Women

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:

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.

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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.

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Bitte Westerlund

And…:

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.

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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)

YOU GO GIRLS!!!

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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AROUND LA WITH AVA: Is It What It Is ?

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

As the Summer season unfolds around us and we head to the beach, to the mountains, to the back yard, or–if we are really fortunate, to Finland, we get a chance to take a step back to look at the fast-paced world around us.   Here in our City of Angels, every now and again, it is beneficial to put our feet up, to take a deep breath, and to step off of the rocket ship that hurdles us ahead at breakneck speed.

Los Angeles at sunrise

Los Angeles at sunrise

A favored local adage [almost as ubiquitous as the Kardashians] has been “It is what it is”.  You see it on t-shirts, hear it around the water cooler, and have it served up with your martini during happy hour.  Unfortunately, for the last several years it has been part of the lexicon of the many health care workers making pronouncements as my loving family members were treated.  It is not a solution and it does not offer solace; it is a sad, un-Sisu like surrender.

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AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MAY-nia

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MAY-nia

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??   Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces..

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??
Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces..

Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces, ylioppilaislakit [graduation caps] on their heads, and the promise of Summer in their souls. Add some homemade Finnish Sima, some Spanish Cava, some Danish Carlsberg on tap, some California Savingon Blanc, and a ‘groaning board’ buffet of homemade traditional Finnish foods. The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.   Now, you have the prospects of a flurry of fun reminiscent of the best of times in our homeland.

The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.

The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.

On 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole. The air was as fresh as at a Finnish lakeside cabin. The sun was pleasantly warm. The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests. And, people responded in such an enthusiastic way that reservation requests exceeded normal capacity in such numbers that a ‘waiting list’ was established before an imaginative Board member suggested ‘phasing’ arrival times so we could welcome all who wished to attend.

n 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole.

n 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole.

And, so, suddenly my festively decorated back yard was ‘Chock-Full-of-Finns’ having fun! To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!”

To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!”

To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!” (double click to view larger photo)

The smile on my face stemmed from the vivid recollections of 30 years of the FACC facilitating the camaraderie and networking of Finns from all walks of life and the sharing of the Suomi traditions that bind us together as cultural kin.   My muse, the late Greta Peck, taught me that people love a party. She knew that it is hard to fuss when you are having fun. And, the FACC was back to doing that most satisfying of FACC business! I am sure Greta was smiling too.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests.

Spring On Steroids?

Does it seem to you like this May has been a “Spring on Steroids”? Somehow, since Easter, there has not been a moment to sit down or to catch a breath.

Sisu Is In the Heart, FACC’s Vappu, Mothers’ Day, Cinco de Mayo, the Scandinavian Festival at Cal Lutheran, Suomi Kirkko services/coffees, the Consulate General’s Friends of Finland planning meeting, Finnish elections, garden tours, mandated Fire Department brush clearance, venue openings, spring festivals of all kinds—all leading up to Memorial Day weekend which is celebrated early this year! It is like flowers bursting open and blooming all over the place.

And, it seems, half of the people on this planet have May birthdays!!

Annual Scandinavian Festival

Finland stood proud as Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers enthusiastically represented Finland at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks.

Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks

Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks

FACC Board member Joann Scott had her traditional Travel By Scott booth to help us all plan our Summer trips.

Word went out about the FACC Vappu Mayday party and registrations began to pour in.

Friends of Finland Working Meeting

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence. A group of active Finns participated by sharing news of their programs for the remaining year, as well as, hearing preliminary plans for Finland’s 100 Year Celebration.

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence (double click to view larger photo)

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence (double click to view larger photo)

Sima

What does every Finn have on mind in late April? It is time to make Sima, of course!

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For whatever reason, the lemon trees in our City of Angels have had a rough time. Well, at least mine did. This was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window. [Perhaps it’s the drought –or, maybe, we are being too conscientious in listening to our Governor’s pleas to conserve water. At times it seems he wants the whole state to become his last name!]

his was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window.

his was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window.

This year I could have used our usual bumper lemon crop. With the FACC Vappu Party pending, much Sima was needed—if our calculations were correct, we would need up to 10 gallons [= 24 1.5 liter bottles] to serve the large crowd we hoped would attend. There was a lot of mathematics, metric conversions, and logistics to make the Sima production work. Considerable advance planning had to go into unconventional concerns such as coming up with a sufficient quantity of empty 1.5 liter wine bottles (and corks) in which to ferment and store the tasty lemon product, once produced. After all, someone had to make full bottles empty so they could be sterilized and re-filled—right? It is tough work, but someone had to do it in a timely manner. Oh, the sacrifices we make to serve Finland!!

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water–peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray.  Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons!   Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process.

