December 2016: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Swedish Christmas Fair

december-2016December is always a busy time with the winter holidays approaching, but if you have some time left over, there’s plenty of special cultural events happening. Los Angeles is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. I challenge you to take advantage of what Los Angeles has to offer and to discover the richness of where we live. Choose one or two events and mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

Another of my favorite Scandinavian events happens this month, the Swedish Christmas Fair. It’s a busy, festive one-day affair which always leaves me with a cozy Christmas feeling. If you go, make sure to time your visit so that you are there for the Lucia pageant at 12pm or 3pm.

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

* THROUGHOUT DECEMBER *

downtown-la-walking-toursDTLA Holiday Lights Walking Tour, Meeting Point: Union Station, Downtown LA, nightly at 6:30pm until December 30. Explore the richness of Downtown LA with the annual DTLA Holiday Lights Tour, offered by Downtown LA Walking Tours. It is a two-hour nightly tour of the festive holiday decorations and traditions in Downtown LA from the weekend after Thanksgiving through the weekend after Christmas. The tour begins at Union Station and highlights include Las Posadas at Olvera Street, Broad Museum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Grand Park with its illuminated fountain, Nutcracker Village at California Plaza, icicle sheets in the Old Bank District, and Pershing Square festivities. Adults $15, children 12 and under free. Please visit website to reserve and purchase tickets.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 3 & 4 *

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking TourThe Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/3, 10:30am-1pm. 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. You must RSVP as group size is limited. This tour is offered every first Saturday of the month.

India: Sari Designs Printing on Fabric (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/4, 10am-12pm. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

swedish-christmas-fair37th Annual Swedish Christmas Fair, Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Torrance, Sunday, 12/4, 10am-5pm. The fair features artisans and stands presenting the best of Swedish fine art, handicraft, books, jewelry, toys, decorations, and much more. Enjoy a traditional Swedish lunch or “fika” (coffee break) with delicious home baked sweets. You can even enjoy an invigorating glass of hot glögg (mulled wine). The radiant Lucia pageant is performed twice during the day, at noon and at 3pm. There’s also a children’s corner with crafts, games, and a possible visit with Santa.

Kids in the Courtyard: Impressive Prints, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sunday, 12/4, 1pm-4pm. Admire the monumental prints on view in Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón, and then create a printed masterpiece with foam printing plates and ink.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 10 & 11 *

laicffLos Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, LACMA, Saturday, 12/10, & Sunday, 12/11. The 12th annual Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival will present more than 100 films from around the world—full-length and short animation, live action, and documentary films—organized for different age groups, from toddlers through teens. Select filmmakers and actors will be present for Q&A sessions after each screening.

Mexico: Colima Animal Vessels in Clay (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/11, 10am-12pm. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 17 & 18 *

Olvera Street Las PosadasLas Posadas at Olvera Street, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Friday, 12/16, – Saturday, 12/24, 6pm-8:30pm. Every evening beginning December 16th and continuing through Christmas Eve, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is portrayed with singing, ballet folklorico entertainment, a candlelight procession on Olvera Street, and a children’s piñata breaking.

Debbie Allen’s The Hot Chocolate Nutcrackerdebbie-allen-flyer, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Downtown LA, Friday, 12/16, 7:30pm, and Saturday, 12/17, 1pm and 7pm. Following the idea of the original, it’s Christmas Eve and the Johnsons are having a grand party. The Christmas gifts are shared and young Kara receives a Nutcracker filled with hot chocolate – her favorite. She falls asleep and the journey begins when the Nutcracker comes alive! Kara takes the audience on a mystical, magical journey, from Candy Cane Land, Egypt, the Indian Rainforest, Bollywood, Jazzland, and the Land of the Kimono Dolls. With dazzling choreography, music and costumes, this is a holiday theater experience that all ages will enjoy. Must buy tickets in advance.

janm-sushi-grazeEdible Adventures: Little Tokyo Sushi Graze, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/17, 10am-2pm. Take a stroll through Little Tokyo and sample the many varieties of sushi, from makizushi to chirashi zushi. In between stops, listen to sushi masters tell stories that evoke the 130-year history of the neighborhood. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. $64 for members, $80 for non-members. Food and museum admission are included. Limited to 12 participants.

janm-littletokyowalkingtourLittle Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/17, 10:15am-12:15pm. Relive history and learn about present-day Little Tokyo with JANM docents. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Weather permitting. Buy tickets in advance. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission is included. Limited to 20 participants.

aloha-kalikimakaAloha Kalikimaka: Halau Holiday Celebration, Aratani Theatre, Downtown LA, Saturday, 12/17, 7pm. Join four beloved Southern California Kumu Hula and their award-winning halau as they come together to share this aloha and holiday-infused dance and music performance. Little Tokyo residents also join in the celebration with a special performance by Ukuleles for Little Tokyo. Discover and experience the unique spiritual connections of Hawai’i. For ticket information, visit website.

Austria: Klimt Inspired Holiday Cards Using Collage and Paint (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 12/18, 10am-12pm. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

skirball-hanukkah-festivalHanukkah Family Festival: Light for the People, Skirball Cultural Center, Sunday, 12/18, 11am-4pm. This year’s festival honors the light of creativity and hope that helps the whole community achieve great things together. Revel in the spirit of the holiday with music, dance, printmaking, storytelling, and other family-friendly fun. Families of all backgrounds are welcome.

Kids in the Courtyard: Beautiful Boxes, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sunday, 12/18, 1pm-4pm. Sometimes the box is the most special part of a gift. Explore the inventive ways artists adorned and filled boxes in The Box Project: Uncommon Threads, and then collage your own gift box for the winter’s festivities.

* WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 24 & 25 *

la-county-holiday-celebration57th Annual LA County Holiday Celebration, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, Saturday, 12/24, 3pm-6pm. Community and professional choirs, music ensembles, and dance companies representing the diverse cultures and holiday traditions of the region celebrate the season during this free three-hour holiday show. Doors open at 2:30pm. Entertainment on the plaza begins at 12:30pm. You may come and go throughout the three-hour performance.

Happy Holidays!

Volunteering at Norwegian Church’s Christmas Bazaar 2016

volunteering

This year I switched things up and volunteered at the Norwegian Church’s Christmas Bazaar instead of just attending as a guest. My day was all about food which suited me perfectly.

For me, food has always been a main reason for going to the event. I come to eat foods I only eat once a year, to buy freshly baked goods from the bakery, and to stock up on foods and drinks for Christmas time. On this occasion, I was assigned to the kitchen and café, and that was an assignment I appreciated and enjoyed greatly.

