Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Why I am not getting a kitchen redo November 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:19 AM
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The south side of the house roof, reshingled.

FOR TWO DAYS I LISTENED to the scritch-scratch scrape of shovel against roof and workmen tromping and pounding and thudding above.

This should not be.

Thirteen unlucky years ago my husband shingled our home and garage with shingles that were supposed to last for 30 years or more.

Defective shingles torn from the roof and tossed into a trailer at the front of our house.

But within less than 10 years, the shingles were curling, lifting, cracking, breaking off and basically falling apart. In recent years, every time heavy rain fell, bits of shingle grit (or whatever it’s called) washed off the roof.

Shingles and equipment stacked on the garage roof.

Our contractor, Jerry Voegele of Voegele Builders, LLC, told me Tuesday morning, when he and his crew began the reshingling process in 17-degree temps, that the shingles should have come off five years ago. That means these shingles lasted only eight years. Eight short years.

Rolls of roofing nails await roofers. I snapped all of these photos while the roofers were away on break so as not to bother them.

Am I angry? You bet.

First, the local lumberyard where we purchased these shingles did not stand behind the product they sold. I won’t name the lumberyard, but suffice to say I will never do business there again.

I buy local because I expect excellent customer service, and usually get it, not because I will save money. I do not expect to be directed to the manufacturer (even if “that’s the way it’s done”) and a lengthy claims submission process that involved my husband climbing onto the roof to pull off defective shingles and to photograph the roof. At least the shingle company reimbursed us $100 for our trouble and expenses.

Then, when we were offered only a minor prorated certificate for costly replacement shingles from the same manufacturer, I’d really had it. Why would I buy shingles from a company I did not feel worthy of my trust? Besides, labor is the major portion of the cost in shingling, not the product.

So here we are today, paying a contractor $x,000 (materials and labor) to shingle our roofs because a manufacturer produced defective shingles.

The north and west side of the house before reshingling began there.

Given the steep pitch of our roof and its many angles and the husband’s aging body and lack of time to re-roof, we had no choice this time but to hire professionals who re-roofed the house and garage in two days with shingles that should last a life time.

If not for this $x,000 expense, I could be remodeling my 1970s vintage kitchen right about now.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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You’re invited to hear two Faribault poets read & talk about poetry November 29, 2012

WITH ONLY A WEEK until the presentation, I figured I better buckle down and finish my prep work. After all, wasn’t I the annoying mom sometimes harping on my once high school-aged kids to finish their homework?

“Don’t leave it until the last minute,” I would urge, not that they heeded my advice.

Peter C. Allen and I will present in the Great Hall, a lovely room with Greek murals on the second floor of the library.

I decided to listen to myself and have been preparing for a poetry presentation Faribault poet Peter C. Allen and I will give at 6 p.m. next Thursday, December 6, in the second floor Great Hall of Buckham Memorial Library, 11 East Division Street, Faribault.

I expect Peter is not really stressing at all about this event as he enjoys reading his poetry to an audience.

Me? Not so much.

Connie Ludwig, right, and I pose with her watercolor, “Pantry Jewels” (above my head), inspired by my poem, “Her Treasure.” We were participants in Poet-Artist Collaboration XI at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota in April.

I’m counting on Peter, whom I first met last spring at a poet-artist collaboration in Zumbrota, to help me ease into our joint poetry reading and poetry educating. He’s the kind of guy who makes you feel comfortable and who reads with the confidence of a seasoned poet.

And that he is. Several weeks ago Peter invited my husband and me to dinner in his home with wife, Maria, and their adult son, Peter Allen (the sixth). After our savory meal, I asked the elder Peter to read some of his poetry. When my friend pulled out a thick binder of his poetry, I spouted, “You’ve written way more poetry than me.”

That matters not to Peter. Nor, I suppose, should it matter to me. After all, we each write poetry when the muse calls—or in my case when a contest deadline approaches.

The 2012 volume of Poetic Strokes in which Peter Allen and I are both published.

Peter and I were both winners in the Southeastern Libraries Cooperating 2012 Poetic Strokes competition, which is why we were invited to speak at the library next week. Of the 202 submissions from regional poets, only 30 poems were selected for publication in Poetic Strokes: A Regional Anthology of Poetry from Southeastern Minnesota, Volume 6.

I’ve also been published in volumes 2, 3 and 4 of Poetic Strokes.

