And Now, the Rest of the Story!

February 26, 2015

I know I said I'd finish the Finland story soon after the last one.  Well, here it is finally. The program we use has limitations and I'm having trouble adjusting to...like accidentally deleting stuff I thought was saved.   Grrrr..... Why can't I just do it the way I want?  I guess there is truth in the old saying about teaching old dogs new tricks.  

Enough of my little rant.  

And as the famous commentator, Paul Harvey, used to say.....

"And now, the rest of the story."

                                                                                                       Paul Harvey, (1918-2009) about to go on the radio.

                                                                                                       Paul Harvey, (1918-2009) about to go on the radio.

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Who says a girl in pearls can't crochet?

By the middle of January, 2011, Julianna had settled into a routine in her temporary home of Kuusamo, Finland.  

Julianna had met a lady on her plane ride into Kuusamo who lived nearby.  They became fast friends and Leena was also Julianna's personal tour guide.  

Leena introduced Julianna to a new skill....crocheting.  Leena was a rug maker herself and had a large loom in her home.  Julianna enjoyed the relaxation that crocheting offered.  She was soon on her way to creating a rug that would be in her own home in Iowa. 

A beautiful wall hanging designed and woven by Leena now hanging in our home here in Iowa.

 

Julianna and Leena enjoying lunch at a local cafe in Ruka, the area ski resort.

Leena introduced Julianna to Finnish foods and how to cook the Finnish way.  Not surprising, red meat, fish and potatoes are a big part of their diet.  Now Jules does love her red meat however, a particular Finnish red meat was not allowed to pass Julianna's lips. 

Here in the United States we have cattle.  Finland has...wait for it...reindeer.  As in reindeer burgers, reindeer roast beast, etc.  Horrors!  Before her trip to Finland, Julianna believed that reindeer were fantasy animals associated with Santa Claus (I kid you not.).  Her shock, reindeer were real and that in Finland, they ate them.  It was almost more than she could bear.  The next three months would be interesting indeed.  She was continuously watchful so that a stray reindeer steak did not find its way to her plate.  I confess that I too preferred beef over reindeer. It's a good thing they have some hardy bovines in this Arctic country. 

 

The original reindeer photo bomb!  Bahaha...

 

Reindeer burgers aside, Julianna quickly enamored with a couple of Finnish delights.  The first one, "leipajuusto," a Scandinavian squeaky cheese made from cow's milk.  It is similar in texture and taste to fresh cheese curds.  It is formed into a small patty or block and fired or baked.  Perfection!  The second food, cloudberries, are God's gift for sure.  

This tasty berry is native to northern Europe and not often seen or tasted outside the area.  The cloudberry is revered and coveted in Finland as morel mushrooms are here in the Midwest.  

 
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The cloudberry picking season is short, about 3 weeks in July.  The boggy locations where they grow are kept secret, not unlike our morel patches.  These beautiful and tiny, amber-orange berries, growing one to a plant,  resemble raspberries.  Like all fruit, cloudberries are best enjoyed fresh or with minimal processing.  They are frozen, made into jams and juices, and used in desserts and soups.  Like the lingonberry, the cloudberry contains benzoic acid, which means that the berries can be preserved crushed in their own juice and stored in a cool place. 

A real treat is cloudberry jam spread on heated leipajuusto.  It makes a great breakfast.  We have recently found leipajuusto in a grocery store.  Yay!  But, cloudberry jam is only available online.  If you have the opportunity, try it!

During quiet times Julianna and her room mate, Emily, found ways of entertaining themselves by baking cookies and cooking.  They made and decorated some pretty original cookies.

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                        Cookie creations.

 
 

This was a turning point for Julianna.  She was already pretty good at baking and cooking, but now, she was looking at baking and being creative in a different way;  and an offhand comment from her room mate really got her to  thinking.  As they were in the midst of flour and sugar sprinkles, Emily suggested that Julianna should bake for a living.  Hmm...

Julianna had been in Finland for about one month when we (the parents) decided we should visit her and see this beautiful land she now called home.  With our tickets in hand we headed to Finland.

A side story that must be told first...

