Sweet Potato Pie

First day home – trying new recipes

Healthy Cooking - Hettie's Way

The last pie I wanted to master (and once again, only because I had a lot of sweet potatoes from the CSA, and I had to use them!). For years, I thought that sweet potatoes are non-edible for me until I learned how to cook them! The next logical step was making a sweet potatoes pie, which I finally accomplished today.


  1. 2 large sweet potatoes (should yeld 2 cups of puree)
  2. 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) of butter, melted
  3. 1/2 cup sugar
  4. 2 large eggs
  5. 1/4 cup milk
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  8. 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  9. 1/4 cup brown sugar and and 1/4 cup of crushed pecan to sprinkle the top.

Peel sweet potatoes, cut them into small pieces, bring to boil, and let them cook for about 15 min until soft. Drain, puree, and let it cool down.

In a bowl, cream melted butter with sugar; beat…

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Tartu – Part 3

We wondered whether there was anybody else except for us in the hotel, and hence we were curious to see whether somebody would show up for breakfast. The breakfast was served in the hotel restaurant in the basement. We saw one more person at breakfast 🙂

The buffet selection was great, but just when we filled our plates and sat down, a waitress appeared and asked whether we wanted to order something :).

Continue reading “Tartu – Part 3”

Tartu – Part 2

We were looking for a nice place for dinner. There were a couple of internet suggestions very close to the hotel, and we decided to walk past them and check what they looked like. One of our potential top choices ended up being closed, so we went to another one. That one was the restaurant Holm located in the Lydia Hotel, and it turned out to be fantastic! In short, it was like in Peninsular when Vlad worked there, but for half-price. I should have figured out that this was a high-end place because I saw the menu online, but I forgot that we are in Estonia for a moment.

There was an option of a taster menu – a five-course dinner for the price of 53 euros, we asked whether the portions would be half-size, and when the answer was yes, we went ahead with this option. Unfortunately, I can reproduce all that was said by the waiter when he introduced each of the courses; I can only copy a very short description from the restaurant website.

Since I told them that it will be a non-alcoholic dinner, they started by offering us a special local quince soda, as they stated locally grown and produced.

A sample of pumpkin soup “on the house”
House bread with somehow specially made butter
The first appetizer was made of sunchokes (I believe it was a sunchoke puree), black truffles, and some nuts. I am not sure about which nuts and what else was there since the menu does not succumb to google translate 🙂
Continue reading “Tartu – Part 2”

Tartu – Part 1

On the brighter side – the trip to Tartu was fantastic, even with the weather as it was.
We took a ferry to Tallinn and then walked to the bus station, where we took a bus to Tartu. The Lux busses are very comfortable and convenient for travel. The seats are pretty much like the airplane seats. You can lower the back or even increase the gap between two seats, and there is a folding table and an entertainment screen. Also, there is WiFi available and an electric outlet at each seat.

Although it turned out that Boris had to take his computer with him (he was waiting for one important email confirmation), we resolved to reduce the computer usage to a very minimum and kept it that way.

Tartu is an ancient city, to the point that I believe there is no official founding time of the city; people have lived there since the 5th century B.C. However, the “second Estonian city” is pretty small, and it didn’t take us long to walk from the bus station to our hotel, which was located right across from the main building of the University of Tartu.

The hotel Antonius is located in the 17th-century building last rebuilt in 1811, and the interiors are kept pretty close to that period.

Continue reading “Tartu – Part 1”

Visa Again

Today was a day of unplanned activities. Yesterday, Boris told me that his US visa is about to expire (I vaguely remembered that it’s the case, but I thought it’s good till mid-March). For some reason, he thought that renewal in Helsinki would be as easy as it was three years ago, and he could just apply online and get a visa in a week, but it turned out not at all easy.

First, the whole application process, including paying the visa fee, is as nightmare-ish as it was. Forget about visually impaired people; even for me, it took almost three hours! (out of my workday).

