What I’ve Been Reading Lately: June 2017

I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately. It’s been two months since I last shared what I’ve been reading lately so I’ve had a chance to accumulate a few titles.

Booked by Kwame Alexander

I didn’t think I liked novels in verse and would avoid them despite rave reviews. Luckily, I was able to I put that thought aside for this one. My 7th grade son read Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover for school and then eagerly read this book as well. I’d seen Booked on Common Sense Media’s best books lists for 4th and 5th graders, but I had also heard it was more of a young YA book. I had to read it for myself to find out. I really enjoyed the book and had a hard time putting it down. There is nothing inappropriate for younger readers. However, it is about an 8th grader and the middle school issues he deals with, including his first love, and so older readers may relate better to it. It also deals with bullies, divorce, and his passion for soccer. My 4th grader really enjoyed it, too. It was a fun family read.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

We read this for our most recent book club meeting. Everyone was eager to revisit this book whether it was as a reread from years ago or as a book they’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I thought I had read this when I was a teenager, I even had my copy from then, but as I got more into the book, it all seemed new to me. I certainly enjoyed it and was glad to have read it, but the writing style was a bit terse for me which hindered my appreciation. I was surprised at how easily a society can fall victim to such a situation. Along with haunting images, I was left with many unanswered questions which certainly made this one of our club’s most lively discussions.

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

For the Scandinavian Book Group’s last meeting before the summer, we read The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson (translated from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles). This was an interesting read. Nombeko begins her life in a tiny shack in Soweto, South Africa, and then after many years at a South African atomic bomb facility, she ends up with two Swedish brothers who want nothing more than to bring down the Swedish monarchy. I enjoyed the main character who was very resourceful and smart, but the plot was at times unrealistic and I felt it dragged a bit in the second half.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

This was a quick and easy sweet YA read. It’s the story of an 18-year-old girl confined to her house because she’s allergic to the world and who falls in love with a boy who moves in next door. The format of the novel includes instant messaging, emails, drawings, handwritten notes, and post-its. I definitely recommend reading it in paper form. I had borrowed the ebook from the library, but on my kindle paperwhite, drawings and diagrams were sometimes hard to read, and on the kindle app on my ipad, some words written backwards did not show up. I ended up buying a paper copy which I don’t regret at all because it does have a great cover.

Did Not Complete

Sadly, there were 2 books I started but did not complete in the last couple of months. My son and I were eagerly awaiting the sequel to The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. We really enjoyed that one – especially loved the diverse characters and the setting of Hawaii – and highly recommend it. Unfortunately, the sequel The Ship Beyond Time did not work for us. It felt much slower, and with so many other books to read, we reluctantly abandoned it. (Interestingly, according to Goodreads reviews, the sequel is just as good, if not better, than the first, so maybe we gave up too early or read it too soon after the first one.)

I began listening to the audiobook of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman (narrated by the author herself). I was drawn to it because of the Norway connection. It’s about a young woman’s love for the North and her experiences in Norway as an exchange student and later as a return visitor. She goes on to learn how to drive sled dogs in Norway and work as a tour guide on a glacier in Alaska. The narration did not work for me. It was a somewhat flat read and the quality was less than perfect at times. Maybe reading the book would have been better. Also, I was hoping for more about living in the “great white north” of Norway and less about the sexual tensions with the men she encountered along the way.

Currently reading and next on my list…

I am currently listening to A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (loving it!) and reading Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. I have also started the Norwegian novel Bienes historie (The History of Bees) by Maja Lunde but haven’t had the opportunity to dedicate the time to really get into it due to the busyness of the end of the school year.

Next up on my list for the summer are Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham for a summer meeting of my book club and any of my Book of the Month picks that I haven’t had a chance to read yet, and there are many: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh, The Mothers by Brit Bennet, Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, American War by Omar El Akkad, or A Million Junes by Emily Henry. Recommendations on which book to dig into first are welcomed!

What have you been reading lately?

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The New & Less Traveled Oslo

new and less traveled sightseeing in OsloAre you headed to Oslo this summer, and maybe you’re looking for something besides the normal tourist sights? Here are some newer sights and hidden gems to consider.

Harbor Promenade – Havnepromenade

Oslo has a very new harbor promenade to explore. It runs 9 kilometers (about 5.5 miles) along the waterfront and hits many of the main sights of Oslo including Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge, the inner harbor with City Hall and Akershus Fortress, and the Opera House.

I look forward to exploring this route by bike with the family. I may finally have a chance to get a close-up look at the Opera House with its dramatic architectural features. I also hope to include a swim at Sørenga Seawater Pool and a meal at Vippa (a huge warehouse recently named one of the “10 hottest new restaurants in Oslo” according to eater.com).

Hovedøya

A few years ago, a cousin of mine recommended a visit to Hovedøya, an island a short ferry ride from the city center known for its beaches, forests, and cultural heritage sights. There you can explore the ruins of a Cistercian monastery from 1147. In 1532, the monastery was pillaged and burned down, and the ruins weren’t excavated until 1840’s. You can also see two canon batteries from 1808 and two gunpowder depots from when the island belonged to the Norwegian army. It would be a nice excursion on a day with beautiful weather. Bring swim gear and a picnic (or eat at one of the cafes) and spend the day exploring. It also has plenty of geocaching opportunities (see map above with all the geocaches!) which is always a fun addition to an outing.

Viking Ship Museum’s Vikings Alive Film

I have been to the Viking Ship Museum on several occasions, but somehow we have not yet managed to take the kids. It used to be that the main attractions were three Viking ships, one of which is completely whole, along with a display of Viking Age artifacts. Now, there is a new attraction: the film Vikings Alive. It’s a film that takes the audience on a unique visual journey into the history of a Viking ship. A Viking ship is built and sails along the Norwegian fjords and on the ocean, ending its days as a grave ship for a king. The film is projected onto the vaulted ceiling of the museum. On our next visit to Oslo, this will be a must-see attraction.

Museum of Oslo

Museum of Oslo is another museum I’d like to take the kids to. It’s located right in Frognerparken which makes it a convenient bike ride from my parents’ home. It presents the city’s history through models, paintings, and photographs. The museum’s exhibitions are mainly in Norwegian, but a free audioguide of “1,000 years in 20 minutes” is available in English, French, German, Somali, Punjabi, Polish, and Arabic as well as Norwegian.

What piqued my interest in bringing the kids was that the museum offers a special family activity called City Detectives (recommended for kids age 5 to 12). It’s an augmented reality app that allows visitors to get a glimpse of Oslo’s past. The goal is to find 10 historical stations in the exhibition “OsLove – City History for Beginners”. With the app, participants visit the 2-bedroom apartment of a big family, experience the power of Aker River, and see how the main street of Karl Johan has changed over time. The app is only available on site. You can borrow ipods or download the app to your own Apple device. You do not need to know Norwegian to use the app.

Special Exhibit at Munch Museum

Every summer the Munch Museum puts on a special exhibit. This summer visitors will have a chance to experience Edvard Munch as seen through the eyes of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård. The exhibit, Towards the Forest – Knausgård on Munch, will feature many paintings, graphic prints, and sculptures that have never been exhibited previously. As described on the museum’s website, “the exhibition takes the form of a journey from light and harmony through darkness and chaos – returning finally to a controllable reality.” I’ve read and enjoyed Knausgård and like Munch so I’m curious to see this exhibition, something probably done more enjoyably without my children. Exhibit is on display from May 6, 2017, to October 8, 2017.

Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum

I learned about Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum from the book Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders. We are certainly familiar with the work of his brother Gustav Vigeland whose bronze and granite sculptures are on display in Frognerparken, but I did not know about Emanuel.

The mausoleum is part of Emanuel Vigeland Museum. The museum’s main attraction is a dark, barrel-vaulted room, completely covered with fresco paintings. According to Atlas Obscura, “entering the mausoleum is a solemn, even haunting, experience. Even the quietest footstep echoes across the barrel-vaulted ceiling for up to 14 seconds. A flashlight is needed to reveal the room’s dark, painted walls.” I think this “hidden wonder” is best explored without kids due to the paintings that show “life from conception till death, in dramatic and often explicitly erotic scenes.” (Note: The museum is only open to the public on Sundays. Summer hours are May 15 through September 15, 12pm to 5pm.)

Damstredet & Telthusbakken Area

Damstredet and Telthusbakken are two roads known for their well-preserved and inhabited wooden houses built in the late 1700s and the 1800s. They are located near each other in the St. Hanshaugen/Gamle Aker area in central Oslo. There are other sights in the area as well, so a visit to the area can make a worthwhile self-guided walking tour. Very nearby is the medieval church Gamle Aker kirke (Old Aker Church), oldest building in Oslo, as well as Vår Frelsers Gravlund, the cemetery where writer Henrik Ibsen and painter Edvard Munch are buried. This excursion is easily combined with visit to nearby Mathallen, an interesting food court with specialty shops and cafés. And while at Mathallen, we’ll see if we can spot the Vulkan Bee Garden, which is two huge beehives on the rooftop of Dansens Hus.

Stay tuned for a report on how our exploration of these new-to-us places and hidden gems of Oslo goes!

Los Angeles Culture Challenge: Summer 2017 Events

Summer is the perfect time to explore and take advantage of all that Los Angeles has to offer. This edition of the Culture Challenge shares events happening throughout the summer. You’ll find special one-time events, ongoing year-round events that continue through the summer, and unique programs just happening during the summer.

Make a pact to visit a new area of Los Angeles or participate in a new activity—a cultural art project, a concert in a special outdoor setting, a festival celebrating a unique culture, or a bike ride exploring a new part of Los Angeles, just to mention a few options. The experience will open your eyes to the richness of where we live. You’ll be amazed at what’s available to us.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this summer?

* SPECIAL EVENTS THIS SUMMER *

Family Festival, Getty Center, Saturday, June 3. Enjoy a day of celebration and discovery for the whole family inspired by magnificent historical scenes on view in the exhibition Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe, featuring performances, storytelling, and art-making workshops.

17th Annual LA River Ride, Autry Center in Griffith Park, Sunday, June 4. What better way to explore the city we live in than by bike. Join over 2,000 other riders and enjoy a great day of bicycling fun, exploration, a post-ride expo, a raffle, live music, and more. 7 great rides: 100-mile, 70-mile, 50-mile, 36-mile, 25-mile, 15-mile Family Ride, plus a 2-mile Kids’ Ride + Festival. All participants receive a t-shirt, goodie bag, and finisher’s medal. Kids 12 and under ride for free for all rides. All proceeds benefit the work of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the only non-profit organization working to make all communities in L.A. County healthy, safe, and fun places to ride bikes.

Kids in the Courtyard: Decoding Stories!, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, June 4, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The Moche peoples of ancient Peru (100-800 C.E) portrayed complex scenes on painted vessels, depicting everything from daily life to rituals and legends. The scenes were created with such detail that archaeologists today can decode these images to learn about how Moche people lived. Come out and be an archaeologist for a day! Create your own coded picture language and see if others can decode your secret messages.

Irish Fair & Music Fest, El Dorado Park, Long Beach, Saturday, June 10, & Sunday, June 11. This is the largest such festival west of the Mississippi, and it has been around Southern California for more than 40 years. There will be many Irish bands, including the well-known Fenians. For the young folk, there will be a Leprechaun Village with rides, storytelling, and a Freckle Face competition. You are invited to join or just watch the daily St. Paddy parades. Also included in the entertainment line-up is a sheep herding exhibition. And of course, there will be plenty of Irish food and beverages.

CicLAvia – Glendale Meets Atwater Village, Sunday, June 11. Los Angeles welcomes a brand new CicLAvia route in June. Glendale and Atwater Village will host the country’s largest open streets event. Streets will be closed to cars and open for cyclists, pedestrians, runners and skaters to use as a recreational space. You will enjoy the sights, music, food, and culture that make LA such a vibrant city.

LA Film Festival, ArcLight Cinemas, Culver City, June 14-22. The LA Film Festival is a premier platform for new works from emerging and established independent storytellers with unique voices and innovative visions. Index of films by interest include the following: African Diaspora, Directors of Color, LA Stories, Latino/Latin America, LGBTQ+, Native American/Islander, Politics/Social Awareness, plus more. Most screenings and events take place at ArcLight Culver City, with additional screenings and events at venues around Los Angeles.

Kids in the Courtyard: Miniature Painting, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, June 18, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Miniature paintings illustrating books and manuscripts are an integral part of western Indian art traditions. Create your own painting on shrink plastic and watch it miniaturize before your eyes! Be sure to catch the miniature paintings and sparking silver jewelry in the Enduring Splendor: Jewelry of India’s Thar Desert exhibition.

31th Annual Long Beach Bayou Festival, Rainbow Lagoon Park, Long Beach, Saturday, June 24, & Sunday, June 25. Experience the Bayou with this two-day family festival featuring authentic Cajun and Creole food, cultural music, dance lessons, crawfish eating contests, a children’s corner with arts and crafts and other activities, and a Mardi Gras parade. There will also be live performances at the Zydeco Stage, Blues Stage, and Children’s Stage.

Natsumatsuri Family Festival, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, August 13. Join JANM for their annual summer celebration featuring Japanese and Japanese American performances, crafts, and activities.

* ONGOING THROUGHOUT THE SUMMER *

The Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Downtown LA, first Saturday of each month, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, last Saturday of each month, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Barnsdall Art Sundays, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, every Sunday, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This summer explore Ancient Greece (June 4), China (June 11), Ancient Maya (June 18), India (June 25), USA (July 2), Tibet (July 9), India (July 16), and Kenya (July 23) through a variety of projects. See website for more details.

Andell Family Sundays, LACMA, Los Angeles, every Sunday, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays! Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 pm. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. Each month features a different theme: June—Follow the Rainbow, July—Travel to Egypt, and August—Flower Tour.

Roman Holidays, The Getty Villa, Malibu, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until September 3. You won’t need a passport to travel back in time at the Roman Holidays celebration this summer. Discover the sights (and smells!) of ancient Rome, offer your prayers to Venus, read your future in a sheep’s liver, and enjoy live musical and comedy performances by the historically hysterical Troubadour Theater Company.