Lake Region Review 2, right, in which I was recently published, and LRR 1, to the left, in which I was published in 2011. I will read from both volumes during the poetry presentation next Thursday evening. This weekend you can listen to writers read their works from LRR 2 on selected western Minnesota radio stations. Go to lakeregionwriters.net and click on “Upcoming Events” for details. LRR 2 writers will also read and discuss the craft of writing at  Zandbroz Vareity, 420 Broadway Ave., Fargo, North Dakota, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 9, where I shot this photo.

I’ll read six of my poems from those four volumes plus an additional 11 published elsewhere. Even I did not realize, until I began gathering my work, that I’d been published this often. Do I have enough published work to possibly think about compiling a book of my poems?

Additionally, I’ll share tips on poetry writing and a sampling of places Minnesota poets can submit their poetry right here in Minnesota.

The most unusual place my poetry has been published, on billboards as part of the Roadside Poetry Project in Fergus Falls.

You can also expect me to use visuals in presenting several of my poems. Initially I’d considered using PowerPoint, but worried that I couldn’t pull that off given I have no idea how to prepare or technically present a PowerPoint. Lack of equipment at the library for that type of presentation caused me to drop that thought and rely instead on my ingenuity. (No, I’m not even going to hint at what I have planned.)

Besides listening to Peter and me read our poetry and talk about poetry and our other writing experiences (including blogging), you will leave with a gift—a free copy of the 2012 Poetic Strokes, compliments of SELCO.

Peter and I will also treat you to snacks and beverages.

So…if you’re up for an hour of poetry followed by a question-and-answer period, or simply want to meet me, the real person behind this blog, join Peter and me at 6 p.m. next Thursday, December 6, at the Faribault library. Peter and I promise a casual and relaxed (hopefully for me) atmosphere with down-to-earth poetry you will (hopefully) understand and enjoy.

Full disclosure: I am being paid a small stipend to present on poetry at the library. However, I was not asked to write this post and did so because I often promote such cultural events in my community and elsewhere.

The Poetic Strokes project is funded in part or whole by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

If the holiday season is already stressing you, then… November 28, 2012

Strolling along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault late on a Saturday afternoon in December 2011.

ALREADY I CAN FEEL the stress. Only four weeks until Christmas and so much to do:

I created a Christmas family photo card online yesterday (gold star for me) and will soon work on the holiday letter.

Greeting cards to write and send.

I’ll bake cookies, but probably not candy. How well I remember this ribbon candy of my youth, dropped into goodie bags parceled out after Christmas Eve worship services. This candy is artfully displayed by Vicki, a family member who has a real talent for decorating. The candy, card and lights images were all taken in her home.

Gifts to purchase and wrap. Cookies to bake.

The only lights at our home will be on the Christmas tree, although we really should decorate outdoors given we live along a busy street. But because our house was scheduled to be shingled (work started Tuesday), we could not hang lights in the balmy weather. And who wants to freeze their fingers now?

Decorating to do. Holiday events to attend. Travel.

My dear husband grilled this 2011 Christmas Day dinner.

Menus to plan. Food to buy and prepare.

It all can seem a bit overwhelming, throwing me into a rather Grinch-like state of mind. What’s a woman to do?

Short of acting like a Grinch and eliminating some items from that list, which I’m not going to do, I have one choice. That’s to cope. But how?

My friend Mandy Blume, who’s a nurse practitioner and the parish nurse at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault, my home congregation, is coordinating a Stress Relief Workshop set for 2 p.m. Sunday, December 2, in the Trinity Fellowship Hall.

If you can squeeze this into your pre-holiday schedule, do. Susan Knutson, a registered nurse and certified healing touch practitioner from Rochester, will speak on “Stress in the holidays & healing touch.”

Workshop attendees will participate in stress relief activities such as guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing.

Mandy even promises massages. Can you feel your muscles loosening already, the tension easing from your body?

The majority of the workshop—and Mandy emphasizes the word “workshop” over “presentation”—will be hands-on participating in and learning stress-reducing skills. In other words, do not expect simply to sit and take notes or read hand-outs. Oh, no.

Additionally, delicious snacks (and knowing Mandy, also healthy) and beverages will be available and door prizes awarded.

Cost is only $10. Register today by contacting the Trinity church office at 507-331-6579.

Or, you can just show up at 2 p.m. this Sunday in the Trinity Fellowship Hall, 530 Fourth Street N.W., Faribault, with your payment, although Mandy would appreciate preregistration.

(If you cannot afford the $10 registration fee, talk to Mandy.)

HOW DO YOU DEAL with stress during the holidays?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Wisconsin exhibit highlights Leonardo da Vinci’s inventive side November 27, 2012

Another facet of Leonardo da Vinci, on exhibit in Appleton, Wisconsin.

QUICK. When I say “Leonardo da Vinci,” what pops into your mind?