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water--peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray.  Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons!   Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process.

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water–peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray. Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons! Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process (double click to view larger photo)

This year’s project involved most every large pot on the premises ‘cranking’ on a 6 burner stove. At times I felt like one mad Finnish scientist with pots bubbling on burners, sheets of calculations, piles of bottles and corks to be sterilized, and lots of late night steamy windows suggesting to neighbors and passers-by that something nefarious was happening in the kitchen!

Sisu

On the Sunday preceding the FACC Vappu party, I had agreed to host a ‘Sisu Circle’ for the Sisu Is In the Heart project. This unique project is sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland and Finlandia Foundation National [and others].   It seeks to weave together expressions shared in discussions in ‘story circles’ built around Finns and Finnish-Americans in communities around the United States. The premise of sharing Sisu stories brings focus on the importance of communicating with younger generations about the concept and the experience of Sisu.

Sisu Is In the Heart,

Sisu Is In the Heart (double click to view larger photo)

Park Cofield (Project Director) and Saara Wacklin* (Community Manager) orchestrated a wonderful program which included a presentation on the history of Finnish vaivaisukot [“pauper statues”]. Park brought the statue puppet of his own Grandfather he is working on as part of the project.

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After lively, focused discussions took place, the ‘circles’ were combined into one ‘community circle’ at the end to share the day’s experience and revelations.

Once briefed on the Sisu project, progress, and plans, the large group broke up into three individual ‘story circles’ under project leaders.   After lively, focused discussions took place, the ‘circles’ were combined into one ‘community circle’ at the end to share the day’s experience and revelations. Consul General Markkanen was present –as were many other thought and action leaders from the Finnish community.

*Saara was Producer of The Snow Leopard’s Den in Santa Monica last Fall.

Closing the Loop

The Sisu Circle came ‘full circle’ in the following weekend’s Vappu Event. All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band. The Sima, champagne, and Carlsberg may have helped a bit!

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band.

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band.

Park and Saara were present as guests, along with Consul General JP Markkanen and his wife Tuula, both among many donning their ylioppilaislakit. One enterprising American graduate wore his ‘mortar board’ as a tribute to his Finnish kin’s tradition. Another Helsinki tradition is for a student to climb the Havis Amanda statue to put a ylioppilaslakki on her head—we did not attempt to recreate that feat even though we heard that this year the cap arrived by ‘helicoptering’ drone!

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens..

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens..

Taking a Pass

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister. A few years back, a similar intimate gathering with Margaret Thatcher was so memorable I really wanted to say ‘yes’ to the invitation despite the awkward timing. This was an event of the revered Pacific Council on International Policy where discretion is the rule and decorum is the standard for events.

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister.

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister.

Our City of Angeles draws our national political figures [not just because we are the ATM of American politics] and world leaders of every ilk. LA provides the ultimate stage (literally and figuratively) to promote and publicize their message in what often feels like the center of the universe. The opportunities to experience, meet, and interact are endless here. As far as we are from the Continent, getting to hear and interact directly with world leaders without the blather and filter of media is always a refreshing experience.

The rumblings of escalating attendance numbers from Eila (registrar pro temp) after the Scandinavian Festival for the pending FACC Vappu event were so overwhelming that I said “no” to the lure of world political luminaries—there were gallons of Sima and a mountain of Finnish food to prepare!!

Other Pleasant Distractions

In addition to the big FACC Vappu production, the SCAN Foundation meeting in Palos Verdes was gearing up for important happenings leading up to their Summer activities, including their big Midsummer Party on June 27th.   As Finland’s representative on the SCAN Board for the last several years, it was important for me to attend the scheduled planning meeting to give my “two cent’s worth”.

On arriving home after the SCAN meeting, I checked the 10 gallons of bottled Sima and found the raisins rising in the bottles temporarily ‘stored’ on the dining room table. To my chagrin, those many bottles had started to pop their corks and spilled Sima was leaking off of the table and on to the hardwood floor!

After reattaching the corks, washing off the many bottles, and cleaning up the table and floor mess, I decided that, if the dining room chandelier was not to be obliterated by popping corks, the 24 1.5 liter bottles needed to be moved to the unheated, fully tiled, handicapped bathroom with a floor drain just off of the dining room. The planned fermentation had moved to the point where it was OK to put the Sima under refrigeration—but not tonight!

Alek Hautanen

Alek Hautanen

The next day, the Alek Hautanen Band members came to discuss the FACC expectations for their pending Vappu engagement and to check out the premises for optimum performance. As we sat around the [neat and cleaned] dining room table with our coffee and cookies discussing Vappu music, strange disconcerting popping sounds came from the nearby bathroom. Of course, the ‘noise’ caught everyone’s attention. Even with what I knew, I could not keep from snickering!