We were booked in coach like always.  The thought of this eight hour flight across the Atlantic cramped into my 18 inches was not appealing.  I got myself as comfortable as possible, put on my sleep mask and was ready to call the sand man.  My rugged farmer husband, John, somehow  lucked out of the same fate.  His 6'6" frame barely fit in the roomy coach accommodations.  He was like a giant pretzel.  We hadn't been seated long when the flight attendant, after looking over the packed coach section, singled him out with an offer from above.  Would he more comfortable in a first class "Barcalounger?"  He was gone so fast I thought he'd been snatched by aliens. He has a funny way of stumbling into these "lucky" situations. I spent the next several hours hunkered down in my teensy coach seat while my lovely husband was  wined and dined (literally) in first class.  He slept through the flight with his feet up stretched out in a recliner similar to his beloved Lazy Boy. 

We arrived at the Kuusamo airport a little worse for wear.  I was dragging by now.  Little did I know that jet lag can be a nasty thing. 

 

Julianna met us with open arms.  I think she was quite excited that some of her "people" had arrived.  First on our agenda was to rent a car.  Our choices were limited to medium size SUV or "clown" car.  We were soon off in the SUV, quite happy with our choice. 

 

We checked into the Kuusamo Hotel.  It was a nice hotel with all the amenities needed.  And, it was a short drive to Julianna's apartment and to the gym where she played volleyball. 

John planned to stay a week and then back to the states.  For him to be gone from the farm for a week is pretty amazing.  I couldn't ask for more than that. 

Below is our first glimpse of Kuusamo, Finland.

 

The pictures below show our hotel room and the bar/restaurant area.

 

Julianna set out to show us around and introduce us to  her new friends.   My first few days in Finland proved to be trying.  Not the weather but the jet lag.  It was awful.  Every time I got in the car, I was asleep.  I couldn't stay awake for more than 15 minutes at a time.  But, after a few days, four to be exact, I was back to my old self.  

We met Leena and her husband, Jouko.  We enjoyed a Finnish style meal in their home complete with caviar. They were gracious hosts.  Jouko arranged for us to come to his business, Polkky LTD, the largest private wood processing plant in Northern Finland, and take a tour.

                       Palosaaren poro-ja Kalastustila

                       Palosaaren poro-ja Kalastustila

We spent the next week on the go.  Leena arranged for us to visit a local reindeer and fishing farm, Palosaaren poro-ja Kalastustila.  It is a fully functioning family farm but is also open to tourists.  Of course it was a cold and snow day when we went.  I had to borrow a snow mobile suit since I wasn't quite as prepared as I should have been.  John did not have an appropriate hat so he borrowed one, a bright pink one.  He was not concerned about the looks or color just that it kept his head warm.  We set out with our guide, the owner, to see reindeer of all shapes and sizes. 

 

Upper right and bottom left, Julianna and John take turns trying out driving a reindeer and sled.  Above right, Julianna and I are enjoying some warm up time and hot beverage in the shed. 

 

Middle left, Julianna gives a treat, moss, to one of  the resident reindeer.

 

A sport Northern Finland that we found curious is reindeer racing.  We stumbled upon it one day going on in back of our hotel.  It consists of a "jockey" on skis being pulled by a reindeer.  We watched with amusement as some of the reindeer broke free and ran off.  There were people on foot and on snow mobiles trying to round them up.  There are official championship races held in Rovaniemi.  This city is located on the Arctic Circle.  We made a visit there, but not for the races.  Rovaniemi is also the official home of Santa Claus. 

We headed to Rovaniemi, about 100 miles northwest of Kuusamo, on a winding highway.  There are so many lakes and wetlands in Finland that the roads are not all that straight. Along the way there are villages and inns to stop at for refreshment.   

 

We arrived at Rovaniemi, Santa Land, to be exact.  

                                                                  Santa Land

                                                                  Santa Land

                                                         The Jolly One, himself!

                                                         The Jolly One, himself!

Outside of an inn, after a hot beverage,  on our way to Rovaniemi.  Somebody forgot his sunglasses.

Outside of an inn, after a hot beverage,  on our way to Rovaniemi.  Somebody forgot his sunglasses.

Santa Land is on the Arctic Circle.  

We spent the day checking out all that Santa Land had to offer.  We didn't get to see Santa though.  He was probably south on some beach soaking up the sun. 

There are shops (this means shopping!), restaurants and post office, just to name a few things.  There is also the Santa Academy.  This is where Santa representatives go to learn how to be Santa to all the boys and girls.  

 
Yikes....it's the attack of the bear skin!!

Yikes....it's the attack of the bear skin!!

We had to check out the official post office of Santa Claus.  We found that Santa would be happy to send your special little one a Christmas letter (for a small fee of course).  We filled out the paper work and paid the "low fee" and sure enough, our grandson, much to his delight, received a letter from Santa, complete with the special postmark.  

Looking over the goods.