My day started out with getting wienerpølser (Norwegian sausages) in a pot for simmering, stirring lapskaus (meat stew), and slicing geitost (goat cheese) for julebrød (sweet bread with raisins). Once the event officially began, I headed out to the café and served cake and sandwiches to eager guests.

The first half of the day was by far the busiest. A crowd had even been waiting out front for the doors to open. Once they opened, a line was quick to form at the café so obviously food wasn’t a motivating factor just for me. The line moved slowly — there was much for us to explain as the foods were very traditionally Norwegian — but guests were very patient. Cake was a popular item, especially the marzipan cake. We were busy.

cakes

I took my break after the lunch rush was over and while the raffle drawing was going on. Many guests had had a hard time deciding what to get, but for me, it was not a difficult choice. I went for my favorite and usual item on the menu, rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge), served with butter and sugar and cinnamon and a glass of rød saft (red juice). I also had an open-faced sandwich of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and a bolle (sweet bun) with geitost (goat cheese) for dessert.

lunch

One perk of volunteering during the last shift is that you’re there when the guests have left and the easiest way to clean up is to eat the leftovers that won’t last until the next day. I was offered a portion of ertesuppe (yellow pea soup) to take home, which I gladly accepted. I had a feeling my 10 year old Doobie would enjoy that since he loves beans and minestrone and this was similar. I was right; he devoured it all. I also brought home a couple of slices of leftover marzipan cake. The first marzipan cake of the day had an apricot cream filling which didn’t really appeal to me, but the second marzipan cake had a plain custard cream, much more up my alley, and it was heavenly.

I had volunteered at the Christmas Bazaar many years ago when I participated in Småbarnstreff with my kids, but it was only a short shift manning one of the booths. Helping in the kitchen and in the café for a whole day was a much more active and fulfilling experience. I got to know the wonderful staff at the church a little, saw friends from my Småbarnstreff days, and met many more new people. And I definitely used my Norwegian which felt good.

I’m now stocked up with Solo, gløgg mix, saft concentrate, risengrynsgrøt, geitost, and some baked goods that went straight to the freezer to last longer. It was a wonderful day, and I already look forward to volunteering at next year’s Christmas Bazaar.

Sjømannskirken i Los Angeles/San Pedro was live on Facebook for the opening and took viewers on a quick tour of the bazaar as well. You can watch it here. The Christmas Bazaar continues throughout the weekend, Saturday 11am to 5pm and Sunday 12pm to 4pm after the family service at 11am. Saturday offers a children’s Christmas craft workshop and Sunday has an extra special raffle drawing at 2:30pm. I hope you’ve been able to stop by this year.

For the 2016 schedule of Christmas activities at the church, visit the church’s website: Julen i Los Angeles/San Pedro Juleprogram 2016.

christmas-bazaar-opening

November 2016: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Norwegian Christmas Fair

november-2016Los Angeles is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. There are many special events happening in LA in November. I challenge you to discover the richness of where we live. Choose one or two events and mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

November is the month when Norwegians can kick off the holiday season with the Norwegian Church’s annual Christmas Fair, a highlight of the year and a favorite event of mine. You are warmly welcomed with gløgg and ginger snaps, and then Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. Don’t forget to enjoy a meal of traditional Norwegian foods in the church’s cafe and to buy Norwegian Christmas foods and baked goods before you leave.

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

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 5 & 6 *

Arpa International Film Festival, Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood, Thursday, 11/3 – Sunday, 11/6. The annual Arpa International Film Festival is a dynamic forum for international cinema with a special focus on the work of filmmakers who explore the issues of diaspora, exile, and multiculturalism. A strong emphasis is placed on ideals of independent thought, artistic vision, cultural diversity, and social understanding.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking TourThe Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 11/5, 10:30am-1pm. 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. RSVP is required as group size is limited. This tour is offered every first Saturday of the month.

bowers-mexican-day-of-deadMexican Day of the Dead Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 11/6, 11am-3:30pm. Join in a celebration of Life as departed loved ones are honored. Leave a note of love on the beautiful ofrenda (memorial offering) for that person or pet that continues to be loved and missed. Then celebrate life with music, dance, and art with the popular Mariachi Kids, Las Estrellas Folklorico of the Orange County School of the Arts, Xipe Totec Danza Azteca, classical guitarist Joel Aceves and Estudiatina del Sol. Decorate sugar skulls and calavera masks and create many other Day of the Dead art projects while enjoying hot Mexican chocolate and pan de muerto.

Russia: Onion Dome Architecture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/6, 10am-12pm. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

family_jam_sounds_of_cubaFamily Jam: Sounds of Cuba, Fowler Museum Courtyard, UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 2pm-4pm. Listen to the exciting rhythms of Cuban music by Afro-Cuban band SitaraSon (2–3pm) and then create a drum to play your own beats. This event is offered in conjunction with the exhibition Nkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 12 & 13 *

AFI Festafi-fest, Various Venues, Hollywood, Thursday, 11/10 – Thursday, 11/17. This is American Film Institute’s annual celebration of international cinema from modern masters and emerging filmmakers. It features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations, and tributes.

Red Nation Film Festival, Various Venues, Los Angeles, Friday, 11/11 – Monday, 11/21. This year marks the 13th year of showcasing features, documentaries, shorts, music videos, and comedy specials that are produced from the heart of Indian Country USA and International Indigenous Nations by emerging and established American Indian/Non­-Indian filmmakers.

Spain: Traditional Tile Motif (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/13, 10am-12pm. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 19 & 20 *

JulebasarNorwegian Christmas Fair/Julebasar, Sjømannskirken/Norwegian Seaman’s Church, San Pedro, Friday, 11/18 – Sunday, 11/20. The third weekend in November is the annual Norwegian Christmas Bazaar at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. There are raffle drawings with wonderful prizes, traditional foods served in the church’s cafe, baked goods for sale in the church’s bakery, and Norwegian Christmas food available in the church’s store. There will also be a children’s Christmas Workshop from 12pm to 2:30pm on Saturday.

great-la-walkThe Great Los Angeles Walk, Pico Boulevard, Saturday, 11/19, 9am. There’s no better way to get to know our city and experience its richness than by walking across it! Every year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, hundreds of walkers start this free urban hike on one side of the city and, about 9 hours and 17 miles later, end up at the other. It is a low-key event, and you can hop on or off the walk whenever you’d like. Now with Metro Expo Line open, getting to and from the start and finish will be much easier. The walk will be starting at Grand Hope Park located next to FIDM at the corner of 9th Street and Hope at 9am and then continue along Pico all the way to the beach. To join the walk, just send an email to greatlawalk@mail.com.