* SPECIAL SUMMER PROGRAMS *

Chinatown Summer Nights, Downtown LA, 1st Saturdays during summer months (7/1, 8/5, and 9/2), 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. Part food event, part summer party, Chinatown Summer Nights presents an exciting hot spot for Angelenos this summer. Taste the many culinary offerings of Chinatown and LA’s gourmet food trucks; sample the neighborhood’s wares; watch Chinese chefs perform cooking demonstrations; experience large-scale, outdoor video projections; take part in hands-on, Chinese cultural activities presented by local organizations and museums; sip on craft brews and dance in Central Plaza with 89.9 KCRW’s DJs!

Family Amphitheater Performances: All Around the World, Skirball Cultural Center, Saturdays & Sundays, July 1 – August 13. This year’s eclectic lineup of bands celebrates an array of musical styles—from the beats of Africa and Latin America to the American traditions of rockabilly and folk. Sing and dance along to music that inspired Paul Simon or was influenced by the legend himself. See website for full schedule.

Grand Performances, California Plaza, Downtown LA, June – August. Grand Performances bring artists and audiences together by thoughtfully curating an array of music, dance, film, and spoken word featuring great artists from around the globe and our very own streets of L.A. The summer series of free outdoor concerts celebrates our city’s rich diversity through performing arts at a stunning outdoor venue in Downtown LA. Some performances are more appropriate for families than others. See website for schedule of performances.

Ford Family Series: Big World Fun, Ford Amphitheatre, Hollywood, Saturday mornings, July & August. Music and dance events that represent the diverse cultural landscape of Southern California are presented on Saturday mornings in July and August in the outdoor amphitheatre. Performances are appropriate for children ages 4 to 12 and their families. Children are admitted free and adults pay $5. Come early to explore wild animals, get busy with craft activities, and grab a bite before the show. See website for schedule of performances and ticket information.

Feel free to add events for the summer months in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!

May 2017: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Norwegian May 17th Celebrations

May is a big month for Norwegians worldwide. We celebrate our national day, Constitution Day, on May 17. On that day in 1814, Norway signed its constitution while it was still in a union with Sweden. The union with Sweden wasn’t dissolved until 1905. 17th of May celebrations worldwide are characterized by parades, traditional costumes, flags, and ice cream.

Here in Los Angeles, Norwegians can commemorate the day with a traditional celebration on the actual date of May 17 at the Norwegian Church in San Pedro (details here). Or, if making it to San Pedro midweek is tough, there’s the annual Sunday celebration at Nansen Field in Rolling Hills Estates on May 21 (see details below).

But there’s more to May than Norway’s national day. Angelenos can take advantage of many special events and activities featuring a variety of countries and cultures. How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month?

* WEEKEND OF MAY 6 & 7 *

Cinco de Mayo Celebration, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, Olvera Street, Downtown LA, Friday, 5/5, through Sunday, 5/7. Celebrate Mexico’s victory over French forces in Puebla, Mexico, in 1862, with popular and traditional music, exhibitor booths, dancing, and food. The party has been going on at this site every Cinco de Mayo for 140 years.

REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival, Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/6, & Sunday, 5/7. Don’t miss the last weekend of the annual REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival. It’s a weekend full of adventurous short-film programs that will appeal to moviegoers of all ages. Magical, exhilarating works made by acclaimed filmmakers and up-and-coming auteurs showcase work from around the globe — including Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Russia, Taiwan, Belarus, Korea, The Netherlands, and Ukraine — to inspire the whole family. Festival highlights include the latest in both live action and animated shorts. See website for the schedule.

Cinco de Mayo Maracas, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Saturday, 5/6, & Sunday, 5/7, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 pm. Maracas came from the indigenous tribes in Latin American. This fun instrument is now used in other parts of the world, including Mexico. They were originally made out of gourds, seeds, and pebbles. Modern maracas can be made out of wood, metal, and plastic. Come visit Bowers Museum’s Art Studio where children can designs their own maracas made out of recycled materials. Activity is included with Kidseum admission, $8 for everyone over the age of 2 years old.

The Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/6, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A’s Chinatown. You must RSVP as group size is limited. This tour is offered every first Saturday of the month.

Peru: Inca Feathered Textiles (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/7, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. A different culture and media are featured each Sunday.

Celebrate Israel Festival, Cheviot Hills Recreation Center, West Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/7, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. This year’s theme is Jerusalem: 50 Years of Reunification. The festival will give attendees the opportunity to visit various sites of Jerusalem, learn about the Old City, and travel back in time to learn about the history of Jerusalem. Attendees are encouraged to stop in the different pavilions throughout the park and meet the many organizations that will be offering hands–on projects and activities for the entire family. The day’s activities and events include musical performances, an artist marketplace, a kids zone and a teen area, an amusement park with rides, and food vendors serving traditional food and “street fare” (all 100% Kosher).

Eye on African Art (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/7, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, see outstanding masks, sculptures, and textiles, and learn about the symbolism and importance of vision and in African art in the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts. In workshops, make your own art inspired by the exhibition.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until May 21. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. The faire provides “a cornucopia of diversity where we are unified in inviting our guests to enjoy an environment we have created to escape from the stresses and demands of the modern day.” There will be artisans of all media, entertainment galore, food trucks and booths, games and rides (including pony and camel rides), a Kids Kingdom (with games, crafts, story-telling, song, shows, and characters), and a gnome quest!

Roman Holidays, The Getty Villa, Malibu, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until September 3. You won’t need a passport to travel back in time at the Roman Holidays celebration this spring and summer. Discover the sights (and smells!) of ancient Rome, offer your prayers to Venus, read your future in a sheep’s liver, and enjoy live musical and comedy performances by the historically hysterical Troubadour Theater Company.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 13 & 14 *

The Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/13, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. This is an additional tour held in conjunction with China Week. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A’s Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes. You must RSVP as group size is limited.

Origami with Ruthie Kitagawa: Floral Cards, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/13, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Learn to make a floral card just in time for Mother’s Day. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Supplies and admission to museum are included. Limited to 10 participants. RSVP here.

Austria: Gustav Klimt Tree of Life Printmaking for Mother’s Day (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/14, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. A different culture and media are featured each Sunday.

Eye on African Art (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/14, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, see outstanding masks, sculptures, and textiles, and learn about the symbolism and importance of vision and in African art in the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts. In workshops, make your own art inspired by the exhibition.

Family Jam: Storytelling with Dena Atlantic, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 5/14, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Storyteller Dena Atlantic will delight with interactive tales from around the world, including stories of the Trickster Spider Anansi from West Africa.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 20 & 21 *

Ancient Egypt: Cartouche and Painted Deities (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 5/21, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. A different culture and media are featured each Sunday.

Norwegian Constitution Day FestivitiesParade time at Nansen Field, Nansen Field, Rolling Hills Estates, Sunday, 5/21, 11:00 a.m. This is a true Norwegian celebration. It is a relaxing, laid-back event on a huge open field. The field opens at 9:30am and the program kicks off at 10:50am with the hoisting of the American and Norwegian flags. Program highlights include a Norwegian 17th of May church service and a 17th of May speech. Then there’s a parade led by a marching band followed by the sale of traditional Norwegian 17th of May foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, Solo, waffles, and ice cream. There are also vendor stalls with Norwegian goods and plenty of games and prizes for the kids. Read about our celebrations at Nansen Field last year here.