For me, it’s his “The Last Supper” painting.

Inside The History Museum, a sign welcomes visitors to the da Vinci exhibit.

I do not even think of him as a scientist or inventor.

But this Renaissance man surely was, a fact emphasized in a current exhibit originating in Florence, Italy, and currently showing at a northeastern Wisconsin museum through January 6, 2013.

The History Museum at the Castle, 330 W. College Avenue, Appleton, Wisconsin.

Two months ago I toured “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion” at The History Museum at the Castle in downtown Appleton, a hip and historic city some 300 miles from my southeastern Minnesota home and today home to my daughter Miranda.

An overview of one exhibit room, a working crane in the front and a tank in the back, right.

Typically I would not get particularly excited about a show which features mechanical-oriented displays. But given da Vinci’s notoriety and my interest in art and in sharing discoveries with you, I embraced this working models exhibit of 40 da Vinci machines. Modern day scientists and artisans built the machines based on da Vinci’s codices.

This is an interactive exhibit.

Kids will thrill in “Machines in Motion” as much as adults.

An informational sign summarizes well the multiple talents da Vinci possessed:

Perhaps more than anyone before him—and perhaps anyone since—Leonardo was a great scientist, engineer, and artist all in one. He combined a scientist’s passion for exploring how things work and an artist’s ability to vividly illustrate his revelations. His machine designs were ingenious and visionary—often ahead of his time. They illustrate principles at the heart of machines today.

One of da Vinci’s more impressive flight designs, suspended from the ceiling of an auditorium at the History Museum.

In his study of air, water, earth and fire, this genius—and I don’t hesitate to term someone of da Vinci’s intellectual and artistic talent as thus—created ideas which evolved into workable solutions aiding mankind.

See for yourself via these selected photos from the exhibit or by traveling to Appleton to tour this vast, interactive display. Click here for more information about “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion.”

An illustration by the scientist/inventor, Leonardo da Vinci.

Machines created from da Vinci’s codices.

More inventions showcased.

Da Vinci’s version of a horse-drawn armored military tank.

The bird’s wings flap as it moves across the stage during theatrical performances.

A machine in motion.

Da Vinci the artist and da Vinci the scientist.

Da Vinci’s idea to traverse water.

One final exhibit overview.

Disclaimer: I received a $25 gift certificate from Downtown Appleton, Inc., prior to my visit and used that money toward museum admission for myself, daughter and husband. That did not influence my decision to post about the da Vinci exhibit.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Bring in a billboard, a pregnant burrito & more along I-94 November 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:27 AM
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IN THE PAST YEAR, I’ve begun to really pay attention to billboards. Prior to this, I viewed these mega ads primarily as visual clutter.

A string of billboards near Alexandria, photographed while driving eastbound back to Faribault along Interstate 94.

But now this open air, in-your-face advertising has evolved into a diversion from a long and weary journey along a familiar route. For me, that tedious trip has been the 600-mile round trip to and from Fargo, North Dakota, four times since February. (Our son attends North Dakota State University.)

At first the drive was interesting. I haven’t traveled all that often across this region of Minnesota along Interstate 94.

Abandoned stone house along I94 near Avon.

Now, though, I am so familiar with the sites that I can tell you exactly where to find the abandoned stone house I wish would be restored (near Avon),

Freeport, “The city with a smile!” is marked by this smiling water tower.

…the location of the vintage smiley-faced water tower (Freeport)

The most entertaining of all the billboards along Interstate 94 between Faribault and Fargo is this one for Kentucky Fried Chicken just west of Alexandria. Seriously, I’d like to see anyone dragging this billboard coupon into KFC.

…and even where you will spot a particularly interesting billboard coupon (Alexandria).

The billboards along I-94 from Monticello west begin to draw my eye as the land eases from urban to rural. They are a diversion, markers of towns and cities along the route and a source of entertainment and, sometimes, amusement.

I totally cannot tell you the exact location of this billboard for Zorbaz on the Lake along I-94. But the “pregnant burrito…a bundle of joy” slogan just does not work for me. But I suppose since I noticed the message, the billboard is effective.

What is it about these restaurant advertisers? A sub as big as a billboard? Oh, yeah, read the small print. Snapped this sign near Melrose/Albany.

Just east of Fargo/Moorhead, you know you’re in farming country. And, yes, I counted all 14 insects on this billboard.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Forget shopping in North Dakota on a Sunday morning November 25, 2012

A sign along a city street welcomes us to Fargo, North Dakota, from Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the Red River.