African Tales, California African American Museum, Exposition Park, Saturday, 11/19, 2pm. Storytelling preserves history, traditions, and ideas and brings them to life. Inspired by The Ease of Fiction, bring your family to hear wonderful folk tales from Nigeria, Botswana, Egypt, and Rwanda told by master storyteller Michael D. McCarty.

Mariachi Festival26th Annual Mariachi Festival and Community Fair, Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights, Sunday, 11/20, 9:30am-7pm. The 26th Annual Mariachi Festival will be held at the 40-year-old landmark, Mariachi Plaza, in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles. Local mariachi groups will perform during the day-long program. There will also be arts activities, photo opportunities, art exhibitions, food, and information booths.

Native American: Dreamcatchers (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/20, 10am-12pm. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

family-jam-ucla-kyodo-taikoFamily Jam: UCLA Kyodo Taiko, Fowler Museum Courtyard, UCLA,Westwood, Sunday, 11/20, 2pm-4pm. Admire works by Japanese fiber artists in the exhibition The Box Project: Uncommon Threads. Then experiment with fiber to make a colorful Taiko-inspired headband of your own. Afterward, enjoy a performance by the UCLA group Kyodo Taiko (3–4pm).

* WEEKEND OF NOVEMBER 26 & 27 *

Africa: Endangered Species – Recycled Animal Sculpture (Family Art Workshop), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 11/27, 10am-12pm. Join instructors for a free family art workshop in a real art studio. Each Sunday a different culture and media are featured. All materials are provided.

Norwegian Language Opportunities in Los Angeles

norwegian-alphabet-jana-johnson-schnoor

Norwegian Alphabet by Jana Johnson Schnoor

Norwegian is not in high demand so opportunities to learn and use the language here in Los Angeles are very limited. There are, however, two establishments that stand out as centers for Norwegian language and culture here in the Los Angeles area: Norwegian Church in San Pedro and Scandinavian Center in Thousand Oaks. At both places, you can not only pursue your interest in learning Norwegian, but you can also learn about Norwegian culture and customs.


Norwegian Church in San Pedro

The Norwegian Church in San Pedro, whose mission is “to create a home away from home for Norwegian residents, students and visitors,” is a thriving community and offers plenty of opportunities for folk in the greater Los Angeles area to explore their Norwegian heritage and pursue Norwegian interests.

  • Norwegian Language Classes for Adults

The Norwegian Church has been offering Norwegian classes for adults for a couple of years now. Participants learn the language as well as get a feel for the culture and lifestyle. Classes take place on Saturdays 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are led by instructor Olaug Macmillan. The fall session began Saturday, September 10, 2016, with a new series of 10 classes. For more information, contact the church at losangeles@sjomannskirken.no.

To make your trip to San Pedro even more worthwhile on the day of class, stay for Lørdagsgrøt, traditional Norwegian porridge. Every Saturday they serve porridge at 2 o’clock. The cost is $5 per person.

  • Family Sundays

The Norwegian Church used to offer a Norwegian language and culture program for children known as Skolegjengen. Starting this fall, however, they began doing it differently. Instead they now have special “Family Sundays” once a month throughout the year during which they offer different activities including Norwegian language, culture, and traditions. The “Family Sundays” begin with a family service at 11 o’clock which are then followed by kid-friendly food and activities. This fall’s dates are September 11, October 30, November 27, December 11, and January 8, with a special gathering Saturday, November 19, during the weekend of the church’s annual Christmas Bazaar. If interested, please contact the church at losangeles@sjomannskirken.no for more information and to confirm dates.

  • Library at the Church

The Norwegian Church has a lending library of 6,000 books covering a wide variety of genres in Norwegian, Swedish, and English. The main categories are Art, Religion, Biographies/Autobiographies, Food/Cooking, Travel, History, Culture, and Fiction. Many popular Scandinavian authors are included in the collection.

The library has a self-service checkout system and is available during the church’s regular hours. There is a computer by the library that has a searchable list of all the books in the collection.

  • Other Programs & Events

The Norwegian Church also has a weekday program for families with babies and young children called Småbarnstreff. Every Thursday at 11 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m., a group of parents and children meets in the church garden. The kids play while parents chat. Waffles, coffee, and saft are served. Participants are asked to donate $5 per family for the refreshments. I used to go to Småbarnstreff when my kids were young and enjoyed the opportunity to connect with fellow Norwegians. For more information, click here or contact Margrete at mbe@sjomannskirken.no.

Another popular program is the church’s Tuesday lunches. Every first Tuesday of the month, a different menu is offered. The cost is $15 per person. There is no binding reservation, but the church does appreciate a heads-up if you’re coming so they can more easily plan the meal. The December Christmas lunch is a special event with a binding reservation of $30.


Scandinavian Center in Thousand Oaks

The Scandinavian Center in Thousand Oaks is home to the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation whose missions is to “preserve and promote Scandinavian Heritage and Culture for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations.” They offer many programs and events for folk to explore and delve into their Scandinavian heritage and interests.

  • Norwegian Language Classes

According to the Scandinavian Center’s website, Norwegian language classes for both adults and children are offered. Adult classes are on Wednesday evenings and children’s classes are on Wednesday afternoons. For more information, get in touch with Noomi Wennberg through the Scandinavian Center at (805) 241-0391.

  • Scandinavian Book Club

The Scandinavian Book Club is an opportunity I will be exploring this fall. The group generally meets the fourth Thursday each month October through April at 1:30 p.m. at the Scandinavian Center. The group selects books by Scandinavian or Nordic authors that have been translated into English. Everyone can suggest books and it’s decided at each meeting what the book selection will be for the following month. All genres are considered. Books written by Americans living in a Nordic country have also been chosen. For details on the next meeting, reach out to Lana Lundin at lanalundin@gmail.com.

  • Other Programs & Events

The Scandinavian Center also offers Swedish language classes, a genealogy group, lace making workshops, and Brown Bag Lunch Programs that cover a variety of topics such as history, art, biography, music, travel, science and technology, movies, Scandinavian arts and crafts, education, and current affairs. And last but not least, they also sponsor the yearly Scandinavian Festival in April which is a favorite event of mine. The Scandinavian Center can be reached at (805) 241-0391 or scancenter@callutheran.edu for more information on any of the programs mentioned.