Those sweet young men were amused—and helpful, as we scrambled to save the ‘exploding’ bottles and re-apply the corks. All were maniacally rescued and refrigerated.

That madcap episode was like an old “I Love Lucy” episode!

A Super Soldier Celebrates

It is one thing to discuss Sisu as a cultural trait in a sociological study of our forefathers [and mothers]; it is an altogether different matter to celebrate one of those who defined the trait by their actions and lives.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday. [We have two Lottas, too.] Mark is not only a Finnish War Veteran, he is an American War Veteran too, having served in the Korean conflict. Talk about blooming where you are planted –some people just take care of business!

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The event was hosted by Risto and Robert Salo and families at the iconic 1920’s Tam O’Shantor Restaurant in Los Feliz, just a few blocks from Mark and Eeva-Liisa’s home.

The invitation asked for no gifts, but a message for a remembrance book was welcomed. Of course, I could not resist honoring that request. [My message to Mark is in the Afterword.]

The event was hosted by Risto and Robert Salo and families at the iconic 1920’s Tam O’Shantor Restaurant in Los Feliz, just a few blocks from Mark and Eeva-Liisa’s home. The loving and proud Salo clan [including Mark’s brother Sulo and Sulo’s daughter Linda] arranged an homage to Mark that included presentation of a flag stantion by Pauli Majamaki of Suomi Kerho to Mark for his role as one of the original Finnish Club founding members. The birthday cake featured beautifully depicted Finnish and American flags, as well.

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The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for –as is the way they raised their children, lived their lives, and honor their countries –a fine and proud legacy indeed. It was such an honor and joy to be included as a guest at this occasion.

The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for...

The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for…

Party On—If the Weather Holds

Stepping out of the dark, traditional, clubby Scottish Tam O’Shantor ambiance that was a cool respite from what had been our very dry, very hot LA normal, I suddenly faced a knock-out downpour of rain!   This ‘hostess-to-be’ [tomorrow!] for the Sisu Is In The Heart event planned as a garden venue because of the large number of guests experienced a little ‘gear-switching mania’ running down the 101 Freeway to get back to work!

FACC Vappu Event

Looking back, it was amazing that just six days after the Sisu Is In The Heart program, the FACC hosted one of the most special and touching assemblies the Finnish community has experienced in many years. What a week!!! We got to study Sisu, to celebrate the longevity of a Sisu soldier, and to experience the need for Sisu as we geared up for the happy hoards who arrived to welcome Spring in a wondrous Finnish way. The Finnish blue skies and the generations of smiles enjoying their Finnish heritage at work made me smile!!

Sometimes it is fun to be a Finn.

Creative Solutions to Joyous Problems

The FACC Vappu party was so popular that a waiting list became necessary. As noted, that wonderful problem was solved by creating a ‘second shift’.

President of the FACC Michael Berlin welcomed the multi-generation crowd and introduced Consul General and Mrs. JP Markkanen.   Dr. Berlin gave background about Vappu history and traditions. As hostess, I shared local history of past events and remembered our own “Havis Amanda”, the late Greta Peck, who is always in our hearts.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and Vappu were linked for decades because of Greta. For so many years, Greta Peck was our gracious and lovely hostess who made sure Vappu was properly celebrated by welcoming us all to her home.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and Vappu were linked for decades because of Greta. For so many years, Greta Peck was our gracious and lovely hostess who made sure Vappu was properly celebrated by welcoming us all to her home.

The revitalized FACC set out to rekindle a great tradition that was always an energizer for Finnish pride and participation. I tried to duplicate much of the menu we had at Greta’s home in years past, including my grandmother’s Pih-mummin Makkara and Finnish potatoes with dill which Greta used to ask me to make ‘back when’.

One of many memorable Vappu celebrations at Greta’s was one where a beloved and productive Consul General from the past, Maria Serenius, met the Finnish community for the first time during her tenure here. The new Consul General learned quickly that there were enthusiastic Finns around LA and that the FACC was a reliable ally for promoting Finland by both word and deed.

One of many memorable Vappu celebrations at Greta’s was one where a beloved and productive Consul General from the past, Maria Serenius, met the Finnish community for the first time during her tenure here.

[Coincidentally, I received an e-mail from Ambassador Emeritus Serenius just after Vappu. While she is now officially retired after serving as Finland’s Ambassador to Turkey and Finland’s Ambassador to Latvia, she continues to serve Finland in an advisory role on Mideast affairs.]

More Vappu

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie. The Setelä’s kindly provided exciting Angry Birds raffle prizes. The Rovio created Angry Birds also had a busy month having participated at the 137th White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, DC. Over 30,000 enjoyed those White House lawn festivities, especially posing with the Angry Birds characters.

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie.