Looking over the goods.

                            Santa Land and the Santa post office.

                            Santa Land and the Santa post office.

           John and Julianna standing on the Arctic Circle. 

           John and Julianna standing on the Arctic Circle. 

You can send a letter to Santa Claus using this address:


Santa Claus
Santa Claus Main Post Office
FI-96930 Arctic Circle
FINLAND

(Please be sure to write the country name FINLAND in all capital letters in the mailing address to ensure proper delivery)

Our trip back to Kuusamo was pretty uneventful.  We may have missed one of our turns but we got back in one piece.  On the way we were treated to a sight.....moose grazing along the road.  The picture is not good since it was dusk and the moose quickly moved away.

The three large black blobs are the moose we saw on our way from Rovaniemi to Kuusamo. 

The three large black blobs are the moose we saw on our way from Rovaniemi to Kuusamo. 

We spent the next few days exploring Kuusamo, eating out and relaxing.   We toured a local cheese factory.  It was next to Julianna's apartment.  The girls could go to the showroom and purchase sandwiches and the like. 

 
Cheese factory employees trim the blocks of cheese before shipment. 

Cheese factory employees trim the blocks of cheese before shipment. 

Not sure who this goofy looking person is, not an employee I'm sure.

Not sure who this goofy looking person is, not an employee I'm sure.

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Wow, that's some burger, not reindeer either!

At the end of our fun filled week, we said good-bye to John as he headed back to the states.  I stayed in Finland for another 3 weeks.  Julianna and I ran around shopping and so on.  She played volleyball and I watched.  The last week in Finland was spent packing boxes and mailing them home. 

Julianna and I still had another adventure to go on.  After leaving Finland, we headed to the continent and spent 3 weeks touring around Europe. 

But, that is a story for another time. 

-Jeri

 

Julianna and John looking across to Russia from a restaurant atop an old water tower.  Just happened to catch a bird in the photo.  We really didn't see many birds in Finland. 

Happy Wedding Wednesday! A tale about Sara & Greg...

 
 
Today we’ve got a guest on the blog. But first, a little background info to get you up to speed. Life is sort of funny sometimes. Somehow people unexpectedly come into your life and it marks the beginning of a wonderful relationship. My friendship with Sara is like that. We met in 2011 when I decided to take on the duty of coaching club volleyball in Iowa City. Sara was coaching too. Fresh off both our college careers, Sara at Central, me at Missouri, we instantly hit it off.  
Upon finishing our coaching duties that year, our friendship was hardly over, but just beginning. We were both in that phase of life where everything is changing and you’re morphing into, what I can only describe as, a grown-up. Shortly thereafter, Sara and her then-boyfriend, now husband, moved to Muscatine to begin their “grown-up” lives. Then I got married.  And then I bet you can’t guess what came next? No, not babies! Sara got married! And here is her the story about that…
 
Sara and I are enjoying my wedding fesitivites

Sara and I are enjoying my wedding fesitivites

 

About a year ago, I started to talk to Julianna and Jeri about cakes. Finally engaged and attempting to plan my wedding in 5 months to make sure it would be in prime tulip season, I was stressed. Cake was one of the last things on my list to take care of. I knew I needed a cake to cut and cake to eat. Beyond that I had no clue. Flavors, color, style…not my thing.

When I got around to booking a tasting, I had decided cupcakes would be it, easy to get to the venue for Jules, easy for my host and hostess to distribute out. Excellent plan. My fiancé, now husband, had other thoughts. I was told weddings have cake, full cakes! Okay, he had finally become opinionated about something. So cake decisions were his.

These are the actual cupcakes from Sara & Greg's cake tasting. Funny that we have this photo and I remember exactly who these samples were for. I'm always practicing my photography skills and I specifically remember taking this photo before they arrived and devoured them.

These are the actual cupcakes from Sara & Greg's cake tasting. Funny that we have this photo and I remember exactly who these samples were for. I'm always practicing my photography skills and I specifically remember taking this photo before they arrived and devoured them.

We headed on over to see Jules and Jeri. After tasting a small plate of cupcakes in the flavors I selected before my fiancé became opinionated, he started questioning can you do this flavor, can you make our cake look my old Vikadillac? (For those of you at home, that is a Cadillac painted in Minnesota Vikings colors and logos). Okay, that one took it too far….but Jules and Jeri laughed and were game to go down whatever flavor path or design he chose.

 

Sometimes the best way to transport cakes is to buckle them in like the precious cargo they are.

Sometimes the best way to transport cakes is to buckle them in like the precious cargo they are.