Good luck with your Norwegian language endeavors! Please feel free to add any Norwegian language opportunities of which I’m not aware in the comments below.

October 2016: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & CicLAvia

october-2016It’s a busy month ahead, and Halloween and fall festivities aren’t even included in that. Throughout the month, there are celebrations and events featuring countries and cultures from all over the world – Lebanon, Southeast Asia, Lithuania, China, Cuba, Germany, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Greece, Philippines, Congo, Mexico, India, and Asia in general. Where will you travel to this month without even leaving the city?

October is also the month of one of my favorite LA events – CicLAvia. On Sunday, October 16, close to 6 miles of streets will be closed to cars in Downtown LA, and participants will be free to explore all it has to offer. See more details below. I did it last year with my oldest son. There is no better way to get to know a part of town than to ride slowly through it stopping as you please along the way. Now with the Expo Line open all the way to Santa Monica, it’s even easier for Westside families to participate.

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

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 1 & 2 *

oc-lebanese-festivalOrange County Lebanese Cultural Festival, Orange, Friday, 9/30 – Sunday, 10/2. Enjoy food, entertainment, and family fun at OC Lebanese Cultural Festival now in its sixth year.

Southeast Asia Dayaquarium-of-pacific-seasiaday, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday, 10/1. The Aquarium of the Pacific will celebrate its twelfth annual Southeast Asia Day. The festival’s program will highlight the beauty and diversity of the cultures of Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, and Indonesia. Guests will enjoy live performances, including music, dance, and cultural craft demonstrations. Ethnic dishes will be available for purchase, and children will have the opportunity to participate in arts and crafts.

lithuanian-fairLithuanian Days Fair, St. Casimir Lithuanian Catholic Church, Los Feliz, Saturday, 10/1 & Sunday, 10/2. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Lithuanian Days Fair. Celebrate Lithuanian culture with dancing and songs, food and drinks, and kids crafts and games.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking TourThe Undiscovered Chinatown Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 10/1, 10:30am-1pm. 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. RSVP is required as group size is limited. This tour is offered every first Saturday of the month.

fowler_nkameNkame: A Retrospective of Cuban Printmaker Belkis Ayón, Fowler Museum at UCLA, opening October 2, ongoing until February 17, 2017. The Fowler Museum presents Nkame, the first solo museum exhibition in the United States dedicated to the work of Belkis Ayón (1967–1999)—the late Cuban visual artist who mined the founding myth of the Afro-Cuban fraternal society Abakuá.

Israel: New Year Wishes, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/2, 10am-12pm. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This Sunday, use papier mache to explore new years wishes.

bowers-octoberfestOctoberfest, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 10/2, 11am-3:30pm. Come celebrate October, the German way! Dance to traditional music played by Ty Rust and the Bavarian Wünderband, enjoy performances by Gypsy Folk Ensemble and Die Gemütlichen Schuhplattler, marvel at David Cousins’ world class juggling skills, and much more.

la-med-fairL.A. Mediterranean Festival, St. Nicholas Cathedral, Los Angeles, Sunday, 10/2, 12pm-9pm. The 20th annual Los Angeles Mediterranean Festival is a celebration of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culture with authentic foods, traditional dancing, and entertainment. The festival includes live Arabic music performed by prominent artists, singing both traditional and popular songs. Enjoy delicious Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine. Explore the vendors’ marketplace. There will be games for kids, face painting, and much more.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 8 & 9 *

LA GreekFestL.A. Greek Fest, Saint Sophia Cathedral, Pico & Normandie Blvds, Friday 10/7 – Sunday 10/9. The L.A. Greek Fest is your passport to Greece. Each day of festivities is a celebration of food, wine, dance, games, performances, and one-of-a-kind cultural experiences.

fpac-flyer-final-jpgFestival of Philippine Arts and Culture, Echo Park Lake, Saturday, 10/8. This is the longest-running Filipino cultural celebration in Southern California. Come enjoy traditional and contemporary Filipino food, music, dance, crafts, and culture.

 

USA: Kwakiutl Spirit Masks, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/9, 10am-12pm. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This Sunday, learn about the Kwakiutl, an American Indian tribe of the northwestern Pacific coast.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 15 & 16 *

hollywood-bowl-kygpKYGO, Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, Friday, 10/14 and Saturday, 10/15. If you didn’t have a chance to see Norwegian up-and-coming electronic music artist Kygo live when he performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo in December 2015 or at the Rio Olympics’ Closing Ceremony in August, here’s your chance to catch him at the Hollywood Bowl. The line-up also includes Bob Moses, Labrinth, and Seeb. Tickets are going fast.

ciclavia-heart-of-la-2016CicLAvia: Heart of LA, Downtown LA, Sunday, 10/16, 9am-4pm. Leave your car behind and explore LA like you never have before. The Heart of LA route will take you to MacArthur Park, Chinatown, Mariachi Plaza, and Grand Park while riding through the Arts District, Little Tokyo, Civic Center, and Historic Core. You will enjoy the sights, music, food, and culture that make LA such a vibrant city.

Congo: Ancestral Masks, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/16, 10am-12pm. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This Sunday, make Congolese ancestral masks with clay.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 22 & 23 *

fowler-family-jamFamily Jam: Celebrate Dia de los Muertos!, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sunday, 10/23, 2pm-4pm. Enjoy a lively Mariachi performance in honor of Day of the Dead (2pm–3pm). Then, marvel at fantastic sculptures made by contemporary Mexican artists in Intersections and yarn paintings in The Spun Universe. Afterward, try your hand at drawing calaveras (skulls) on your face or a mask with fun face paints and pastels.

India: Diwali Toran, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/23, 10am-12pm. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This Sunday, create an Indian wall hanging with textiles.

ori-i-tahiti-rootsOri I Tahiti presents “Roots”, Aratani Theatre at Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, Downtown LA, Sunday, 10/23, 3pm (doors open at 2pm). Experience Tahitian culture through the beauty of Polynesian dance. This will be the first performance in the United States of the award winning group, Ori I Tahiti. Aloha Hula Polynesian Dance Studio will be opening up the show. For ticket information and to purchase, please visit JACC’s online box office. Seating is limited.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 29 & 30 *

asian-world-film-festivalAsian World Film Festival, Culver City, Monday, 10/24 – Tuesday, 11/1. The Asian World Film Festival brings the best of a broad selection of Asian World cinema to Los Angeles in order to draw greater recognition to the region’s wealth of filmmakers. The festival screens films from 50 countries across Asia spanning from Turkey to Japan and Russia to India.