LET’S PRETEND FOR A MOMENT that you are me. You’ve traveled nearly 300 miles from southeastern Minnesota to Fargo, North Dakota, with your husband to visit your son at North Dakota State University in mid-October.

Your son needs basic supplies like laundry detergent and deodorizing powder to sprinkle into his smelly athletic shoes. He also needs long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, socks and a warm scarf to wrap around his neck. Winter, after all, is waiting on flat and windy Fargo’s doorstep.

Being the nice parent that you are, you offer to take your boy shopping. And even though your son detests shopping, he agrees. He is no dummy. He would rather spend Mom and Dad’s money than his own.

So you plan a shopping trip to Target in West Fargo for 10 a.m. Sunday because that will allow the teen to sleep in. Afterward you’ll grab lunch around 11 a.m., then proceed to J.C. Penney (you checked online and Penneys does not open until noon) and leave town by 1 p.m. That is the plan. You have 300 miles to drive yet today.

But the entire plan is tossed out the window when you arrive at Target around 10:30 a.m. Sunday to find the doors locked. This big box retailer does not open until noon.

You suggest heading to Walmart. Your son gets on his smart phone, which he’s recently purchased quite successfully without your assistance or money, thank you. The three of you are soon winding your way around West Fargo, aiming for the discount retailer many love to hate.

Pulling into the parking lot, you notice that the place appears mostly deserted of cars and certainly of customers. As you draw nearer to the front doors, you spot signs stationed at the entrances:

The sign posted in front of the West Fargo Walmart on a Sunday morning.

OK, then.

Now what? Change of plans. Again.

Time to proceed with Plan C, which would be to check if Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the Red River, has a Target. It does. So you aim west for the border, driving five-plus miles, burning up gas because you don’t have time to wait for North Dakota’s stores to open.

You arrive at the Minnesota Target to find the parking lot packed with vehicles bearing mostly North Dakota license plates.

If only you had known about the Sunday morning shopping ban in NoDak, you would have planned differently and squeezed in a Saturday evening shopping outing. You would not be a now unhappy and grumpy Fargo visitor.

But you’ve heard/read nothing of this Blue Law (which you can read about in detail by clicking here)…

How are you supposed to know this stuff? You live in southeastern Minnesota.

And why is such a seemingly antiquated law still on the books?

FYI: I DID NOT REALIZE until I later spoke with a friend, a Minnesotan who grew up in North Dakota and whose son lives and works in Fargo, that the Blue Law not all that long ago prohibited retailers from any Sunday sales. So I suppose I should consider it progress that North Dakota retailers can now open their doors at noon on Sunday.

Secondly, this same friend told me that North Dakota has a five percent sales tax on clothing, of which I was unaware. The trip back across the river to the Target store in Moorhead thus saved us some tax dollars. However, according to information I found online, some North Dakota legislators want to repeal that tax. You can read about those efforts by some Fargo Democrats by clicking here.

Finally, can anyone explain the origin of the Blue Law in North Dakota? I expect it dates back to Sunday as a day of rest, as the Lord’s Day. I respect that and hope that most would choose worship over shopping. Yet, times have changed and church services are held on Saturdays too and, well, you know…

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A sweet surprise on Small Business Saturday in Faribault November 24, 2012

A Small Business Saturday promotional bag with my purchases inside.

“THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING LOCAL,” she said, then handed me a Shop Small shopping bag that contained a $10 Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Chamber Check.

So how’s that for a sweet surprise at Faribault Ace Hardware on Small Business Saturday, a day to support and celebrate small businesses?

My husband and I stopped by our local, friendly hardware store this morning for a cordless drill (on sale already on Black Friday, but two still left on the shelves), drain cleaner and lint traps.

After paying $47.81, Randy perused the winter gloves. And that’s when Barb Larson from the local Chamber thanked us for shopping local, handed me the Shop Small bag and asked to take my photo with her cell phone.

The really interesting thing here is that I knew Chamber folks would be roaming downtown Faribault today handing out those Chamber bucks. I even told my college son we needed to wait until Saturday to shop for shoes at Burkhartzmeyer Shoes for that sole reason.

But I’d forgotten. So the Chamber thank you was, indeed, a surprise.

As soon as the son returns home from dining at Augusto’s Ristorante, a downtown Italian restaurant, which is fabulous by the way, we’ll head a few blocks away to Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, a third-generation family shoe store. At this shoe store, employees and store owners measure and slip shoes onto your feet and will even repair your shoes. How’s that for small town service?

About half a block from Burkhartzmeyer Shoes, I dropped more money in my downtown, at Keepers Antiques. I’m supporting my local small businesses.

Have you shopped local today or recently?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling