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.