Dia de los MuertosOlvera Street Dia De Los Muertos, Olvera Street, Downtown LA, Tuesday, 10/25 – Wednesday, 11/2. Olvera Street is home to a colorful celebration that takes place over nine days. Merging ancient traditions with modern-day interpretations, you are invited to join in honoring deceased loved ones. At 7pm each night, you can watch the Novenario Procession, a colorful parade of “Living Muertos” in which participants dress up as skeletons in colorful traditional, and not-so-traditional, costumes. Traditional Mayan Blessing/Soul Cleansing takes place before and after the procession, and champurrado and sweet bread are offered afterwards. Festival Days take place 10/29 – 11/2 (check website for times). Community Altars, or “Las Ofrendas,” are on display in the plaza 10/28 – 11/2.

Have you decided how you’ll explore the diverse richness of Los Angeles this month?

Guide to Norway’s Slow TV on Netflix

netflix-slow-tvRecently, we’ve been exploring Netflix’s Slow TV offerings which were introduced in August 2016. I’ve been curious about the Slow TV phenomenon that has swept through Norway and has now arrived in the US via Netflix. According to Wikipedia, Slow TV is “a term used for a genre of live ‘marathon’ television coverage of an ordinary event in its complete length.”

What I quickly learned was that not all the Netflix offerings are true Slow TV and that some of the offerings are actually segments of a much longer original broadcast. I also learned that there are different sub-genres of Slow TV. Some are meditative and relaxing; others are informative and entertaining. (Don’t have Netflix? You’ll find links to the programs elsewhere on the internet at the end of the post.)

Slow TV: Train Ride Bergen to Oslo

This is a true Slow TV program, the original one actually. It is an actual train ride between these two cities filmed in real time. Train Ride Bergen to Oslo, or Bergensbanen minutt for minutt in Norwegian, offers you the opportunity to “take in the passing landscapes captured by train-mounted cameras during a rail journey through forests and mountains” (Netflix description) across Southern Norway. It is a 7-hour, 14-minute journey, and you can follow along for the full ride. It was filmed during the summer of 2009 in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the rail line that fall, which is when it was broadcast.

slow-tv-bergen-osloIt’s surprisingly mesmerizing and addicting, even with the frequent tunnels, some of them long! You never know what will appear at the end of the tunnel or around the next bend. And it’s calming with the beautiful scenery and rhythmic sound of riding along the tracks. I certainly can’t see sitting for seven hours straight watching, but watching segments at a time or having it on in the background seem like more likely scenarios.

Slow TV: Northern Passage

This is one of the offerings that is NOT actually Slow TV. Instead it’s a produced documentary-style show using footage from the original Slow TV broadcast. Going on a Hurtigruten cruise along Norway’s western coast is high on my wishlist, and here I got to take the six-day northbound journey from Bergen to Kirkenes in only 58 minutes.

slow-tv-northern-passageThe original Slow TV version, Hurtigruten minutt for minutt, was a 134-hour live broadcast shown in Norway in the summer of 2011. It became such a national sensation, both in real life and online, that locals would arrive in boats and on land to welcome the ship with flags and music and those in other parts of Norway and abroad would stay up late to follow along on TV or the Internet.

Netflix’s program had our constant attention. Even though it’s not an example of Slow TV, I highly recommend it. There was a party atmosphere almost the whole time since it was such a popular sailing. Also, the scenery is stunning, the landscape magnificent, and the midnight sun unbelievable. A highlight of the voyage was when the boat entered Trollfjorden. Locals dressed up as trolls and danced along the fjord. This happened close to midnight, but you would never know that based on the light at that time. My desire to take a trip with Hurtigruten along the coast is just as strong, if not stronger after watching this program. This documentary was a great preview of the trip.

Slow TV: Northern Railway

This is a 52-minute documentary about the railway from Trondheim to Bodø north of the Arctic Circle which uses footage from the original Slow TV broadcast. The program is a very edited and produced program with music, narration, interviews, and historical contexts. It is very informational  and interesting with beautiful landscapes and fun musical accompaniment.

slow-tv-northern-railway

The original Slow TV version, Nordlandsbanen minutt for minutt, which you can view in its entirety here at NRK, was broadcast in 2012 and lasts 9 hours and 50 minutes. This is a very unique production because it combines four different train rides, each filmed in a different season (July 31, February 23, September 27, and May 15). As the train rolls along, the seasons change seamlessly. The program is introduced and explained and then the journey begins with only music as its accompaniment.

Slow TV: National Firewood Series

There are three National Firewood options on Netflix: Evening (3 hours, 54 minutes), Night (6 hours, 1 minute), and Morning (2 hours, 5 minutes). These three programs actually combine to make the original 12-hour broadcast. Begin the series with Evening, continue with Night, and end with Morning.

slow-tv-national-firewood-intro

The program was inspired by Lars Mytting’s best-selling nonfiction book Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way. Lars Mytting appears throughout the program adding his insight to the discussions about firewood.

The first episode, National Firewood Evening, is four hours of “rich content” related to firewood culture in Norway. Guests of all kinds share their expertise or thoughts on all things firewood. There are unique musical performances and a wood stacking competition. You never knew there was so much to know, appreciate, and admire about firewood.

The next episodes, National Firewood Night and Morning, are eight hours of “warm firewood”. You watch a fire in a fireplace and hear the crackling along with background noises. Occasionally, someone adds a log or two. Other times you are treated to wood-themed music, poetry, or prose. I’m thinking these episodes might make a good show to watch when the temperatures drop and the days get shorter or we need some cozy images on our TV.

Slow TV: National Knitting Series

The final Slow TV offerings from Netflix are National Knitting Evening (3 hours, 55 minutes) and National Knitting Night (8 hours, 39 minutes). National Knitting Morning was supposed to be offered as well, but at the time of this post, it was not available. Once again these are parts of the whole broadcast originally aired in Norway. The first program, National Knitting Evening, is four hours of inspiration, tradition, and new ideas. In the next one, National Knitting Night, you watch in realtime as the participants attempt to break a world record for shearing, spinning, and knitting wool into a men’s sweater.

slow-tv-national-knitting-1

Knitting is not a hobby of mine, but I have to say that the beginning of National Knitting Night was very interesting. It starts immediately with the shearing of a sheep which I’ve never seen in person, but I felt like I was there watching it this time. Then it continues with spinning the wool and eventually knitting the sweater. The big question is, will they beat Australia’s record?