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie.

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!  In good Finnish tradition, Rovio is now focused significantly on educational issues while cooperating with NASA and the National Geographic Society in making learning fun and engaging for children.

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!

Finnish actress Nina Sallinen served as the FACC’s Vappu Raffle ‘Celebrity Prize # Drawer’ and ‘Presenter’ for the Raffle.   Our Star added a Hollywood spark and a touch of class that put an even bigger smile on the winners’ happy faces!

Mothers’ Day at the Finnish Lutheran Church

A special Mothers’ Day themed service was held with the Reverend Jarmo Tarkki officiating at Suomikirkko in Santa Monica. This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.   Readers included Anita Finifrock in English and Pirkko Bastecki in Finnish.

This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.

This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.

Finnish Mothers are revered and respected. The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother (after Norway, this time). The study rates 179 countries based on 5 indicators related to maternal health, education, income levels, and status of women. The US ranked 33rd.

The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother.

The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother.

AFTERWORD

Vappu 2015 Menu

Keisarinsalaati Suomalaiseen Tapaan (Finnish Caesar Salad)

Makarooni Salaati (Macaroni Salad with Olives)

Kaalisalaatti (Green Cabbage Salad)

Musta Papupaprikasalaatti (Black Bean Salad with Red, Yellow, and Orange Peppers)

Sillisalaati Kurrikastikkeessa (Curried Herring with Green Grapes and Red Onions)

Ruisleipä Viipalietä (Buttered Rye Bread)

Keitetty Lohi Tilli Kastikkeen Kera (Poached Whole Salmon with Arugula Pesto Dill Sauce)

Savustettu Kinkku (Smoked Ham)

Pih-mummin Makkara Ja Sinappi (Tomato, Cheese, & Onion Stuffed Pork Smoked Sausage with Mustard)

Pih-mummin Makkara Ja Sinappi (Tomato, Cheese, & Onion Stuffed Beef Smoked Sausage with Mustard)

Suomalaiset Paistetut Perunat (Finnish Pan Fried Potatoes with Dill)

Pinaatti Piirakka (Spinach Pie)

Purjo Laattikko (“Leek Box” Casserole)

Porkkanat Kastikkeessa (Carrots in Brown Butter with Balsamic Sauce)

Juustotarjotin (Assorted Cheeses, Fruit, Crackers)

“Täytekakku Trifle” (May Day Spring Fruit and Cake Trifle)

Pulla Paistos (Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce)

Kahvi (Coffee)

Sima (Homemade Finnish Fermented Lemon Mead)

Carlsberg on Tap

Modavi Sauvignon Blanc

Cava de Espania

AVA ANTTILA’S ODE TO MARK SALO AT 90

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Back in 1997, the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce took on a most rewarding project –one that continues in my life today. That year marked the 80th year of Finnish Independence. The FACC leadership and membership were dedicated to get to know the Finnish War Veterans and Lottas in our region.   We enlisted and got the support of all local Finnish organizations. We diligently sought out all Veterans and Lottas to give them honor and personal recognition as our guests at a grand event.

We wanted to hear from each Veteran and, individually and collectively, to feature them as our Guests of Honor. A special Program was planned. Finns and friends of Finland turned out in record numbers and with great enthusiasm. The President of Finland sent his personal greeting and message of appreciation to our Honorees. Veterans and Lottas were invited to submit photos and brief biographies which were assembled into a special Memory Book. A Wall of Honor showed more history and memorabilia from the Winter War and the Continuation War. A full orchestra played a rousing march as the Veterans and Lottas entered the packed ballroom to a standing ovation—eyes front, backs straight, chests expanded and bedecked with medals hard earned. What a memorable assembly. Finnish Pride on parade!! There was not a dry eye in the house.

In doing the research for the Program, there was one name that stood out among the heroes and heroines we were going to honor. This individual had not only served Finland in war, he had also served in the American armed forces during the Korean War. This amazing dual patriot was Mark Salo.

It has been fun to get to know Mark and his wife Eeva-Liisa through the ensuing years. My mother and father (Ari and Raija Anttila) so enjoyed their interactions with Mark and Eeva-Liisa at the Finnish Church, the Veterans Support Group, and other gatherings of So Cal Finns. We continued to be impressed with Mark in his willingness to be supportive and helpful. He served the Church and the Veteraani Tuki in leadership positions.

Mark epitomizes the finest Finnish character trait of noble, quiet dignity. He does things competently with a generosity of spirit, not bringing any attention to himself. He is a true gentleman.

What a grand occasion to celebrate Mark on his 90th birthday. I will be looking for him at Finland’s and his 100th Birthday!

MARK, you make the Finnish community proud!

Best wishes for good luck, good health, and great happiness!!

PALJON ONNEA!!