Eye on African Art (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/21, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, see outstanding masks, sculptures, and textiles, and learn about the symbolism and importance of vision and in African art in the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts. In workshops, make your own art inspired by the exhibition.

Kids in the Courtyard: African-Print Fashion Tomorrow!, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sunday, 5/21, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Come for a day of activities celebrating the colorful and rich designs in African-Print Fashion Now! Families can create accessories from patches of African-print and enjoy family-focused guided tours of the exhibition. Finally, enjoy a showcase of artwork by fashion students in the high school arts program artworxLA, inspired by the exhibition.

* WEEKEND OF MAY 27 & 28 *

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 5/27, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. RSVP here. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Scottish Fest, Orange County Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa, Saturday, 5/27, & Sunday, 5/28. Enjoy a festival of Celtic entertainment and food. There will be competitions in Piping & Drumming, Highland Dancing, and Scottish Athletics as well as a full schedule of entertainment.

 

Valley Greek Festival, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Northridge, Saturday, 5/27, Sunday, 5/28, & Monday, 5/29. Enjoy a cultural experience for all ages with live music, dancing, gourmet food, homemade pastries, cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, a Greek market, and a variety of shopping boutiques.

Eye on African Art (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 5/28, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Make, look, and talk about art at Andell Family Sundays. Drop in anytime between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. This weekly family event features artist-led workshops and friendly gallery tours and activities thematically based on special exhibitions and LACMA’s permanent collection. This month, see outstanding masks, sculptures, and textiles, and learn about the symbolism and importance of vision and in African art in the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts. In workshops, make your own art inspired by the exhibition.

Feel free to add events for this month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me the details. Thank you!

Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books: Metro, Authors, and even some Geocaching

Last year, as luck would have it, I was able to go to the Los Angeles Times’ Festival of Books both days. On Saturday, I went alone and explored and lingered as I pleased. On Sunday, Sonny joined me for a more intentional day. It was the perfect combination of experiences.

Saturday was a gray, dreary, rainy day, but I didn’t let that stop me. I donned my rain boots and rain jacket, packed an umbrella, and headed to our nearest Metro stop.

Taking the Metro made the excursion so easy. The closest stop was only a short drive away (and now it’s even closer with the Expo extension completed), and the stop at USC was right at the entrance to the festival. There were no hassles driving and finding my way and no expensive parking fees.

Due to the weather, the festival on Saturday wasn’t as lively as in previous years. There weren’t as many people roaming the grounds, and the booths were more closed up with plastic tarps on the sides. It did make maneuvering around more manageable, though. I easily browsed booths and listened in on stages where poets and authors spoke to more intimate audiences.

A highlight of the day was that I was able to get a ticket to a panel, also known as Conversations. I had never been to a Conversation. I had always been somewhat overwhelmed by the selection of offerings. Also, I’ve always been at the festival with family members who haven’t been interested in that aspect of it. This year, I just went to the ticket booth and looked to see what was still available in the next couple of hours. It limited my choices immensely and I was able to easily find something.

I actually had a choice of many open Conversations from which to choose. I selected a young adult nonfiction panel about bringing history to life for young adult readers. Sonny had recently read the young reader adaptations of the nonfiction books Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, which he had really enjoyed. I’m always on the lookout for possible interesting reads for him, and this panel seemed like a potential opportunity for that.

The panel was very interesting even though I wasn’t familiar with any of participants. Four authors of new non-fiction spoke about the process of bringing history to life for readers and then answered questions from the audience. I even bought a book by one of the panelists, Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, and got it signed for Sonny for his birthday later in the month.

That evening I was on a high from my alone time at the festival. I was thrilled to have discovered how easy it was to go by Metro and how interesting panels could be. I looked to see if anything of interest was offered the next day. I found an available panel with middle grade authors, two of whom were favorites of Sonny’s, Stuart Gibbs (Spy School Series and FunJungle Series) and Pseudonymous Bosch (Secret Series and Bad Books Series). Sonny was interested but had his condition: he didn’t want to spend the whole day there. I reassured him it would only be a trip for the panel and food trucks and we’d be back home about 1 o’clock.

Sunday was a beautiful day, and I noticed a change already at the Metro stop. So many more people were headed to the festival. When we arrived at the festival, only about 30 minutes after opening, it was already very festive. Not only were more people there than the day before, but booths were more welcoming and music was playing.

The panel was a popular one with many young readers in attendance. The panelists were engaging and shared insights into their writing lives. It was interesting to match a face, a voice, and a personality with the names we’d seen on book covers for so long. I wished, however, that Q&A time at the end had been limited to children. Their questions were so much better than adults’ questions.

Afterwards we joined many other fans in line to have books signed. And just as promised, we checked out the food trucks and Sonny settled on some gelato.

Then came the unexpected addition to our festival visit. After Sonny and I had agreed on the plans for the morning, I had looked to see what geocaching possibilities were there. I had totally forgotten about that when I was there alone the day before. It turns out there were three geocaches within the festival grounds, and I secretly planned a route to include those spots.

When Sonny heard about my geocaching hopes, he felt a little deceived. However, when it came down to it, he was eager to be the one to make the finds. He makes a good geocaching partner. We found one right in front of a security guard because no one thinks twice about a kid sticking his head up into a statue but an adult would have attracted attention.

A day alone and a morning with Sonny was the perfect way to experience the festival. I felt like I had a chance to take it all in – browse the booths, listen to authors on stage, attend panels, enjoy music performances, watch artists at work, and indulge in some treats from food trucks.

This year’s festival will take place the weekend of April 22 and 23, and once again, it will be at University of Southern California’s campus. The schedule can be found online, and you can reserve free tickets to indoor Conversations ($1 service fee applies to each ticket). A limited number of tickets for each Conversation will also be available at the festival ticketing booth each day — free of service charges — while supplies last. There are also plenty of outdoor Conversations on stages that do not require tickets. And admission to the whole festival is free. I highly recommend you take advantage of this LA event.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: April 2017

I always enjoy hearing what people have been reading lately, so I thought I’d join Modern Mrs. Darcy’s latest Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.

In the past couple of months, I’ve read books with covers that lured me in, a non-fiction book to hopefully help me understand our most recent election, a book in anticipation of an author talk, and books that were not what I expected.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these that you may have read.