Will you give Slow TV a try?

When I heard Netflix was offering Norway’s Slow TV programs, I was very excited that I’d get to see what these hours-long broadcasts were all about. It did take some research to understand what I was watching since Netflix just presented them all as Slow TV and also didn’t differentiate between the various knitting and firewood programs. But in the end, I feel I got a good grasp of Norway’s Slow TV and enjoyed what I saw and look forward more.

Are  you interested in checking out the Slow TV programs but don’t have Netflix? You can find the programs online as follows:

Train Ride Bergen to Oslo -> Bergensbanen minutt for minutt (full original broadcast)

Northern Passage -> A Norway Passage: The Most Beautiful Passage (the 58-minute documentary)

Northern Railway -> Nordlandsbanen minutt for minutt (full original broadcast)

National Firewood Series -> Nasjonal vedkveld (in Norwegian, no English subtitles)

National Knitting Night -> National Knitting Eve (in English)

At the time of this post, The Telemark Canal and Salmon Fishing were missing from Netflix’s line-up even though they were advertised earlier this summer. However, you can see them at Telemarkskanalen minutt for minutt (10 hours divided into 13 segments) and Lakseelva minutt for minutt (12 hours divided into 6 segments) at NRK, Norway’s national broadcaster.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Norway’s Slow TV. Have you watched any programs? Which ones and what did you think?

September 2016: Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Events

September 2016Many of us are back to the grind with school and after-school and weekend activities, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to seek out opportunities to explore other cultures or visit new-to-us areas of Los Angeles to broaden our horizons.

September offers many such opportunities. Chinatown offers walking tours and a moon festival, Olvera Street celebrates Mexican Independence Day with a multi-day event, and Watts is hosting a multicultural Day of the Drum Festival.

I’m happy to report that Scandinavia is well represented this month with AutumnFest & Höstmarknad Celebration in Agoura, Vista Viking Festival in North San Diego County, the benefit concert Nordic Noir LA at the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, and a family art workshop featuring Norse gods at Barnsdall Art Park. See below for more details on those events.

Before moving on to this month’s events, I’d like to include a heads-up about a Norwegian music artist coming to town in October. Kygo, an up-and-coming electronic music artist, has two shows at Hollywood Bowl – Friday, October 14, and Saturday, October 15. I first learned about Kygo when he performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo in December 2015 and then I heard him again at Rio Olympics’ Closing Ceremony in August. His music is described as tropical house, “a slowed-down style heavy on piano melodies,” according to Rolling Stone.

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

* LABOR DAY WEEKEND, SEPTEMBER 3 & 4 & 5 *

The Undiscovered Chinatown TourUndiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday 9/3, 10:30am-1pm. 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. Offered every first Saturday of the month.

Skirball—On EnsembleFamily Amphitheater Performances: On Ensemble, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Saturday 9/3, 12pm & 2pm. Be there as On Ensemble, one of the most respected ensembles in the taiko (Japanese drumming) world, performs at the Skirball. Led by childhood friends Shoji Kameda and Masato (Maz) Baba, On Ensemble fuses the powerful rhythms of taiko with a wide range of musical influences from jazz and rock to central Asian overtone singing.

Barnsdall Art Park SundaysBarnsdall Art Sundays—USA: Hawaiian Feather Art, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 9/4, 10am-12pm. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This Sunday, explore Hawaiian Feather Art.

 

Festa ItalianaBowers—Festa Italiana, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday 9/4, 11am-3:30pm. Enjoy an afternoon of popular and classical Italian music featuring Tony Ciaramitaro singing along with the Sicilian Band and the Classical Singers of the Orange County School of the Arts. Franklin Haynes Marionettes will keep you laughing with their funny antics. There will be art projects, face painting, and food sampling for the entire family.

Skirball—El Haru KuroiFamily Amphitheater Performances: El Haru Kuroi, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Sunday 9/4, 12pm & 2pm. Wrap up this season of Family Amphitheater Performances with El Haru Kuroi. Natives of East Los Angeles, El Haru Kuroi perform music representative of their cultural upbringing, blending the styles of Mexican, South American, African, and American music.

 

LACMA—AndellAndell Family Sundays—A Family Collection: Chinese Paintings, LACMA, Miracle Mile, Sunday 9/4 (offered every Sunday in September), 12:30pm. 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, be inspired by the special exhibition Alternative Dreams: 17th-Century Chinese Paintings from the Tsao Family Collection to start your own collection of art by making your own paintings in the art workshop.

* WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 10 & 11 *

Barnsdall Art Park SundaysBarnsdall Art Sundays—China: Autumn Moon Festival, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 9/11, 10am-12pm. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This Sunday, create moon and dragon lanterns for Autumn Moon Festival.

 

Fowler—Baskets

Kids in the Courtyard: Baskets of Fun, Fowler Museum Courtyard, UCLA, Sunday 9/11, 2pm-4pm. Watch Japanese fiber artist Hisako Sekijima as she works right before your eyes. Then visit the galleries to find her completed work in The Box Project: Uncommon Threads. With natural and synthetic materials, you’ll have the opportunity to try your hand at basket weaving and take home a mini-basket of your own creation.

* WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 17 & 18 *

labffLos Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, Hollywood, Friday 9/16 – Tuesday 9/20. The Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival is recognized as the most prestigious Brazilian film festival outside Brazil. It showcases the best in new Brazilian cinema and provides the movie-loving public with access to some of the most critically acclaimed and important Brazilian filmmakers, film industry professionals, and emerging new talent by bringing them together in the heart of the entertainment capital of the world. All screenings, except opening and closing events, are free. See website for details and schedule.

Placita OlveraMexican Independence Day, Olvera Street, Downtown LA, Saturday 9/17 & Sunday 9/18. Celebrate Mexican Independence from Spain with popular and traditional entertainment, cultural activities, historic displays, food, artisan exhibits, and more. Special entertainment is also scheduled on September 16th.

 

Chinatown Moon Festival78th Annual Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday 9/17, 5pm- 11pm. Join in the festivities of this harvest festival celebrated by the Chinese dating back over 3,000 years. There will be artisans and an artisan market, music performances, children’s craft workshops, a culinary stage, Capuchin Monkey and Trainer, moon viewing with telescopes, and food trucks.

 

AutumnFestScandinavian AutumnFest & Höstmarknad Celebration, Vasa Park, Agoura, Sunday 9/18, 9am-6pm. AutumnFest offers a wide range of activities for the whole family. In addition to enjoying traditional foods of Sweden, you can be a judge in the 8th Annual Swedish Meatball Contest. You can buy beautifully crafted gifts and souvenirs and enjoy Scandinavian musicians and folk dancers, demonstrations, and a Viking reenactment group that shares stories about Viking times. New for 2016 is an art show. There will be many activities for kids including a huge waterslide, an alpine tube slide, swimming, a rock climbing wall, and field games.

Barnsdall Art Park SundaysBarnsdall Art Sundays—Thailand: Thai Puppets, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 9/18, 10am-12pm. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This particular Art Sunday is planned in conjunction with Thai Cultural Day.

Thai Cultural Day, Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Loz Feliz, Sunday 9/18, 11am-5pm. This year the festival celebrates the culture of Northeastern Thailand. It will be a day of traditional dance, music, and art.

* WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 24 & 25 *

LA Korean FestivalLos Angeles Korean Festival, Seoul International Park, Normandie & Olympic Blvds, Thursday 9/22 – Sunday 9/25. This is a free four-day festival whose mission it is to provide the community with the best possible outlet to learn about the roots and traditions of Korea. Entertaining performances will lighten up the festival’s main stage. Thoughtful cultural exhibitions will educate visitors about Korea’s history and traditions. Local restaurants as well as vendors from South Korea will present a wide variety of food in one space. The shopping space will consist of booths selling Korean products such as cosmetics, appliances, apparel, and accessories.

Pasadena Greek FestPasadena Greek Fest, Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church, Pasadena, Friday 9/23 (evening) – Sunday 9/25. Enjoy performances of Greek dancing and music; talks on cuisine, history, and travel; and tastes of Greek foods such as gyros, souvlaki, moussaka, and baklava. A special Kid’s Zone entertains kids with bouncy inflatables, games and a climbing wall.

 

Watts TowersWatts Towers Day of the Drum Festival, The Watts Towers Arts Center Campus, Saturday 9/24. Start the day with a Yoruba ground blessing uniting all cultures based on common themes and principles. Then continue the celebration with traditional Korean drum and dance; North African Berber music; Afro-Venezuelan music, song, and dance; and much more. Guided tours of “Nuestro Pueblo”, the Watts Towers of Simon Rodia, and supervised children’s activities will also be offered, along with food, arts, and craft vendors. Festivities continue the following day with the 40th Annual Simon Rodia Watts Tower Jazz Festival.

Vista Viking FestivalVista_Viking_Festival, Vista (North San Diego County), Saturday 9/24 & Sunday 9/25. Make your way to Vista to see, share, and sample all things Viking and Scandinavian. Spectators can enjoy a variety of entertainment all day long on two stages. In addition to fine musical performances and acts, there are also arts and crafts and games for children, delicious Nordic food throughout the grounds, fine spirits, Viking competitions (Fish Fling, Log Toss, Horn Blowing, and Battle Cry!), ax throwing, spear throwing, archery, and Viking villages and encampments. There will also be plenty of opportunities to peruse and purchase beautiful Nordic merchandise and arts and crafts, both handmade and imported.

Aquarium of the Pacific Baja Splash Cultural FestivalBaja Splash Cultural Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, Saturday 9/24 & Sunday 9/25. In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month and Mexican Independence Day, the Aquarium of the Pacific will host its fifteenth annual Baja Splash Cultural Festival featuring live entertainment, crafts, educational programs, ethnic cuisine, and much more. Enjoy Mariachi music, Mexican folkloric and Aztec dance troupes, interactive mural painting, Salvadoran dance, Guatemalan performances, and more.

Barnsdall Art Park SundaysBarnsdall Art Sundays—Scandinavia: Norse Gods, Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday 9/25, 10am-12pm. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. This Sunday, use paint while exploring Norse gods.

 

fowler-explore-indonesiaExplore Indonesia: Wear Batik, Drink Coffee, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Sunday 9/25, 12:30pm-5pm. Presented in collaboration with the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Los Angeles, Indonesian Trade Promotion Center, and Indonesian Women Alliance, this afternoon showcase will allow visitors to experience Indonesian batik and coffee. Go for a free Indonesian specialty-coffee tasting while enjoying live performances of Javanese dance, interactive seminars followed by talks about the rich history of batik textiles and coffee traditions in Indonesia in the Amphitheater. The day includes live demonstrations of the traditional batik technique. Free and open to the public.

nordic-noir-laNordic Noir LA, Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, Sunday 9/25, doors open at 6pm, concert begins at 8pm. Nordic Noir LA is a one-of-a-kind benefit concert for Friends of Griffith Park, a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable group, hosted by internationally recognized Danish film composer Jacob Groth and the Danish Film Harmonics. Groth composed the scores of the three original Millennium films based on the worldwide bestselling crime novels by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, and The Girl Who Played with Fire. Experience the acclaimed soundtrack for the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo while taking part in the effort to conserve Los Angeles’ beloved environment and urban wildlife. Use discount code Nordic50 for half off tickets.

Have you decided how you’ll explore the diverse richness of Los Angeles this month?

Family Hike: Runyon Canyon

Runyon Canyon has been in the news a bit this summer due its recent facelift. It’s an extremely popular urban LA hike in the Hollywood Hills that is known as not only a great workout but also an interesting people watching place and “Instagram photo opp”.

Runyon Canyon east trail

It was closed for four months (April – July 2016) to replace a water pipeline and renovate the main trail. Now it has a newly paved fire road and new water fountains. It hadn’t been on my list of hikes I really wanted to do, but now that I had read about it in blogs and newspapers, I wanted to check it out – and I rallied the family to join me.

Runyon Canyon family

There’s always a bit of uncertainty involved in trying a new hike – parking situation, hiking route, and trail intensity – all equally pertinent issues in this case. I had tried to research the hike a little before heading out. In this case, I learned there were 3 entrances to the park and 3 trails of varying intensity within the park that all connect and loop together. Things wouldn’t be clarified until we got there.

Coming from West LA, I chose the entrance at the end of North Fuller Avenue (1854 North Fuller Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046). I had read there is plenty of street parking there, which there was, but available street parking was very scarce. You have to be lucky (and avoid street cleaning days), and we luckily were and got parking within a block of the park entrance. Another main entrance is off Mulholland Drive at Pyramid Place, where there apparently is a little lot, and a third entrance is at the end of North Vista Street just a couple of blocks away from Fuller Avenue.

