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.