And when we finally got the interview waiver confirmation, it turned out that the mail-in application processing time was six to eight weeks.

That means that Boris won’t be able to come to Chicago until at least May (and he still has to figure out the two-month interval when he is less likely to have to go to Russia because he will have to mail his passport, which still has non-stamped pages, and he will be left with the all-stamped one). I will still be coming to Helsinki, but this is not like when he comes to Chicago!

In Tartu First Time After 39 Years

I disappeared from everywhere except for Instagram because first I was en route to Helsinki, and then we left for a two-day trip to Estonia, and I didn’t take my laptop with me (since I only have my work laptop in Finland). Now I have no idea when I will have enough time to blog about this trip.

The trip was amazing, and every tiny detail of it was just incredible. But in addition, it was a very meaningful trip in a way I didn’t think it would become. Only when we were on the way to Estonia, I realized that the last time I was in Tartu was approximately the same time of the year, 39 years ago, during my winter break at the University. I realized that it was sort of closing the circle because Tartu nearly became my hometown. I was going to transfer to the University of Tartu; I already talked to the Dean, and he had nothing against my transfer, except that I had to catch up with classes in Estonian, but my friend Anna Mints was saying it was not so difficult. There were reasons I wanted it, and there were reasons I didn’t. Recalling it now, I think I was just not adventurous enough, but it was just a couple of months before I met Boris for the first time. And if I would transfer, I would never meet him. I would probably “become Estonian” because I had a reason to become. And I can’t even imagine how different my life would be…
I didn’t find a thing of what I remembered from Tartu of 39 years ago. I was trying to find the old building of the Department of Mathematics. I remember how it looked, and I thought I remembered where approximately it was situated, but I didn’t find it.

There is a new building called Delta, in a different place. And Tartu does not look a bit of how I remembered it. Which is actually good 🙂

The First Trip I Remember: September 1968

In the Soviet Union, virtually everybody had a month of vacation time a year, no matter how long you worked in a particular place. Taking vacations in parts was rarely an option. Under these circumstances, everybody wanted to take vacations during summer, but if everybody took a month of vacation in summer, it would not be easy to keep operations running. Most workplaces had a vacation schedule for a year, and there was a lot of drama around who should have a preference for summer months vacations. Priority was always given to parents because if you recall, a good parent had to do everything possible and impossible to provide an opportunity for a child to spend summer in the countryside or resort.

Granted, childless people would get summer vacation time, too, and sometimes even parents of small children had to compromise. Thus, in 1968, mom had her vacation in September. After spending summer at the dacha with my detskiy sad, I got one more month of summer – we were going to the South. That’s how people used to say these days: not to Georgia, not to Crimea, not to Krasnodarskiy region – just to the South. I recently asked mom why she chose Loo – a suburb of Sochi in the Krasnodarskiy region as our final destination. Did she know somebody there? Did somebody give her the address of our future landlords? She says she does not remember. It was not uncommon that people would come to small resort places that lived off the tourists and rent a room or just a bed on the spot.

I have more pictures from our second trip t the same place a year later and just a few from September 1968, so I will try to write down what I remember.

The train from Leningrad took three nights and two full days to reach the destination, and most of the time, we were going through Ukraine. At five, I was fascinated with a country that looked different from what I had ever seen in my life. Mom told me that the white-walled houses I saw along the railroad were called haty. Sunflowers were growing by each of these cheerful houses – I never have seen them before, and the combination of white and bright yellow instantly made me happy. I stood by the window and couldn’t have enough of the sunny sights.
We shared a sleeper compartment with another family heading South: mother, father, and daughter of approximately my age. Strangely, but I remember how this girl looked, and I remember that we were playing with dolls, and I even remember how her mom was explaining the bandaid on the girl’s chin ” That’s not us who put it in such an odd way, its a medical worker.”

We never went to the dining car, the conductor always had tea with sugar cubes, and we ate whatever rations we took from home, mostly boiled eggs and cold potatoes. The locals would come to the train at some stops and offer some homemade meals and produce, and I remember us buying hot, freshly boiled potatoes, buttery and mixed with dill, and sour cherries.