The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell

This was a book pick by my Scandinavian Book Group. The author is a British journalist who moved to rural Jutland, the large peninsula of Denmark, with her husband who got a job with Lego. She took advantage of the opportunity to explore what makes the Danes the happiest in the world. I really enjoyed this month-by-month look at Danish culture, much of which is similar to Norway’s culture. The author has a great sense of humor, fun attitude, and interesting writing style, and I laughed out loud at certain parts.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

I was drawn to this YA fantasy by the cover and a reference in a description to Scandinavian myth (turns out that’s minimal). It’s a #diversebooks/#ownvoices book whose author and main character are half-Chinese and half-white, or hapo. I really enjoyed this book. I thought the setting of Hawaii in the mid-1800s was interesting and beautiful. The author included politics, folklore, and nature. The cast of characters is very diverse. Sonny and I both enjoyed it and are looking forward to reading the sequel, The Ship Beyond Time.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

This was my Book of the Month selection for March, and it immediately jumped to the very top of my TBR list when I saw the author was coming to town to speak about it. I had three days to complete it and that was not a problem. I loved this book – the story, the writing, and an element I won’t mention because had I known about it beforehand, I probably wouldn’t have read it – kept my attention throughout. And having the opportunity to hear the author speak about it and answer readers’ questions was icing on the cake.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

I had high hopes and expectations for this one. I thought it would help me understand our most recent election. Unfortunately, I finished it feeling less than satisfied. I did get an insight into life in the Rust Belt and Appalachia, all unfamiliar to me, but that’s about it. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author himself which was great. There were certainly parts I enjoyed, but overall I was disappointed. But on a positive note, since it’s been such a popular book, there have been many discussions about it which I’ve been able to follow. It happened to be Pantsuit Politics Community Book Club‘s pick for March, and my son’s school has an opportunity to discuss it in May which I’m looking forward to.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I really had no desire to read this (and I don’t really know why), but my book club picked it and so I had no choice but to jump in – and I am very happy I did. I’ve always wanted to visit Moscow (bummed I missed my opportunity when a friend lived there) and this book gave me a historical look at life there. I am so impressed with how the author was able to create such a full and interesting story about a man exiled to a life in a hotel. And the writing was beautiful. This is not a book to rush through but to savor.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I loved the cover of this book and now that I’ve read it, the cover is even more beautiful – such wonderful details. However, the book was a disappointment to me. I really thought I would love it, especially since it was the latest Newbery Award Winner and has received such great reviews. If it weren’t for the fact that both my sons had recently finished it, I probably would have put it down before finishing it.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

I recommended this to my book club. I saw it on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s list of 40 great book club novels. It’s about Melanie, a special girl, a “little genius” as a doctor calls her. She has to be taken from her cell strapped in a wheelchair for class every morning. According to the book’s description, it’s a “groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.” That’s what I based my recommendation on. I’m glad I didn’t research it more – because it is so much more – because I would never have read it. Going in blind is the best way to read this. I really liked it and can’t wait for our book club’s discussion. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Finty Williams and it was fantastic.

Currently reading and next on my list…

      

For the Scandinavian Book Group’s last meeting before the summer, we are reading The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson (translated from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Broyles). Then I look forward to reading a Norwegian book I received from my parents last year, the novel Bienes historie (The History of Bees) by Maja Lunde (coming out in English on August 22, 2017!). It received the Norwegian Booksellers Prize in 2015.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these that you may have read as well as what you’ve been reading lately.

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Checked Off My California Bucket List: See the Poppies!

My wish to see the yearly California poppies finally came true. Every spring for years, when news of the upcoming poppy season and then pictures of the current bloom (some years better than others) would come out, I would yearn to see them in person. It wasn’t until we recently had a soccer tournament in Lancaster that I realized the poppy fields weren’t as far away as I had thought.

The Lancaster tournament was about a 75-minute drive north, and actually a beautiful drive once we got onto the Antelope Valley Freeway (Route 14). From Lancaster, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve was then only about 15 miles west. Our soccer tournament was too early in the season (end of February) to catch the poppies, but I knew then they were within reach.

We stayed in Los Angeles for Spring Break (first week of April), and I made a vow that we would see the poppies this year. The kids weren’t overly thrilled about the plan. They thought I should just be happy with the random poppies that had popped up around town along the roadsides. I powered through with my wish for the whole family to go, and as luck would have it, a friend of Sonny’s came along for the trip as well which was a nice distraction.

There had been news that poppy blooms were expected to be “moderate” this year and not the “jaw-dropping orange carpets” last seen in 2008 and 2010, but that didn’t stop interested people from making the trek. The park was advising visitors to come on weekdays instead of weekends due to the crowds and congested parking, so we headed to the reserve on a Thursday. The traffic cooperated and we were there in the minimum time anticipated. It was windy, as the park’s website had warned it often is, and cloudy, so we were grateful for sweatshirts we had brought along.

We began our visit at the interpretive center. It has an orientation video, some wildflower and wildlife exhibits, a gallery of botanical watercolor paintings, and a gift shop. Here I picked up a map of the trails. I also received one of the newly arrived park brochures that staff members were very excited to be able to hand out. I asked if they had a route to recommend, and of course they did, and then we were on our way.

Map from brochure by The Poppy Reserve/Mojave Desert Interpretive Association

The reserve consists of eight miles of trails through hills and fields of wildflowers with benches along way to enjoy the views. Our hike was a 3-mile loop on wide dirt paths with gentle to moderate slopes, nothing difficult at all. From the interpretive center, we headed to Kitanemuk Vista Point. Off in the distance, we saw fields of yellow and orange; and along the trail, we saw a wide variety of colorful wildflowers.

poppies and other wildflowers

The most amazing stretch of poppies was after the vista point and along the Antelope Trail Loop (between North and South trails). It was not a long stretch, but the poppies were close to the trail and abundant and beautiful. We felt lucky to have been guided to this particular area because it made the whole trip worth it.

The poppies weren’t as overall abundant and awe-inspiring as we were expecting, but I believe that was partly due to the weather that day. Since it was windy and cloudy and cool, all the poppies weren’t as open as they could be. Poppies curl up in cold weather.

At the reserve, there are strict rules to stay ON the paths and OUT of the poppy fields. Sadly, many people ignored or were unaware of those rules, and new paths had been created upon trampled flowers and grasses. In particular, I was deeply disturbed by two girls taking pictures of each other doing yoga poses in the field. For people who really want to traipse among the poppies, there’s a stretch along the main road leading to the entrance to the reserve where people can just park off the road and head onto land filled with poppies.

The California poppy was named California’s state flower in 1903, and coincidentally, April 6, the day we visited the reserve, is officially “California Poppy Day” (declared in 2010). “On California Poppy Day, all public schools and educational institutions are encouraged to conduct exercises honoring the California Poppy, including instruction about native plants, particularly the California Poppy, and the economic and aesthetic value of wildflowers; promoting responsible behavior toward our natural resources and a spirit of protection toward them; and emphasizing the value of natural resources and conservation of natural resources.”

Here’s some more interesting historical information about California’s state flower from the reserve’s brochure:

From brochure by The Poppy Reserve/Mojave Desert Interpretive Association

Staff members anticipate the bloom to possibly last until late April or early May depending on rain fall. Make sure to check Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve’s website for bloom status updates before heading out or call Poppy Reserve Wildflower Hotline at
(661) 724-1180.

Ideally, while in Antelope Valley, I would have liked to have added a visit to Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland to our outing. The woodland is just seven miles west of Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. According to its website, it “protects and preserves an impressive stand of native Joshuas and junipers which once grew in great abundance throughout the valley.” Beautiful and interesting pictures can be seen on the Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park Pinterest page. I’ll keep it mind for my next trip to see the poppies.

Have you seen the poppies?

April 2017: Los Angeles Culture Challenge – Scandinavian Festival & Festival of Books!

April offers an abundance of special events and activities about a great variety of countries and cultures to occupy your weekends. Browse through the list below to see if anything catches your eye.

Two of my favorite events return this month, Scandinavian Festival at California Lutheran University and LA Times Festival of Books at USC, and I’m relieved they don’t fall on the same weekend which has happened in the past. The Scandinavian Festival took a hiatus last year but returns the first weekend in April. You can read more about what to expect at the festival here. The Festival of Books is not just about books and authors, which is fun in and of itself, but it’s also music, food, art, and culture.