Once parked and sunblocked, we headed towards the park. We were so surprised to see a self-serve snack stand at the park entrance that worked on the honor system! We had flashbacks to our cycling tour in Switzerland where we had come across the same thing out in the countryside – a well stocked and nicely organized snack stand available for passers-by to use honestly and respectfully. It’s such an unexpected thing to see, especially in a big city like LA.

Runyon Canyon snack stand

The kids noticed some people walk by and take items without paying, but I also noticed a QR code with a Venmo label and preferred to think that they would pay later or on their way out. We finished admiring the snack stand and promised the kids something upon our return.

I wasn’t quite sure which way to go after entering the park. We wanted one of the harder hikes, not just the newly paved fire road. We soon passed by a large lawn that was fenced off; this is where free yoga classes happen. Then we came to an unsigned junction by a new water fountain (a fancy one with four different spouts—one for adults, one for kids, one for dogs, and one to refill water bottles!).

Runyon Canyon junctionRunyon Canyon fountain

A sign would have been helpful for us newbies to Runyon Canyon. In a recent LA Times article, I had read about the “main trail”, the east or “steps” trail, and the west or “spine” trail. I remembered reading at hikespeak.com to go counterclockwise for a steeper, more scenic climb, so we continued straight (and did not take the path to the left).

Runyon Canyon courtBefore we knew it, we were on the east trail. We passed the odd unfinished basketball court which actually looked like a tennis court to us. Soon we were upon the first scenic viewpoint, known as Inspiration Point. From there the hike became much more challenging as we embarked upon the wooden steps and climbed up the ridge line.

Runyon Canyon steps

The trail soon leveled out and we had amazing views towards the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory, and of course the city views behind us continued. We came to another scenic viewpoint. This one is called Clouds Rest.

Runyon Canyon hills view

At this point we hadn’t even hiked a mile yet and weren’t ready to begin heading back down, so we chose to continue upward and onward instead of heading back down into the canyon along the fire road. Also, the ridge on the other side looked interesting to hike. We followed the fire road up for a bit, past a house I admired (and later learned is called Runyon Ranch and is a private home that’s available as a shooting location and private party venue), and then back onto a dirt trail.

Runyon Canyon Runyon Ranch

One thing I loved about this Runyon Canyon hike was the variety of terrain we encountered. So far we’d had wide dirt paths, irregular and steep steps, single track trails, and paved road. Now we came across a series of wooden staircases which was then followed by more single track, some it quite steep and very uneven, as we made our way across the west ridge and then down again to the bottom of the canyon where we started. In a way, it was like a real life obstacle course at times, with great views and fun people watching to boot.

Runyon Canyon stairsRunyon Canyon climbing

The west ridge, or spine trail, was certainly more technically challenging due to the erosion and at times steep ascent or descent. There were stretches where we had to use all fours to climb up or steady ourselves going down. For us the challenge was not slip-sliding down the slopes. For the hikers coming up, their challenge was keeping a steady breath. Many of them were really huffing and puffing as they passed us.

Runyon Canyon west ridge

I highly recommend Runyon Canyon for families. It was a short but sweet excursion with a sense of adventure and a great variety of trail experiences and incredible views. Our loop was about 2.5 miles and took about an hour, not including stops at the scenic viewpoints. Runyon Canyon is also a dog park, much of it off-leash. Since we’re not a dog owning family, my kids got a kick out of seeing dogs along the trail.

Runyon Canyon west

Doobie is almost 10 and handled the terrain perfectly fine. Much younger kids would probably have some difficulty, or at least certainly need adult support to get through some stretches safely. But the great thing about Runyon Canyon is that all the trails connect and loop together so you can find something perfect for your family. Even a hike along the fire road would yield fabulous views.

Hiking Runyon Canyon was certainly an example of taking advantage of what LA has to offer – fun hiking along with spectacular city views.

CicLAvia: Iconic Wilshire Boulevard (2016)

Another CicLAvia is in the books for me, my fifth one. It was a ride along Wilshire Boulevard starting in Downtown LA and going to Koreatown. I was actually considering not doing this ride because it was a partial repeat of a previous route I had already done, but then Doobie expressed interest in joining me and how could I resist that?

The first Iconic Wilshire Boulevard ride in 2014 was quite the city adventure on wheels for me. This one turned out to be much more relaxing. I really enjoyed the experience and am so glad I took advantage of the event and that Doobie joined me.

One Wilshire Hub

One Wilshire Hub

Now with the Metro Expo Line extended through our neighborhood, we had easy access to Downtown LA and we were at One Wilshire Hub in no time. Our biggest challenge was getting the bikes up from the underground station. We missed the elevator and Doobie had a little trouble holding on to his bike on the busy escalators. But it all worked out with the help of friendly and helpful fellow commuters.

CicLAvia Wilshire routemap

Since I had already done this route (although the 2014 version was about twice as long), I did not really have any particular plans, unlike CicLAvia: Heart of LA (2015)  when I had a whole wishlist of places I wanted to see and visit. This time, I just wanted to enjoy and take advantage of the open streets (and hopefully find one geocache that was along the route, a new one since my last ride there).

Doobie, however, had an agenda. He wanted to hunt Pokémon, stop at PokéStops and Gyms, and hatch eggs. I was totally okay with that. It would give me ample time to people watch and take in the whole atmosphere of the event. On their website, CicLAvia even had a list of the 56 PokéStops along the route with a reminder to be mindful and not to stop in the middle of the route. Continue reading

Summer in Norway: Exploring the Coastal Trail in Kragerø

A new favorite activity during our annual summer trip to Norway is exploring Kyststien i Kragerø, a hiking trail through the municipality of Kragerø following the coastline as much as possible. Our summer home is on an island, but the trail passes right by on the mainland a very short boat ride away.

Kyststien 2015 Soppekilen

The Coastal Trail in Kragerø is a relatively new part of our summer consciousness. It officially opened in November 2013, so this year was our third summer with it. It’s part of an effort to have a continuous trail all the way from Oslo to Stavanger. The idea was to use the old road system that once followed the coastline.

The complete trail in Kragerø is about 40 kilometers/25 miles long, and it is divided into 3 stretches (Fossing – Helle, Helle – Kragerø, and Stabbestad – Ellingsvika). Remnants of the old road system remain but only in small areas. Most of it is under private docks and lawns. The trail runs along the coastline where possible, but at times it has to swing into the woods or over a mountain ridge. Continue reading