Ava Anttila

by Ava Anttila

WOW!  This was a most jam-packed-event-filled month for your intrepid girl-about-town reporter.  Even though my feet never seemed to hit the ground—or my head a pillow, I found love, joy, and Finnish pride abounding with the happenings in our City of Angels.  

As the dust begins to settle, I can see amazing and wonderful things are beginning to happen in ways we can all celebrate.  Reflection gives us the ability to see the past, present, and future coming together with a definite synergy.  Perspective suggests that initiatives in our Finnish American community are about to take off in ways that are very exciting.

Mother’s Day

First things first:  But a few hours ago, I held my baby grandson as my granddaughter pasted ‘stickers’ in her ‘workbook’.  Their dad, my younger son, was in my kitchen preparing a Mother’s Day brunch for the mother of his children and for me.  As the big bald guy [stylishly shaved head] worked at the same kitchen sink where I occasionally bathed him when he was as small as the little bald guy [too young to have a full head of hair] in my arms, I had one of those OMG moments.  Poignant!!

As some of you may know by rumor or because you have been at my house for meetings or parties, a fair number of meals have been ‘hatched’ in that kitchen.  Until this Mother’s Day, I cannot think of one celebratory feast where I did not do most, if not all, of the preparation.  What a treat this was. Food and service were terrific—I could get used to being spoiled that way!

Still…the vision of generations operating in their own way in the same spaces tugs at the heart strings.  

My Ӓiti (who was in her bed in my parent’s quarters) had managed a smile when her caregiver brought her flowers in the early morning and when the great-grandkids came to say hello, but she could not know how grateful I was for her role in getting me to the Mother’s Day that was unfolding before my eyes—and in my heart.     

The feminine energy, the outreach, the nurturing spirit, and the quiet caring that make Finnish Moms special, remind us to practice what they taught us in our everyday lives.  Let us all live the values of outreach, nurturing, and kindness to one another.

Merry Month of May

Snow or no, LA Finns celebrate the ‘end of winter’ in lots of exuberance!

Greta Peck

There is not a month of May that Greta Peck does not come to mind.  She has been properly celebrated in the Finnish American community for a long time.  In May of 1998, the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce [FACC] created the Greta Peck Award in her honor in recognition of her lifetime labors and caring, generous support and service to causes she made worthy by her commitment.  The inception of the Greta Peck Award was in Marina del Rey Harbor at the California Yacht Club with a big Vappu celebration where Greta was donned LA’s own “Havis Amanda”.  [More about Greta later—her quiet Finnish ‘way’ is inspiring and worth emulating.]

The Scandinavian Festival at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks

This annual Scandinavian Festival event features dancing, food, crafts, and traditions from the Scandinavian countries.  It is always fun.  Finland is always proudly represented.  We get to celebrate Finland and to visit with our kindred spirits.

Ceremony of Flags with Joann Scott and Consul General Kirsti Westphalen at the Scandinavian Festtival

Veteran’s Meeting

The Finnish government honored several local Finns at the last Veteraani Tuki Ryhmä meeting.  Certificates and medals were presented to Lotta Sirkka Toth and Veteran Ari Anttila.  Pauli Majamäki and Henri Aspen were honored, as well, for their volunteer efforts. 

Veteran Ari Anttila and Lotta Sirkka Toth

What a special gathering this monthly meeting is.  Suomi Kerho graciously hosts the luncheon which honors our Finnish war veterans –these aging heroes and heroines who still live in our midst.  Gunnell Kullbäck prepared a wonderful pea soup lunch proudly wearing her Sisu tee shirt.  Our veterans and Suomi Kerho’s quiet support are so appreciated.

Gunnell Kullbäck prepared a wonderful pea soup

Vappu at the Consular Residence: The Creative Hub Event

It was great to take part of the synergistic Creative Hub event put together by Consul General Kirsti Westphalen.  Tomi Hinkkanen has posted a wonderful piece about the event.

The Creative Hub event put together by Consul General Kirsti Westphalen

It was like “déjà vu all over again”: reminiscent of events at Greta’s where she used her ‘drawing’ power to bring together people for good purposes, collaborative efforts, networking, and fun. The famous and not-so-famous all gathered in her lovely, memento filled home just because she asked them.  Greta’s doors and windows were usually open to the yard and trees with the Eino sculptures and the beautiful view of Beverly Hills in the background below. There was always a buffet arranged by Greta herself.  The traditional Finnish vieras kirja [guest book] was always out.

[Greta’s vieras kirja library would tell quite a tale—a real collector’s item.  In addition to Hollywood luminaries, Greta’s guests included political and business ‘movers and shakers’ from around the world who mingled comfortably with artists, photographers, writers, musicians–established and ‘up and coming’ talent she wanted to showcase and support.]