How will you explore the diverse richness of Los Angeles this month?

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 1 & 2 *

African-Print Fashion Now!: A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, March 26 – July 30. This exhibition introduces visitors to a dynamic and diverse African dress tradition and the increasingly interconnected fashion worlds that it inhabits: “popular” African-print styles created by local seamstresses and tailors across the continent; international runway fashions designed by Africa’s newest generation of couturiers; and boundary-breaking, transnational, and youth styles favored in Africa’s urban centers. All feature the colorful, boldly designed, manufactured cotton textiles that have come to be known as “African-print cloth.” The exhibition tells the global stories of these textiles—the early history of the print cloth trade in West and Central Africa, the expansion of production following independence movements, and the increasing popularity of Asian-made print cloth today. Popular African styles from Ghana, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, and Senegal are featured, as well as groundbreaking runway fashions by some of Africa’s most talented couturiers

Scandinavian Festival, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Saturday, 4/1, & Sunday, 4/2. The Scandinavian Festival returns for the 42nd year. Both days of the festival are filled with music, dancing, food, lectures, demonstrations, vendors, and activities for young and old alike. The Viking Encampment and Sami Village will once again be present. Family activities include making head wreaths with real flowers, raising the Maypole and dancing around it, learning the ancient Viking game Kubb, playing croquet, and a variety of arts and crafts representative of the Nordic countries.

International Children’s Day Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 4/1, & Sunday, 4/2. Celebrating the amazing talents of children of all cultures, this festival features West African, Mexican, Pacific Islander, Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Persian dance performances. Enjoy performances by a children’s choir and martial arts demonstrations. Kids of all ages can partake in an international percussion circle, face painting, and Native American and Pacific Islander traditional children’s crafts and games.

The Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/1, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more! The 2 1/2 hour walking tour will take visitors to a number of off-the-beaten-track points of interest and will guide those interested in shopping to some of Chinatown’s best bargains and its trendiest shops. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A’s Chinatown. You must RSVP as group size is limited. This tour is offered every first Saturday of the month.

Reykjavík Festival: Maximus Musicus (Toyota Symphonies for Youth), Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/1, & Saturday, 4/8, 11:00 a.m. Join Maximus Musicus, a lively Icelandic mouse, on a journey from the sunny shores of Southern California to Reykjavík, where you will explore the music and the great outdoors of Iceland. The concert is preceded by a choice of workshops designed for children ages 5 to 11. These include art-making, a music workshop, an instrument petting zoo, and a dance or theater/storytelling workshop. All activities are free to ticket holders. The Reykjavík Festival is ongoing until June 4 and includes a variety of events. See website for more information and to purchase tickets.

Russia: Lacquerware Mobiles (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/2, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 4/2, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Join Bowers Museum in celebrating the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival. All family festivals include art-making activities and cultural traditions along with live music and dancing.

Ukrainian Pysanka Festival, Ukrainian Culture Center, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/2, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Learn to make traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs. Experience Ukrainian culture by viewing the work of many esteemed artists. Enjoy dance performances, music, and food.

Bright Design: Awazu Kiyoshi (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/2, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Japanese graphic designer Awazu Kiyoshi had a signature style that wove together folklore and city life, all in bright colors. Check out posters and prints he designed to promote theater and film in the exhibition Awazu Kiyoshi, Graphic Design: Summoning the Outdated. Make your own posters and learn simple printmaking techniques in artist-led workshops. This event repeats every Sunday in April, except Easter Sunday.

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 8 & 9 *

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays, April 8 – May 21. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. The faire provides “a cornucopia of diversity where we are unified in inviting our guests to enjoy an environment we have created to escape from the stresses and demands of the modern day.” There will be artisans of all media, entertainment galore, food trucks and booths, games and rides (including pony and camel rides), a Kids Kingdom (with games, crafts, story-telling, song, shows, and characters), and a gnome quest!

19th Annual Chumash Day Powwow and Inter-Tribal Celebration, Malibu Bluffs Park, Malibu, Saturday, 4/8, & Sunday, 4/9. This year’s 19th annual Chumash Day Powwow will celebrate Native Americans from all over the country. Hundreds of tribes will gather at Malibu Bluffs Park. Native American food, craft vendors, tribal ceremonies, and dances will be a part of the event on both days. Grand Entry will take place 1pm at Saturday and 12pm on Sunday.

Celebrate Japanese American History (JANM Free Family Day), Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/8, 11:00 a.m. –  4:00 p.m. Learn about Japanese American history and actor/activist George Takei with crafts and activities inspired by the exhibitions Instructions to All Persons: Reflections on Executive Order 9066 and New Frontiers: The Many Worlds of George Takei. At crafts stations, learn how to make koinobori (carp streamers), origami samurai hats, and origami bird pins (much like the ones that were made by incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II). Learn about famous Japanese Americans by making comic books and paper puppets. Throughout the day, hear stories that share the Japanese American experience. There will also be a Spam Musubi Workshop where you can learn how to create this delicious and uniquely Japanese American treat. See website for complete schedule of activities.

Reykjavík Festival: Maximus Musicus (Toyota Symphonies for Youth), Walt Disney Concert Hall, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/8, 11:00 a.m. Join Maximus Musicus, a lively Icelandic mouse, on a journey from the sunny shores of Southern California to Reykjavík, where you will explore the music and the great outdoors of Iceland. The concert is preceded by a choice of workshops designed for children ages 5 to 11. These include art-making, a music workshop, an instrument petting zoo, and a dance or theater/storytelling workshop. All activities are free to ticket holders. The Reykjavík Festival is ongoing until June 4 and includes a variety of events. See website for more information and to purchase tickets.

India: Mughal Painting of the Deities (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/9, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Bright Design: Awazu Kiyoshi (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/9, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Japanese graphic designer Awazu Kiyoshi had a signature style that wove together folklore and city life, all in bright colors. Check out posters and prints he designed to promote theater and film in the exhibition Awazu Kiyoshi, Graphic Design: Summoning the Outdated. Make your own posters and learn simple printmaking techniques in artist-led workshops. This event repeats every Sunday in April, except Easter Sunday.

Family Jam: Choose Your Words, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 4/9, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Drop-in on #FamilyJam, an interactive performance featuring musicians, artists and other performers from all over the world. Families learn dance moves, songs, and stories from a variety of cultures. No reservation required, and it is free of charge. In this session, explore how a picture can inspire a thousand words. In collaboration with Westwind, UCLA’s student-run journal of the arts, learn about types of poetry and create your own using the stories, shapes, and patterns seen in the exhibit African-Print Fashion Now! as inspiration.

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 15 & 16 *

Blessing of the Animals, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/15, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. This tradition of blessing the animals for the benefits they provide mankind dates back to the 4th century, when San Antonio De Abad was named the patron saint of the animal kingdom and began to bless animals to promote good health. It has been celebrated in the Plaza since 1930. Bring your pets to be blessed. Blessing begins at 2pm and lasts for an hour. Line-up for the blessing begins at 1pm. There will be entertainment from 12pm to 5pm.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until May 21. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. The faire provides “a cornucopia of diversity where we are unified in inviting our guests to enjoy an environment we have created to escape from the stresses and demands of the modern day.” There will be artisans of all media, entertainment galore, food trucks and booths, games and rides (including pony and camel rides), a Kids Kingdom (with games, crafts, story-telling, song, shows, and characters), and a gnome quest!

