Jenni McConnell’s home in Beaudesert is like an ode to her grandparents, who came by ship from Finland to Australia when her mother, Helena, was two.
The young Finnish immigrants Arvo (everyone called him Sam) and Leila Nujula moved from Victoria to Gladstone, Mt Isa to Tasmania and in between before making Allenview home.
Serendipitously, Jenni’s grandparents bought the place next to Jenni’s dad, David, and that’s how Jenni’s parents met.
Jenni grew up on those 10 acres at Allenview, next door to her grandpa and mummo (Finnish for grandma) and recalls popping over to use their sauna and pool as a child.
When her beloved grandparents passed away in 2013 and 2015, they left her an inheritance, which she used for a house deposit on the place she now calls home.
Jenni, 35, has always been a Beaudesert local.
She was born at the old Beaudesert Hospital – the same place her dad was born – on 9 February 1987 and went to Gleneagle State School and Beaudesert High.
Her parents are still at the family home at Allenview, where she and her little brother Dave grew up, and she has fond memories of swimming in the dam and fishing in the gully.
Jenni shares her special little home with Abbie the Shih tzu Maltese poodle cross and her two cats Tigger and Blossy and has a close-knit circle of friends who feel like family.
“Friends and family are what’s most important in life – and being happy,” she said.
Jenni got her love of gardening from her parents.
She particularly loves growing vegetables and between shifts at Ned’s Restaurant you’ll find her tending to her backyard plots, burying her nose in a book or being an admin for the 6000-strong Beaudesert Community Whispers Facebook group.
While she has never been to Finland, she loves keeping some family Finnish traditions alive.
“It’s a Finnish tradition to have Christmas on Christmas Eve, so after my grandparents no longer did that, my aunt took it over, then I took it over, mum’s done it the last two years and we’re having it back here this year,” she said.
“There’s rosolli, a Finnish salad with herrings, beetroot, potato, onion, gherkin and egg – for years I refused to try it but it’s actually really nice and I absolutely love it.”
Working at The Club (Beaudesert RSL) for nine years was a defining time in Jenni’s life.
“I was really quiet before I started there and it brought me out of my shell, having to interact with people – it was the first time I ever did hospitality,” she said.
“I was quite shy growing up and liked to be in my own space reading my books. The main thing is to be yourself – there’s no point trying to be somebody else.”