Greta must have been smiling during the Vappu celebration hosted by Consul General Westphalen which focused on the Creative Hub development.  This is what Greta was all about—this was how Greta went about getting things done: find a worthwhile project; figure out who was needed to make ‘things’ work; throw a party; have fun going to work on the project; celebrate good results with another party!

The Consul General’s party included 130 Finnish ‘creatives’ [creative professionals] who began the evening with a brainstorming session seeking to strengthen collaboration and networking between creative Finns and friends of Finland to facilitate the entrance of Finns into the California market.  Among the ‘resources’ the Consul General brought to the issue were representatives from Aalto University, Tekes Silicon Valley, Tekes Finland, the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce, Finnish Creative Industries in Los Angeles, and the varied and multi-talented guests who are regularly invited to Finnish Consulate ‘parties’.  In the official press release there is a statement: “At the end of the meeting everyone was encouraged to introduce themselves to anyone they didn’t know and to mingle and network as much as possible.”  

It was great to meet new Finnish Lutheran Pastor Jarmo Tärkki, to catch up with old friend Jim Koenig (among many others), and to get acquainted with the new ‘creatives’ in town.  In addition to FACC Board members Danielle Kauppinen, Virpi Sidler, William Russell and Christel Pauli, I was happy to sit with Riikka Jyrälä, Hauli Huvila President and Chair of the Suomi 95 event.

Consul General Kirsti Westphalen

The ‘creatives’ input of their visions, wishes, and ideas brought a great synergy with LA locals ready to be supportive in old and new ways.  During the event I think everyone got their creative juices flowing.  Consul General Westphalen really set the stage in creating the beginnings of a dialogue by recognizing the many parts that can come together and by aligning past, present, and future visions and solutions that can work.

Now, that is what Greta would call a real party! 

Cinco de Mayo

Finns in Southern California have an interesting first week in May.  Our big Finnish spring ‘blowout’ Vappu on the 1st of May is within days of the Mexican Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May.  If you made enough Sima after our last posting, you may have been able to add some tequila for a modified Margarita.  Maybe next year!!

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Olvera Street in Downtown Los Angeles

As an aside, I wanted to tell you about a fun event we concocted several years back.  The FACC put a twist on the annual Vappu celebration with a  hybrid Finnish-Mexican celebration we christened “ Silli de Mayo”.  It was a big success—or, so I am told.  [Watch out for those Finnish Margaritas!!  Herring taco’s anyone?? ]

‘Things to Ponder in LA’ Category

As a long term resident of our city of Angels, there are oddities I often ponder.  

As I wrote about Cinco de Mayo, I kept thinking about one ‘oddity’ I have observed for decades: the ‘taco situation’ near the corner of Sepulveda and Washington –a stone’s throw from the 405.  There are two Mexican restaurants next to each other: Cinco de Mayo [that is the name, not the date] and Tito’s Tacos.  Regardless of the time of day, it seems there is always a huge crowd at Tito’s which is on a side street and never much activity at Cinco de Mayo which has great Sepulveda exposure.

Cinco de Mayo Restaurant is located on Sepulveda Blvd, between Venice and Washington in Culver City

Heading north on this 5th of May, I wanted to check to be sure the restaurant named for this holiday actually had customers supporting it and celebrating the day.  Alas, no.  Things looked quiet.  One man was there.  The crowd lined up at Tito’s was abuzz.  I went around the block just to get a picture.

Tito's Tacos at 11222 Washington Place Culver City, CA 90230

Tito’s Taco’s has been around since 1959 and has an almost cult-like ‘destination’ following.  The tacos are crunchy, cheese laden, with a great salsa.  I know why they thrive.  But, how can Cinco de Mayo keep their doors open all these years?  It must be really boring and depressing to work at Cinco’s watching customers walk/drive by your door on the way to your neighbor when you both serve Mexican food.

Let’s move on to more food fun…

Spring Event for European Community

On a sunny Saturday at the end of April, I hosted the European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council [EASAC] meeting celebrating the anniversary of the expansion of the European Union to 25 nations. 

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Ava Anttila

EASAC is an effort by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to reach out to the European American communities through selected representatives who advise and consult with the Sheriff and his Department.  Once vetted, the representatives are exposed to the fascinating functions and complex components of the world’s largest police force.  They meet regularly with the Sheriff and his key aides.  The expectation is that each representative will bring the concerns of their community to the Sheriff and communicate their insights into the Sheriff Departments operations and objectives to their constituents.  The Consuls General of each European nation are invited to a luncheon meeting annually. 