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 22 & 23 *

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, USC Campus, Exposition Park, Saturday, 4/22, and Sunday, 4/23. Enjoy two days of not only books and authors, but also music, food, art, culture, and fun. The Festival of Books is Los Angeles Times’ annual celebration of ideas, creativity, and the written word. The Festival brings book lovers and fun seekers of all ages together with their favorite authors, artists, chefs, musicians, and entertainers. Go Metro and avoid the expense and hassle of finding parking. You’ll also save 10% on your total purchase of official 2017 Festival of Books merchandise, including mugs, T-shirts, and more. The Expo Line will drop you directly at the south end of the festival. The Program Guide with articles, a map, schedule, exhibitor list, and more will be available April 16.

45th Annual Bunka-Sai Japanese Cultural Festival, Ken Miller Recreation Center, Torrance, Saturday, 4/22, & Sunday, 4/23. Come enjoy Japanese culture at the Bunka-Sai Festival sponsored by the Torrance Sister City Association. There will be an anime contest; Kamishibai storytelling; Aikido, Judo, Kendo, Naginata, and Karate; Koto, Taiko, Minyo, Shamisen, and Odori; Ikebana and Bonsai; Shodo calligraphy and tea ceremony; Origami, Roketsu, and Kimekomi Ningyo Dolls; arts and crafts boutiques, games for children, hourly drawings; and food.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until May 21. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. The faire provides “a cornucopia of diversity where we are unified in inviting our guests to enjoy an environment we have created to escape from the stresses and demands of the modern day.” There will be artisans of all media, entertainment galore, food trucks and booths, games and rides (including pony and camel rides), a Kids Kingdom (with games, crafts, story-telling, song, shows, and characters), and a gnome quest!

Guatemala: Recycled Animals of the Rainforest (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/23, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Bright Design: Awazu Kiyoshi (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/23, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Japanese graphic designer Awazu Kiyoshi had a signature style that wove together folklore and city life, all in bright colors. Check out posters and prints he designed to promote theater and film in the exhibition Awazu Kiyoshi, Graphic Design: Summoning the Outdated. Make your own posters and learn simple printmaking techniques in artist-led workshops. This event repeats every Sunday in April.

Kids in the Courtyard: Flippin’ 4 LYF, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 4/23, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Learn how to create a flipbook, or a non-digital “GIF”, that brings a scene or character to life by connecting one movement to the next through drawings. Don’t forget to check out the fantastic dance movements photographed in the exhibition Pantsula 4 LYF: Popular Dance and Fashion in Johannesburg, as well as a series of animated and non-animated family films in Lenart Auditorium presented by the Dance Camera West Film Festival.

* WEEKEND OF APRIL 29 & 30 *

Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, select cinemas in the Los Angeles area, April 27 – May 4. Celebrating its 33rd edition in 2017, the festival will bring the best and brightest of new Asian Pacific American cinema to Los Angeles audiences. Check website for news and updates on the festival.

REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival, Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex, Downtown LA, Saturday, April 29, to Sunday, May 7. The annual REDCAT International Children’s Film Festival returns with two full weekends of adventurous short-film programs to appeal to moviegoers of all ages. Magical, exhilarating works made by acclaimed filmmakers and up-and-coming auteurs showcase work from around the globe — including Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, Russia, Taiwan, Belarus, Korea, The Netherlands, and Ukraine — to inspire the whole family. Festival highlights include the latest in both live action and animated shorts. See website for the schedule for the two weekends.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire, Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area, Irwindale, Saturdays & Sundays, ongoing until May 21. Travel back to the 16th century and experience the glory of life during the Renaissance era. The faire provides “a cornucopia of diversity where we are unified in inviting our guests to enjoy an environment we have created to escape from the stresses and demands of the modern day.” There will be artisans of all media, entertainment galore, food trucks and booths, games and rides (including pony and camel rides), a Kids Kingdom (with games, crafts, story-telling, song, shows, and characters), and a gnome quest!

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 4/29, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. Cost is $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

Mexico & Dia de los Ninos: Votive Painting Using Tin and Cardboard (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 4/30, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Come for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. All materials are provided. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured.

Bright Design: Awazu Kiyoshi (Andell Family Sundays), LACMA, Los Angeles, Sunday, 4/30, 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Japanese graphic designer Awazu Kiyoshi had a signature style that wove together folklore and city life, all in bright colors. Check out posters and prints he designed to promote theater and film in the exhibition Awazu Kiyoshi, Graphic Design: Summoning the Outdated. Make your own posters and learn simple printmaking techniques in artist-led workshops.

Feel free to add events for this month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have suggestions about future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me here with details. Thank you!

Southern California’s Annual Scandinavian Festival Returns

The annual Southern California Scandinavian Festival took a hiatus last year, but it’s back again this April for the 42nd time. It’s one of my favorite Scandinavian events in the greater Los Angeles area. We’ve gone as a family throughout the years and enjoyed lots of family friendly activities and great food. And the setting in Thousand Oaks is lovely. But then sports began taking over our weekends making it more difficult to attend, especially since the outing required close to an hour drive each way.

At the last festival in 2015, I chose to spend a day there alone instead of squeezing in a visit by the whole family. First I volunteered at an entrance selling tickets for a few hours, and then I wandered the grounds for a couple of hours more. What I love about the festival is that there is something for everyone, whether you’re there as a family with kids (kids 12 and under are free) or as adults enjoying on your own.

When we went as a family, it was all about keeping the kids occupied and happy, which certainly wasn’t hard. During their many visits throughout the years, my kids have made wooden butter knives, created fish print totes, made braided bracelets, marveled at Viking life, been fascinated by Viking weaponry, dressed like Vikings, fought like Vikings, played Kubb and croquet, played bingo, and climbed rock walls. They’ve eaten Swedish meatballs and pancakes, Danish aebleskiver, and Norwegian lefser.

We’ve always had a great time, but I wasn’t left with much of an opportunity to explore the more adult offerings. During visits with the family, I always spotted out of the corner of my eye the booths that demonstrated Nordic arts and crafts and food, but I never had a chance to really take a closer look. The musical performances on the festival stage I only enjoyed from afar. My perusal of the shopping area was always very quick.

Last year when I went alone, I still looked to see what activities were available for kids. Every third year my children’s elementary school has an International Day and I’m always on the lookout for activities that I can offer to highlight Norwegian or Scandinavian culture. I learned about Viking whipcord braiding, where weighted bobbins (in this case bottles) are swung back and forth to create a braid. It certainly looked like something we could do at our school’s International Day. Also, I saw the butter knife making station was as popular as ever.

Needless to say, I was able to leisurely visit the demonstration booths. I learned more about arts and crafts such as bobbin lace making and traditional Norwegian rosemaling. I visited the food demonstration booth while they were making rosettes.

At the Nordic Shopping Mart, I admired a great assortment of products such as jewelry, linens, woodwork, and other Scandinavian inspired items. I enjoyed food from the food court and performances on stage.