We were able to come to some flavor choices pretty quickly: almond, white, chocolate and lemon. Our cutting cake would be chocolate with raspberry filling. Pretty traditional, but threw in lemon for an extra. But then came style. My fiancé wanted traditional tiered cake, like huge tiered cake! That scared me. Visions a cake crashing to the ground or people running into it came into my mind (too many years of America’s Funniest Home Videos).
This isn't Sara & Greg's cake, but when we have to deliver alone we get pretty creative. And yes, that is duct tape. 

This isn't Sara & Greg's cake, but when we have to deliver alone we get pretty creative. And yes, that is duct tape. 

After asking Jules and Jeri questions, they offered the advice of sheet cakes to allow for all the flavors we wanted, but adding ease to serving for the host and hostess, exactly what I wanted even though I thought cupcakes were our style. This was an excellent idea for our needs and a great compromise between a huge tiered cake and cupcakes. Of course, we still had a two tiered cake for cutting.

After making it through the flavor and type of cake hoops, it was time to decide color and decorative style. EEK! Jules and Jeri guided us through, asking us wedding colors, showing us a book of previous cakes and pointing ones out they thought were our style. We were not good at making this decision. We told them colors, told them we wanted it to be simple and perhaps a little rustic in style. That’s all we had. No flowers or bling, it wasn’t us.

Then we departed, excited to have that off our list. Happy with our flavors and that we had a great team to do our cakes.

Finally, our big day came, cakes arrived at the venue, and the tiered cake stayed intact and did not crash to the ground. And the cakes were gorgeous. Seeing it sitting there, before it we smashed it into each other’s faces, I was in awe of what they created with my vague decorative direction. They engulfed the simplicity of my wedding design and yet, added a twist with a bit of sparkle to the cake.

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Many people asked me in the weeks following the wedding where the cakes were from, my grandpa gave it raving reviews as he ate extra pieces the day after and our host and hostesses were relieved to not have to cut a tiered cake. We were grateful to find a duo like Jules and Jeri that could make our wedding cake experience special and fitting for us. 

Sara & Greg's wedding cakes made the 173 mile trek all the way from Keota to Floyd, Iowa. With the help of my dear husband, his steady lap, and my not so helpful strung out nerves, their cake did not tip over and the sheet cakes rested safely in the back seat. The couple was fantastic to work with and I was honored to do their wedding and would go out of my way for anything they would ever request! I hope I get to make the trip up north again soon to see Sara, Greg, & their dog Sadie.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 
 
Fun winter themed cake with a Scottish embellishment.

Fun winter themed cake with a Scottish embellishment.

 

Hello Everyone!  By now we've already been in the deep freeze and out again here in Iowa.  I've even heard of some people seeing tiny signs of life.....maybe a daffodil poking through?  Do not be too optimistic, though, this is Iowa and I surmise we're in for more of Ol' Man Winter! 

The holiday season we just experienced was busy for us as I'm sure it was for you.  There is always a big sigh of relief after the holidays are over.  We had lots of business, especially for our newest addition to the Sweet Satisfaction Bakery, candy trays, this year.  We were in high gear making all kinds of candy. 

                                                             Some of the yumminess the Holiday Season 2014.

                                                             Some of the yumminess the Holiday Season 2014.

As I sit here and look out my south window, the day is dreary and chilly.  Omg....I can't help myself, I want winter to be over!  Although I am a native Iowan, I sometimes question God's decision to drop me here.  I think I'm really supposed to be in Hawaii.  Oh well, I do enjoy most of the seasons, I just wish winter was a week long. 

 
 A tiny peek into the "Secret Garden,"  it will be here in a few months!

 A tiny peek into the "Secret Garden,"  it will be here in a few months!

 

Julianna, on the other hand, takes the weather in stride.  Winter, to her, is just the season before spring.  And, spring means, working outside in the flower beds and watching things grow.  She received a small green house for Christmas so she is somewhat excited for spring.  Hopefully, she'll have the green house ready to go in a few weeks.  You gotta love Amazon!  On with the blog....

December, 2010, was a landmark month for our youngest child.  Julianna graduated from the University of Missouri with a Masters Degree in Accountancy.  She had also just completed her last year of playing collegiate volleyball.  What to do…what to do?  Considering her options she headed home to Iowa with her “stuff” including 5 cats and 2 dogs.  She set up her little household in my household.  I have 2 cats that were less than pleased with the new arrangement.  That is a whole other story. 

