I was raised in the beautiful town of Cumberland, in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin. My childhood days were spent on my grandparents farm, watching my Grandpa Ricci harvest his crops and milk the dairy cows.
My favorite memories are the hours I spent in the kitchen with my grandma while she baked and cooked for the hired men on the farm. Every day at noon, nearly 10-15 men would line up in my grandparents kitchen to wash their hands and enjoy a home cooked lunch prepared by my grandma. I would be nestled at my spot at the kitchen counter, marveling at how my grandma could whip around the room and serve all those men with such a passionate fury. And of course....at the end of each lunch, there was dessert.
Experiencing this gift of my grandmother’s is how the love for baking was ignited in my soul. I don't have a single memory of my grandma's meals without some sort of delicious cookie, cake or treat. It was a signature of being in Donna's kitchen. I was her flour sifter, her sugar shaker and her taste tester. She and I would flip through her recipe cards, choosing new and exciting things to bake. It was how we bonded, and how we became so deeply connected.
It wasn't until my first daughter was born when I really found my way back to baking. The knowledge I'd soaked up all those years ago seemed to be buried due to the raging years in my 20's when I lived off Spaghetti-O's and beer. Once sweet Sophia was born in 2008, it all came back to me. I had been living in the Twin Cities for ten years (2 hours from the farm) and suddenly I found myself calling my grandma daily asking for all my classic favorite recipes from her. I was literally obsessed with nailing each and every one of her famous desserts because I didn't want my children to miss out on the experience of tasting Grandma Ricci's treats. Finally, after months of stalking her and scribbling down recipe after recipe, I finally decided to create a family cookbook. I spent an entire summer with my Grandma, going through each and every recipe in her boxes and creating a family heirloom for everyone to enjoy. No longer would I cringe at the thought of my children never knowing the glory of Grandma's homemade fudge & caramel. It was all documented safe and sound.
The cookbook was finally complete. I began to use it when I'd bake for Sophia and Ava’s birthday parties, or when we'd host a holiday. I also went to school for photography because I wanted to be able to document my daughter's special milestones. I discovered I had a passion for not only family photography, but also food photography as I documented most of my treats and designs from our gatherings. Soon, folks began asking me if I'd bake for their parties, and photograph their children....and just like that: Sugar Wood was born. I was enjoying my little hobby while my husband worked full time as a property manager in the Twin Cities. I was able to live the dream of staying home raising my daughters all the while, allowing my creativity to flourish as I baked for parties and photographed families. I thought for sure this was how our lives would continue to go.
But God had different plans for us.
In the summer of 2013, my husband was let go from his full time job. Our lives were turned upside down and we were now faced with the fact that I was a stay at home mom whose hobby provided hardly enough income. We were terrified and torn as we had two little girls to provide for. We were asked to move from our apartment (we lived on site as my husband was a property manager) in just 14 days. After many tears and painful moments, we decided to take the biggest risk of our lives. We decided to sell nearly everything we owned on Craigs List, pack up our lives and move back to Wisconsin near the very farm where all my baking was born. We didn't have any ideas where or if Jon could find work. We just knew that Sugar Wood was our chance to really have the dream business we'd always wanted for ourselves. We were going to give it to God and walk through the fear. And I'm proud to say, that we now live 3 miles from my Grandparent's farm in Cumberland Wisconsin. We took a risk and decided to live off our faith and intuition; I feel God has guided us right where we are supposed to be.
Sugar Wood has grown and our products were featured in nearly 15 retail locations in 2015. We’ve got big dreams for our business as we continue to be embraced by the incredible community who supports us! Moving back home to Cumberland Wisconsin was the best decision we could have ever made. A network of loving friends have supported our products from day one.
Sugar Wood is my heart and soul.
This business was born because I am a mother who simply wanted to cling to whatever memories I could of my grandmother, so I could share them with my children. I wanted them to experience Grandma Ricci beyond what I could fit into bedtime stories and prayers. I wanted them to be able to feel the love and deep passion that went into everything she baked. My heart told me that our connection to food is where our memories could come to life for even just a little bit. I knew just one of her caramels would offer them the same sensation of sweetness and warmth that I felt at their age when I ate one. I just wanted my children to have a piece of my Grandma that was greater than photographs could offer.
Baking is a sacred space for me. It's a place where I can lean into my memories of when grandma taught me how to properly flour a cake pan, and how to tap the bubbles on the Rosette maker before I dipped it in the hot oil. It's a space where I'm transported back 25 years and I'm a little girl again, marveling at how magical it felt in her kitchen while she would encourage me and offer me beautiful life lessons woven in with our baking. Now my moments in the kitchen are really just more ways that I can connect with my spirit and let my memories of the two of us come flooding back to me. Each and every treat I make is overflowing with love because when I'm wearing my apron, I feel nothing but the loving bond she and I share. My greatest wish is that you feel that love sent right into your heart from mine.