, and learned new ways. I was fortunate in other aspects, as well.   My Parents continued to use Finnish as the household language while they learned the words and ways of the worlds in which they now worked. Also, I soon learned that my American friends did not care that Santa was Finnish and came to our home on Christmas Eve—as long as he made it to their house before dawn!

Life happened.

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Looking Forward With Finland

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Looking Forward With Finland

Yes,It Is A Small World After All’

Finland is a fun place to be in Summer!

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Finland is a fun place to be in Summer!

My Finland trip this year was not for fun.   It was specifically planned to take care of business. There were issues to deal with, problems to solve, people to see to get/give information, decisions to be made, and important family matters, as well.   With so many things in motion at the same time, it seemed that my biggest decisions were when to leave Los Angeles and how long I could be abroad before California called me back.

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I know, those are nice ‘issues’ to wrestle with even on a business trip. I don’t pity me either!

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The return was easy for me when the September dates were settled for an important event that I really wanted to attend near Berkeley, CA. Go Bears!! OK, now if I can just leave before I have to be back in Berkeley! That, too, was settled by two invitations to two fascinating events in Helsinki which I could attend back-to-back in venues within walking distance of each other. The first day was a real ‘bear’ with 12 hours of meetings in two locations.   With all of the whirlwind, I almost forgot to pack—not that you can afford to take luggage with you with the airline fees what they are today.

Helsinki Home Base: Grand Hotel Scandic

Grand Hotel Scandic

Grand Hotel Scandic

The morning of my long day began early with the typical ‘free’ Finnish breakfast feast available to all hotel guests.   As with dinner the night before, it was fascinating to watch the enthusiasm with which the tourists attacked the smorgasbord that came with their pre-paid package. Even before they found an empty table, they hit the line with plate in hand so as to be one meat ball ahead—I guess!

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