 
Julianna and Gramma Gracie after The University of Missouri's Graduation in 2010.

Julianna and Gramma Gracie after The University of Missouri's Graduation in 2010.

 

It didn’t take long for her to realize that she wasn’t quite ready to settle here for good. 

Considering her option once again, and it didn’t take long and she got “The Call”….an opportunity to play volleyball professionally on the international scene.   Jules had been toying with the idea that a professional stint in Puerto Rico might have its advantages.  Professional volleyball in Puerto Rico is a major sport plus….it’s warm and sunny. 

However, Puerto Rico wasn’t to be.  Julianna had been recruited to play volleyball professionally in Europe….Finland to be exact…northern Finland to be more exact.   Her agent wanted her to leave in a few short days.  Out came the passport and big giant suitcases and Julianna was off on her greatest adventure yet. 

Home for the next 3 months was Kuusamo, Finland, a small city of around 15,800.  It is located in the Northern Ostrobothnia Region, 37 miles south of the Arctic Circle.  To the east, within shouting distance and sight, is Russia. 

 
Kuusamo is located south of the Arctic Circle in the eastern part of Finland, adjacent to the Russian Federation.

Kuusamo is located south of the Arctic Circle in the eastern part of Finland, adjacent to the Russian Federation.

 
 
Kuusama, Finland is a long way from Keota, Iowa.

Kuusama, Finland is a long way from Keota, Iowa.

 

In this part of the world, the days are short in January.  Talk about the “land of the barely rising sun.”   To give you an idea of Kuusamo’s location, it has a longitude of 65. 58° North and a latitude of 29.11° East.  The longitude of the Arctic Circle is 66.5625° North.  Keota’s longitude is 41.3547° North.  Putting all this jargon into perspective, the capital of Alaska, Juneau, has a longitude of 61.13° North.  S, Kuusamo is farther north than 2/3 of Alaska.  And, as late Paul Harvey would say, “stay tuned for the rest of the story….”

                                                                                                             The late great Paul Harvey, (1918-2009), longtime ABC radio broadcaster.

                                                                                                             The late great Paul Harvey, (1918-2009), longtime ABC radio broadcaster.

We all know an Iowa winter can be legendary.   Each one is unique.  The one thing we know for sure is that winter is the forever season…it seems like it lasts forever!  Blizzards, wind, ice sleet, the list is endless.  Finland’s winter seems more persistent than ferocious.  It comes in September and stays until May or June.  However, with that being said, the beauty of Finland in winter is truly God’s artistry at its best.  The endless pine forests are pristine with their sparkly blankets of snow.  And, the pine trees have a breath taking beauty all their own.  The “locals” call them “melting candles.”  You'll see why in the pictures that follow.

 
NOT FINLAND!  Keota during 2009-2010 winter.  Yikes!

NOT FINLAND!  Keota during 2009-2010 winter.  Yikes!

 
 
Can't help but notice the beauty in this picture.  Oh, and there are "melting candles" behind her.

Can't help but notice the beauty in this picture.  Oh, and there are "melting candles" behind her.

 
 
Can't figure how the snow sticks so well.

Can't figure how the snow sticks so well.

 
 

Julianna settled into her apartment and was provided with a little car….little being the key word.   There was a bit of a learning curve with the car.  It had a manual transmission.   Julianna made short work of that and was soon cruising Kuusamo like a native. One of the first requests we received back in the states was for an electric blanket.  I fixed up a care box complete with candies and other snacks along with the blanket.  I filled out the proper paperwork for international shipping and off it went.  An excited Jules opened the package and promptly plugged in the blanket using the European electrical adapter.  Alas, the Finnish electricity was too much to bear.  Sparks and the smell of burning electrical wires arose from the coveted blanket and it was no more.   Onto plan B…as many blankets as can be piled on to one human.  Problem solved.

The Kuusamo Bears are part of the Naisten Lentopallon Mestaruusliiga (translation…Women’s Champions League), an eight--team league, in Finland.  The top teams in the league play other European teams for International titles.

 
The Kuusamo Bears.

The Kuusamo Bears.

 

The Kuusamo Bears welcomed Julianna with open arms.  The European teams recruit heavily in the United States for top players because of a college level of play that is not available in Europe.  The American players are very disciplined and have played elite volleyball and are already top professionals in the eyes of their European counterparts.  Each team is allowed a limited number of foreign players so there is plenty of competition within the teams and conferences to recruit the top players. 