And then, on the third day, we arrived at Loo and disembarked, and the first thing I remember seeing was a giant cypress tree. I never saw anything like this before, and for the rest of my life, cypress meant warmth, resort, vacation – it meant South.

Maybe It’s Just Me, But..

On one of the last year’s trips, I had to check in my carry-on red Samsonite (yes, I had two, both gifts from Boris, both weight virtually nothing, and both cost a fortune). It came back with the broken zipper lock. It broke because I didn’t secure the ends of that zipper. And I didn’t secure the ends because I had trouble unlocking them a couple of times. Boris always insisted that I should lock them in because that’s what they are for, and I was always afraid I wouldn’t be able to unlock them. That time last year, I didn’t plan to check in this luggage, so I didn’t bother, and as a result, the entire lock was gone. I was still able to close the zipper with my fingers all the way, but I lost the flexibility of being able to do it from the middle. So, everything still worked but was inconvenient, and I started to think that I needed a new carry-on. 

The Samsonite holiday sale was on, and this exact model, which was not sold in the US before, showed up. After joining EDB, I decided I could give myself a gift and purchased it.

When the luggage arrived, I kept it in the closet and didn’t even look at it – I knew exactly how it looked inside and out. And then, before my trip to Milwaukee, I pulled it out and realized that it was locked! The lock was slightly different from the previous luggage, and I had no idea how to open it! Finally, I managed to open it by trial and error, and guess what I found?! The instructions on how to open were inside!

Romance In Our Lives

Yesterday’s visit to mom was one of these visits when she retells her life going through the usual circle. One of the stories she shared with me shortly after she came to the US was her very long romantic relationship with one of he co-workers. She was divorced at the time, and somehow I can’t recall whether he was married or not. I remember that her very last romantic relationship was with a married man, but I can’t recall what she said about that one. In any case, they would meet once a month and go to one of the suburbian parks and picnicked by one old oak stump, and they sometimes would see a play, and he also recorded a lot of audio tapes for her, basically audio letters with music.

Where I am getting is that when she retells this story, she always makes a point to mention that it was purely romantic and that there was nothing sexual in these relationships, and that’s “not how people are these days,” and that “nowadays generation does not understand.” I always listen to this politely and never ask her what is so good about “nothing sexual,” especially between people in their 30s. However, yesterday, there was a new addition to this story because she continued to something along the lines “every parent wants their children to be happy,” and then “sometimes I am sorry for you that you didn’t get what you deserve.” Then she proceeded to her usual paragraph about Boris speeding up my professional career and how she “never asks personal questions.”

It shocked me, to be honest, probably because I am so used to people commenting that they envy the never-ending romance I have in my life. So much that sometimes I have to explain that there are not only roses:). Yes, those who hear about our “long-distance relationship” for the first time often think (or even say) that that’s not right. But everybody who knows us knows how much in love we are. Not writing off all storms and all fights we had in the past, we are the biggest gift to each other.

Now I am really curious what she thinks I missed in life :). If anything, I felt sorry for her for a long time because I thought that she never had a complete and absorbing relationship of hers. I thought that was why she was so jealous of me and hated Boris and our relationships. Later she told me about her other relationship, and I realized that she actually had a good one in the second half of her life, and I stopped being sorry for her in this particular case. What she is sorry for me about, is still a mystery 🙂

The Lake. Any Time Of The Year

The other day, an Uber driver who drove me and mom home from EuroAsia restaurant told us that he used to live almost where mom lives now, and he now lives in Arlington Heights. I laughed and told him that we just moved in the opposite direction. But what was really funny was that he immediately started talking about the thrill of living a block from the lake, almost in the same words as I talk about it: I never lived so close to the water, it was unreal!

… I walk to the lake several times a week, and in winter, it is as beautiful as it is during the warmer season.