This year promises many of the same fun activities and experiences for all, plus more. Kids will want to pick up a Children’s Passport when they arrive and set out on a quest to complete a trip through the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland. Each country will offer a hands-on craft, and upon completion, the kids can get their passports stamped. In Norway, they will have a chance to make their own rock troll to take home. In Sweden, they can make straw ornaments, and in Denmark, paper fish are the main attraction. There will also be much happening on the Children’s Stage. The schedule includes songs, games, stories, puppet shows, and more. And of course, kids will also be able to visit Torsten the Troll, play Dala Horse croquet and Viking Kubb, make a wooden butter knife, and visit the Viking Encampment and Sami Village.

New for adults this year is a DNA and genealogy expert who will represent Family Tree DNA. DNA kits will be available for purchase if you wish to see how much Viking blood you have. There will also be local experts from the Conejo Valley and Ventura County Genealogical Societies to give advice and assistance.

The festival opens on Saturday, April 1, at 10:30 a.m., with a colorful parade of flags, along with dignitaries from the participating countries. Many will be in traditional costumes which will add a nice festive touch. The festivities then continue with a full schedule of performances, lectures, demonstrations of crafts and foods, and activities.

There will also be screenings of the documentary Yoik Fever, produced by Ellen-Astri Lundby (2013), both Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m. It’s about “a young Sámi-Norwegian music major yearning to connect to her heritage through the dwindling Sámi singing tradition of yoiking. Part road trip, this wholly inter-generational journey undertaken by Ylva to master the art of yoik reveals the conflicted and courageous state of Sámi identity today… Filmed in an entertaining cabaret-style mash-up of film styles and genres, the film’s ending will leave you with a serious case of ‘yoik fever!'”

I will be returning to the festival this year again as a volunteer. Sports schedules are not set yet so I don’t know if the whole family will be able to go. Whether I go alone or the family joins me, I’m certainly looking forward to the return of the festival.

My First Jury Duty Experience

Jury duty, it’s a civic duty that just about every American citizen seems to grumble and complain about and try to get out of. However, one of the things I was most looking forward to when becoming an American citizen was the opportunity to serve on a jury. I was so curious about it and very excited when I finally received my jury summons.

I don’t think I could have asked for a better first jury duty experience. It turned out to be a serious criminal case (gang related murder in my local area) with a judge I respected and who had a great sense of humor and a jury group that was pleasant to be with and took the responsibility seriously. I am looking forward to the next opportunity, which theoretically could come any day now since it’s been a year since my jury duty was completed.

Jury Selection

Luckily, I had completed the online orientation so my report time on Day 1 was a comfortable 9:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. Not knowing exactly what to expect, except probably waiting around a lot, I brought my book and made my way to the LAX Courthouse. And waiting I did, but with a view like this of the snow-capped mountains, it wasn’t always so bad.

I was not called for the first panel of potential jurors, but when I returned from lunch, I was called for the next panel along with about 80 other people. In the courtroom, the judge told us about the case and that it would likely take about three weeks(!).

The jury selection process was fascinating. I loved getting an inside look at how a jury is selected. Many people were dismissed right away due to language difficulties or the extreme hardship a 3-week trial would inflict. The rest of us completed a questionnaire that gathered information that the lawyers and judge would use for further questioning in an attempt to select an unbiased jury.

When it was my turn to enter the jury box for questioning, I felt like I was up for an oral exam for which I hadn’t prepared. I was told I had “boring” answers on my questionnaire, no experience with violent crimes, police, or gangs. Apparently, nothing stood out as possibly making me unable to decide the case fairly and impartially. Basically, the only question I was asked by one of the lawyers was how I deal with my kids’ fighting and decide what actually happened. The questioning moved on the other jurors, and then suddenly the day ended with the lawyers saying they accepted the panel as is. There was no warning that those of us sitting in the box would become the jurors of this case. Everyone seemed equally surprised. I was quite happy that I had been picked.

It was interesting to chat with and observe and listen to the other potential jurors during this process. Surprisingly, many actually had a positive attitude towards being there. Maybe the ones who didn’t want to be there had already found a way to postpone or get out of it. A shocking number of people or their families had been victims of violent crimes or had distrust of the police. The judge and lawyers tried to weed out those who might be biased against Latinos and/or gang members. I couldn’t always make sense of why a potential juror was let go, but one potential juror made it very clear. He said he had already made up his mind. “Either way that’s not good,” the judge said and let him go.

Testimonies

 

Day 4 was the beginning of the witness testimonies. We first heard instructions by the judge and then opening statements by both sides. It was interesting to see how the lawyers had hinted at the direction of the case through their juror questioning. It wasn’t just a case of a straight forward murder. The defendant was actually “only” the driver and a buddy of his had shot the gun which caused the death, but according to California law, the drivers are potentially just as guilty as the main perpetrators, though of course innocent until proven guilty.

We had a total of seven days of testimonies. We heard from all sorts of witnesses: police officers, motor and traffic officers, dispatchers, detectives, firearms experts, a high tech expert regarding cell phone activity, gang experts, a coroner about the autopsy, and current and former gang members. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but the notes I took had to stay behind in the courtroom. It was fascinating to get the inside look at a real crime investigation. Most eye-opening was what I learned about gang activity and gang rivalry going on in areas I frequent on a daily basis (Santa Monica and West LA) and not far from my own neighborhood!

There was a lot of sitting in a courtroom without windows during these days. I took advantage of the stairs going down from the eighth floor of the courthouse, as did many others, and enjoyed my little circular garden for breaks in the fresh air and sunshine.

Deliberations

During Day 10, the testimonies ended, the lawyers said their final arguments, and the judge gave us strict instructions to follow during deliberations.

We all returned on Day 11 to begin discussing the case. A fellow juror brought a delightful box of donuts to start off the day. This was the first time we discussed the case with our fellow jurors. It soon became clear that we did not all agree on a verdict, but being the conscientious jurors that we were, we went through the testimonies again and thought about and discussed it some more. Everyone was given a chance to share their opinion and thinking. However, we could not come to agreement and saw no way it would happen. We were pretty evenly split. We sent word to the judge that we were ready to share our decision.

Soon we were called into the courtroom. The judge didn’t accept our deadlock and encouraged us to return to the deliberation room and continue discussing. This was towards the end of the day and we made no headway and went home to sleep on it. The second day of deliberations we returned, but there had been no change in minds. We were still evenly split. Once again, we sent word to the judge. This time he accepted our deadlock, and it was over as fast at it had begun. It was somewhat anticlimactic.

The lawyers from both sides were eager to speak to us outside the courtroom afterwards. They wanted to learn the strengths and weaknesses in their cases and to hear why we weren’t able to come a unanimous decision. The People planned to try the defendant again. I’ll continue to cccasionally search online to see the status of the case. It looks like the next hearing date will be next month.

Closing Thoughts

A few days after it was over, I received a letter from the judge. He hoped I found the “experience both interesting and rewarding” and reiterated how “jury service is one of the few acts in which we each can fully participate as Americans” and thanked me for my “contribution to our community and to our legal system”. Little did he know how big a deal this experience was for me and how much I appreciated the opportunity. The letter was probably a form letter that’s sent out to all jurors for all sorts of cases, but I certainly took it to heart.

How have your jury duty experiences been?