Communication with her team mates was less daunting than some things in Finland.  Most of Julianna’s team mates had a good working knowledge of English since it is taught in the schools.  However, the head coach spoke/understand little English.  Finnish is a difficult language to master so even Finnish 101 would be arduous…akin to a high school freshman taking advance college calculus.  Can you say impossible?  Needles to say, lots of hand signals and interpretations between the Finnish team members and the "foreign players" went on during volleyball practice and matches.  There are plenty of “universal” hand signals in volleyball so all was not lost.

 
Julianna going up for a kill.  The ball  is the blur at the top of the photo.  Notice that every part of the uniforms have advertising on them.

Julianna going up for a kill.  The ball  is the blur at the top of the photo.  Notice that every part of the uniforms have advertising on them.

 
                                                                                           The team celebrates after a hard fought for point!

                                                                                           The team celebrates after a hard fought for point!

Julianna settled in to her routine.  She had ample time between the two practices a day to explore and learn about Finland.

Since this blog is much longer than I anticipated, we'll pick up next week.......

  • Julianna discovers some tasty Finnish  foods,
  • Julianna makes a friend,
  • The parents visit,
  • And, the baking idea is born.

Stay tuned.

 
 

It's the Holiday Season......

HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON

This post is a little later than I thought it would be.  Where does the time go?  I do have to talk a bit about Thanksgiving this year even though it has already been celebrated. 

Thanksgiving just happens to be my favorite holiday.  The center of attraction being a big golden brown turkey surrounded by fresh mashed potatoes, corn (from last summer's harvest), sweet potatoes topped with perfectly toasted marshmallows, multiple salads, fresh veggies and dip, and of course stuffing.....oh the tasty stuffing.  And, of course freshly ground cranberry relish.  For those of you who don't know this little hint, always freeze your fresh cranberries and grind them frozen.  You'll save yourself some clean up time and avoid a squirt of juice into your eye.  And, the yummy pies, Pumpkin, Apple, Cherry, French Silk and Crack.  Crack pie is made up of eggs, cream, sugar and other ingredients.  Rich and smooth! 

                                                                                                                Yummy peach pie and milk.  Heaven........

                                                                                                                Yummy peach pie and milk.  Heaven........

My fond Thanksgiving memories from my own childhood included the big family feast with my parents, six brothers and sisters and Grandpa Harry.  After the feast, we would watch something on TV.  Mom sometimes surprised us with some freshly made candy like fudge or toffee in the late afternoon.  See where I'm going with this?  Good food and family time were a big part of my childhood.  I grew up knowing that food is involved in every aspect of our life.  I passed this on by cooking for my own family and teaching my children how to cook. 

Not quite finished with Thanksgiving.  I have to share a turkey tale from my very early years, maybe 1960 or 1961.  My dad owned a gas station.  He had fixed a truck tire for a gentleman over by Wellman.  This fellow always had a flock of the gobblers.  When my dad delivered the repaired tire, there was a bit of bartering and he ended up with a live turkey.  He delivered the bird to mom and we tied a rope to its leg and left it tied to the fence until it was time for....you know.  Anyway, said turkey wouldn't have any of it and tried to fly away.  Ended up hanging itself on the other side of the fence.  Anyone who knows anything about turkeys will tell you this fiasco is not an unusual occurrence as these birds are not known for their cleverness or intelligence.  Well, mom got to work quick.  Soon the turkey was in the scalding water for feather removal and other unpleasantness.  He was roasted up and we enjoyed a truly farm fresh turkey that Thanksgiving! 

This year's Thanksgiving was a busy one for the bakery.  Julianna and I continue on our learning curve.  Not always a straight upward line but we're always trying.  As you can guess, pies were the order of the day.  The kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh bubbling fruit fillings on the stove.  Julianna worked her magic on the flaky tender crusts...going through many pounds of butter, shortening and flour.  I worked on the French Silk filling.  Julianna assembled the pies while I got dish pan hands.   By the day before Thanksgiving, we were done.  With the pies loaded, we set out for deliveries.  We were just finishing up when the weather turned down right nasty and we slid into home! 

Above:  Grasshopper Pie garnished with fresh whipped cream, Andes mints and drizzled in dark chocolate. Right:  Blackbird.....Oh I mean fresh Cherry Pie.

Above:  Grasshopper Pie garnished with fresh whipped cream, Andes mints and drizzled in dark chocolate.

Right:  Blackbird.....Oh I mean fresh Cherry Pie.

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The Christmas season is in full swing and so are we.  Candy platters have been our focus.  The orders have been pouring in for any one of our three sizes.  We've been working hard on the candies and cookies.  I make many of the candies using old family recipes.  I will not pretend to be perfect having had to dump a batch or two.  Getting candy to the right temperature is an art.  I grew up using the cold water method.  Testing the candy by dropping a tiny bit into cold water to see what happens.....will it form a soft or hard piece or will it fall to the bottom and spread out like crabgrass?  This is not always reliable if the microwave is involved.  The microwave can definitely be a candy making monster, if you know how to harness such a beast.  An electronic instant read candy thermometer is essential.  We have a great selection this year, fudges, buckeyes, caramels, peanut blossoms, no bake cookies, Scandinavian cookies, bourbon balls, date balls, Oreo truffles, toffee and more!   I've spent more than one evening in front of the television wrapping caramels.

Buckeyes, caramel pecan patties and sugar cookies, oh my.

Buckeyes, caramel pecan patties and sugar cookies, oh my.

Toffee, no bake cookies and caramels!. Yum!

Toffee, no bake cookies and caramels!. Yum!

Growing up in a large family we looked forward to Christmas.  The Sears and "Monkey Ward" catalogs were worn and dogeared by Thanksgiving.  October and November had been focused on "what we wanted for Christmas."  Lists and more lists were made.  By December 1, we could not wait much longer.  We got an early start on the the fun with a visit from St. Nicholas on December 6.  St. Nicholas was a Greek Christian bishop of Turkish descent who had a reputation for secret gift giving. St. Nicholas Day is highly celebrated in Europe.  Children place their shoes outside for St. Nick to fill with coins and little gifts.  Hmmm, sounds pretty similar to Santa Claus.  Look it up.  Well, we Mayer children dutifully placed a shoe on the front porch and low and behold, there would be a piece of one of those giant candy canes and an orange or apple in each shoe.  There also may have been a quarter in each shoe.

Pre-Christmas activities for the Mayer clan included heading to Wellman to the tree lot on highway 22 for the best smelling tree with soft pliable needles and sap dripping down the trunk.  Dad or Mom, not sure who, had to trim the bottom of the trunk and get the tree into the stand.  More often than not, the tree ended up tied with twine to the nearest window sill to keep it upright.  The lights were strung and we went to work.  Construction paper chains and strung popcorn went up next and then the ornaments, many homemade. 

My childhood home.  See the porch where we left our shoes for St.Nick?

My childhood home.  See the porch where we left our shoes for St.Nick?

The finished masterpiece.  The Mayer Family Christmas Tree.

The finished masterpiece.  The Mayer Family Christmas Tree.

Our own children, Julianna and Jarad, looked forward to Christmas with the same excited anticipation that I had experienced.  Of course, we always went to Mass on Christmas Eve.  The church was packed to the rafters.  The ushers would set up extra seating in the aisles and in the back.  Yes, you had to be early to get a choice seat, or any seat for that matter.  The church was always decorated with poinsettias and Christmas trees with tiny twinkling lights.  The large Nativity scene had a place of honor in the front.  The whole scene was beautiful.  All around us were other families, many from faraway coming home to celebrate the holiday. 

Jarad and Julianna all ready for Christmas Eve Mass.

Jarad and Julianna all ready for Christmas Eve Mass.

Julianna showing off her new doll that Santa had brought her....circa 1991 or 1992.

Julianna showing off her new doll that Santa had brought her....circa 1991 or 1992.

Our children are grown but we gather on Christmas along with other relatives in our home to celebrate.  And, of course there are lots of tasty foods to try.  Our family is not short on good cooks and bakers.  Everybody contributes and we have a feast, fit for the people of Whooville.  I'm sharing a recipe from our son-in-law's mother, Jan.  She always brings it and it is a hit!  It was a favorite of Brandon's (Julianna's husband) growing up and he always looks forward to it.

 
 

Mushroom Roll Ups

1 package crescent rolls

8 oz fresh mushroom, chopped

4 oz softened cream cheese

1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp minced onion (optional)

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Roll out dough, pressing seams together.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and spread on top of the dough. Roll up the long way and seal the seam. Slice into desired thickness, around 1/2 inch or thicker. 

Bake on parchment lined pan at 375°F 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Best when served warm!

 
 

           Ho, ho ho......Merry Christmas!

I can't end this post without this...........

 
 

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2014 and HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015 from me and my rugged farmer husband, John!

Past to Present

The most common question we hear…..”How did you get started?” Or, “What inspired you to bake?”  The short answer is ……I (Jeri) had retired from the rat race, or so I thought, and my daughter, Julianna, was looking to be an entrepreneur in the baking world. 