The European American Sheriff’s Advisory Council celebrating the anniversary of the expansion of the European Union to 25 nations

Our Spring Luncheon was a culinary delight.  Each European representative brought national delicacies to share.  We had allocated appetizer, main course, and desert ‘assignments’, but people could bring whatever they wanted that showed off their culture.  Many brought favorite national beverages (hard and soft) for others to sample.  I marveled at how some of the Eastern European countries delicacies had a similarity to our Finnish favorite dishes. It seems that cabbage rolls and meat pie exists in many cultures.  Yes, I used the Sima recipe published last month—it was a hit! No one brought tequila but the Finlandia I put out did get used. According to the bartender, some used it to spike the Sima !

Sheriff Lee Baca and his wife Carol had a rare chance to ‘kick back’, enjoy some good food, and visit with friends in a relaxed setting

Sheriff Lee Baca and his wife Carol had a rare chance to ‘kick back’, enjoy some good food, and visit with friends in a relaxed setting.  In his remarks to the gathering, Sheriff Baca reflected my long-held sentiment that, despite its size, Los Angeles is really a “small town”.   

Each European representative brought national delicacies to share

Among the guests at the EASAC event were Finntimes Editor Tomi Hinkkanen and Photographer Jonny Kayhlen.

Meet and Greet

Two days after the EASAC event, another group gathered at my home. 

Bill Bloomfield is running for U.S. Congress in my District.  He is a successful small business owner running as an Independent who has gathered the endorsement of the likes of Senator John McCain, Governor Pete Wilson, Mayor Richard Riordan, and LA District Attorney Steve Cooley, ….

Bill Bloomfield is running for U.S. Congress

Since Bill once lived in our neighborhood, we invited all of the neighbors plus friends from other areas in Bill’s 33rd District.  A “Meet and Greet” is just what it sounds like.   We had an interesting and accomplished group assembled—especially for a Tuesday evening.  Despite the ‘after-dinner’ start, we had food and drink to ease the ‘meet’ part of things.  Bill did a nice job of ‘greeting’ the guests with a briefing on his reasons for running and his positions on important issues before taking any and all questions.  He actually answered the questions—a new kind of politician.

Finnish Consul General Kirsti Westphalen and her husband Abdullatif  Mouffakir  were invited and attended to watch American democracy in action.  I hope they got to see how in LA and the USA communities come together in order to make things happen for the ”greater good”.  We open our homes (–and, on occasion, our minds) for direct interaction, for communication, and for debate.    

Stranger-than-fiction factoid: Bill is my former husband.

Hubs Roll On

After the Consulate  Hub event, we had scheduled a two day visit from an Aalto University  [Kauppakorkeakoulu] student, Anu Koivistoinen.  Anu is in San Diego for an abroad semester. What fun to pick her up at Union Station and to hear about her life as we began a “whirlwind tour”* of LA.  

Anu’s  tuliaiset was homemade korvapuusti.  In our house, Finnish cinnamon rolls are a ‘guaranteed reservation’ for future accommodations!!  More importantly, a young lady’s caring thoughtfulness is another reminder of the joy, spontaneity, and goodness that Finland’s young intellectuals and talents bring with them to America.  What a blessing we receive when we share our home, our time, our local knowledge, and some of our life experience, if even briefly.

It is extra-special when showing people around LA you actually experience a “celebrity sighting” which happened with Anu. While making a stop at the Farmer’s Market we actually saw current Dancing with the Stars finalists Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas.

*Whirlwind tour:– definition and recommendations to be featured as a topic of another Around LA with Ava column.

Reflections on the Creative Hub

After a last minute ‘photo opp’ at Olvera Street prior to Cinco de Mayo, Anu boarded her train back to her studies and new friends in San Diego.  When she returns to Finland to finish her studies she will go with the knowledge and comfort that should she ever want to return, she has a place to begin—even without korvapuusti!

Seriously, we had a chance to get to know someone new, to exchange ideas, to share information, to get and give advice, and to provide support.  And, we had fun!  Is this not the idea of how the Creative Hub can go forward?

The “Creative Hub” presents a chance to be connected.  Why not be open to host a visitor, share a meal, make a place to house someone, create an event, listen to someone’s dreams, think “outside the box”, collaborate to help, or whatever. This is also a great way to refresh your Finnish language skills, learn about current events in Finland or introduce the younger generations to their Finnish ‘cousins’.  Open your minds, open your hearts, open your homes to better our community.  When we share, we strengthen our Finnish pride.  And, Greta’s spirit will come to your party!!

Reflections on Mother’s Day

For your beauty of spirit, love, caring, integrity, intellect, accomplishments, and sisu–thank you, Ӓiti

'Maria' by Jonny Kahleyn