Sounds like a match made in heaven, right?  Well, think again.  History, meaning both of our histories, played a huge role in this endeavor.   

I grew up in a large family, competing with my six siblings for everything from getting the biggest piece of muskmelon for breakfast to getting in line (literally) to use our one bathroom.  Being a middle child, I got it from both ends!  Anyway, the girls were introduced to the kitchen and the art of cooking from an early age.  Of course we all started off as dishwashers just like in a restaurant and had to work our way up the ladder.  

Our parents owned their own business so much of the cooking was left to us girls as we grew up.  During the summer months, Mom would leave a note of what to get ready for lunch.  A typical noon meal consisted of pot roast with potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery in the oven.  Then, a lettuce salad with our “secret” homemade dressing.   Dessert might be cake or something similar.  A quick clean up and we were ready for an afternoon of fun, riding our bikes, going to the local swimming pool and stopping by the library for the latest Nancy Drew book. 

My parents, William & Mary Grace, our cooking heritage.

Fast forward from my childhood to adulthood.  

After marrying my handsome rugged farmer, I cooked lots on the $5 gas stove we had procured at a local auction.  Yes, lighting the oven without singeing off my eyebrows was always an adventure.    Fortunately, we were able to move up to a better range in a few years.   I was always up to try something new like the fish stew I made once and Only Once.

With my own children, Jarad and Julianna, I taught them to cook and know their way around the kitchen.  Julianna took to the kitchen like a duck to water.  Her favorite foods you ask?  Cheese and butter or butter and cheese, depending on the day.  She quickly learned that butter is, in fact, a food group all by itself.  We only used butter at home; however, her first taste of margarine left her thinking she had been poisoned.  Never again would margarine knowingly pass her lips!  Julianna comes from a long line of bakers and cooks on both sides of the family.  She has it in her blood.  Her “Grammy” (rugged farmer’s mother) was well known in the area for her bread baking skills and her ability to substitute ingredients successfully.  Julianna learned how to properly knead bread at Grammy’s house.  

Julianna got an early start in the kitchen.

By the time Julianna had finished high school, she was not only an accomplished cook but also an excellent volleyball player.  She headed off to The University of Missouri in Columbia to attend school and play volleyball in The Big Twelve Conference. Cooking and baking continued to be an important part of her life.  After graduating with a Masters Degree in Accountancy, she then had the opportunity to travel to Europe to play volleyball professionally.  Julianna ended up in Kuusamo, Finland.  Kuusamo is where her volleyball team was based.  Anyway, Kuusamo is in northern Finland, pretty darned close to the Arctic Circle and just across the way…..is Russia.  Yep, Julianna furthered her education in Finland.  She learned, for example, the reindeer are real.  Not the magical kind but the real kind.  She had long ago stopped believing in “Santa” but somehow missed the boat on the reindeer deal.  

Julianna had a successful volleyball at both the college and professional levels. 

Julianna had a successful volleyball at both the college and professional levels. 

But, to get back on track….Julianna and her roommate spent much of their free time baking and cooking.  She was also trying her hand at some of the local dishes, although I don’t think she could ever bring herself to try a dish with reindeer in it. 

Julianna has a “sweet tooth” that is indigenous in my family and now in her.  You can’t fight it!  And, Sweet Satisfaction was about to be born.  She was back home in the Midwest United States and knew what she wanted to do.  I was a bit skeptical at first……my goodness, this kid had just graduated from college with a Master’s Degree, what could she be thinking?? 

I had a long and rewarding career as a Registered Nurse and had recently retired.  A graduate of The University of Iowa, I had spent my time as Mom, Nurse and Wife on the farm.  Ok, I didn’t really do any day to day activities on the farm.  I had my rugged farmer husband who took care of that and still does. 

I'm in the middle with my rugged farmer husband, John, and Julianna.  Been married to this guy almost 40 years!

The year is May, 2011.  Julianna worked on a business plan while I spent my time enjoying our beautiful new home with its top of the line gourmet kitchen.  Julianna finished the business plan and had done the research necessary to get going in her business.  She named her new business “Sweet Satisfaction.”  The business was entirely Julianna’s “baby” and I was satisfied to be her “assistant.” We set up shop in the gourmet kitchen and quickly began to fill the garage with all things baking…..no cars allowed!  We participated in local farmers markets and found that yes, our products were in demand.  Little did either of us imagine where this venture would take us.     

Stay tuned.......Jeri