Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Love defined on Valentine’s Day February 14, 2018

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This fabric heart, crafted by one of my children in elementary school, hangs on my back door.

 

AS A TEEN, I clipped Love is… cartoons from the newspaper and tacked them onto my bright yellow smiley face bulletin board in my lime green and partially paneled basement bedroom with the candy stripe carpet. I found the cutesy cartoon created by Kim Casali dreamy in the context of a dreamy teen.

 

I have several vintage valentines from my mom’s collection and have displayed them for Valentine’s Day.

 

Above my twin bed, I also taped a black-and-white poster photo of Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw, stars in the 1970 movie, Love Story. Oh, how I loved that movie of love and tragedy and a rather feisty Jennifer Cavelleri who used shocking words like bulls**t.

Back then I believed the famous Love Story line: Love means never having to say you’re sorry. That, my friends, is BS.

 

I created a love vignette on a chest of drawers in my dining room. Included are this wood cut-out, wedding photos and vintage and homemade valentines.

 

After 36 years of marriage, I’ve learned the importance of apologizing. And I’ve learned that love deepens and widens and grows with each shared experience. Good and bad. Love bends. Love changes. Love listens, understands, forgives, encourages, supports, serves.

 

Friends who moved from Faribault to near Fargo crafted and mailed this cute owl valentine to us.

 

That definition extends to all who love each other, whether as partners, friends, family.

Love is care and compassion and kindness. It is being there through the joys and the challenges. It is also exercising self-control—clamping your lips, stopping your fingers from sending a hurtful text or email… It is about calling a friend or family member who needs support. It’s about asking, “How are you?” and really meaning it.

 

A snippet of the valentine my 22-month-old granddaughter, with the help of her mama, crafted for me and her grandpa. I love it.

 

This Valentine’s Day, I hope we can all be a little kinder to one another. I hope we can show love in ways that extend beyond chocolate and flowers and dinner out. I hope we can truly be there for one another in ways that surpass some Hollywood version of love. I hope we can listen and believe and care. I hope we can love how we were meant to love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers. I value and appreciate you.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Personalizing a baby shower by painting onesies March 9, 2016

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HERS WAS A NOVEL IDEA. At least to me. But apparently not in the current trend of baby shower activities.

Three of the onesies painted at the baby shower I hosted.

Three of the onesies painted at the baby shower I hosted.

When my daughter Miranda suggested painting onesies at her sister and brother-in-law’s baby shower last Saturday, I jumped on board. This hands-on project would allow guests to express their love for the parents-to-be and their baby girl in a creative and practical way.

Art supplies for painting onesies.

Art supplies for painting onesies. The Scribbles brand 3D fabric paint pens were purchased at Hobby Lobby as were the foam stamps.

Miranda purchased the supplies—onesies in various sizes (which she pre-washed), fabric paint in tubes, brushes and foam stamps. I set up the painting station in our basement, complete with a canvas drop cloth covering our newly carpeted floor. Accidents happen. I saved scrap cardboard to slide inside onesies and provided Sharpies.  The paternal grandma added animal stencils to the creative possibilities.

An appropriate design for a March baby shower.

An appropriate design for a March baby shower.

My biggest dilemma was deciding when to schedule this activity during the baby shower. After lunch seemed best. I needed time to clear dishes and store away food before games and gift opening. Unfortunately I had to relocate several guests back upstairs to finish their meals so the painting could begin.

My daughter Miranda, project coordinator, sits at the end of the table.

My daughter Miranda, project coordinator, sits at the end of the table.

When time allowed, I headed to the basement with my camera, observed and documented. The results impressed me.

A niece created the ocean themed onesie on the left.

My niece created the ocean themed onesie on the left. Another niece designed the “little stinker” shirt and Miranda created the zoo animal design.

I didn’t follow the design phase, with the exception of one. A niece was planning an ocean theme, a tribute to the dad-to-be who is originally from California. She was a bit dismayed to learn that Marc grew up, not near the ocean, but in the desert. Still, I encouraged her to go with sunny ocean-side. She did.

My creation: Ewe (you) are my sunshine.

My creation: Ewe (you) are my sunshine!

Because I was busy with hostess duties during the shower, I didn’t paint a onesie until days later. That gave me time to think of an idea without party pressure.

I crafted this design for Baby Girl from her Uncle Caleb, a student at Tufts University.

I crafted this design for Baby Girl from her Uncle Caleb, a student at Tufts University.

I also created a personalized shirt from my son by stenciling a blue elephant. Jumbo the elephant is the mascot at Tufts University near Boston where Caleb is a senior. The university colors are blue and brown. I’ve long lamented to Caleb the lack of elephants on Tufts clothing, although he alerted me that has now changed. Good. But I find university apparel ridiculously expensive. My handcrafted design offers an affordable alternative.

The other grandpa, who will be called "Opa," painted the shirt on the left.

The other grandpa, who will be called “Opa,” painted the shirt on the left.

My husband has not yet painted a onesie. He’s presented several ideas. One I immediately rejected. Let’s just say he’s got a unique sense of humor…

Even more colorfully creative ideas.

Even more colorfully creative ideas.

SINCE IT’S THE SEASON for baby and bridal showers, let’s hear any creative ideas you have for hands-on activities.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Blessings in a box from North Dakota November 24, 2015

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WHEN THE MAIL CARRIER arrived at my door on Friday bearing a package, I was surprised. “I didn’t order anything. Who’s it from?” I asked.

“Looks like it’s from a relative,” he said.

And then I remembered my sister-in-law’s quick phone call several days earlier requesting my address. She was running errands and had no time to chat. This box with her return address solved the mystery of that call.

Inside, I found several sweet surprises—a pillow, a book and a clutch of notecards.

My niece worked all last winter stitching these yo-yos for this pillow.

My niece worked all last winter stitching these yo-yos for this pillow.

My 10-year-old niece crafted a yo-yo pillow for me. Fifty-six yo-yos, tiny circles of fabric gathered at the edges and sewn into circles stitched to a pink flannel pillow. Yo-yos were, Beth wrote in an attached note, popular during the Depression. Women made them from scrap fabric (oftentimes from old clothing) and then stitched them into quilts.

The story and history behind the yo-yo pillow.

The story and history behind the yo-yo pillow.

As much as I appreciate the pillow, I treasure even more the words Beth typed when she entered the pillow in her county fair and then the North Dakota State Fair. She earned two blue ribbons for this 4-H project. Here’s the part that especially touched me:

I made it for my Aunt Audrey’s birthday. She loves funky stuff and vintage, so I think she’ll like this pillow.

Beth’s wrong. I don’t just like this pillow; I love it.

And I like that my dear niece and her mom, Rena, know me so well. I do, indeed, value funky and vintage.

"When I discovered this historical gem from under junk and odds and ends (in a rummage store), I knew it was meant for you. Enjoy!" my sister-in-law wrote.

“When I discovered this historical gem from under junk and odds and ends (in a rummage store), I knew it was meant for you. Enjoy!” my sister-in-law wrote. This chapter explains how Land O’Lakes came to be the name of the Minnesota Cooperative Creameries Association’s butter. The Co-op launched a contest in 1924 to name its sweet cream butter, offering $500 in gold as prizes. Mrs. E.B. Foss of Hopkins and George I. Swift of Minneapolis submitted the same winning name. Contest entries of about 7,000 daily overwhelmed the company office. The contest topped news in the Midwest, second only to the Teapot Dome oil scandal, according to the author.

That leads to the second gift, the book Men to Remember: How 100,000 Neighbors Made History by Kenneth D. Ruble. Land O’ Lakes Creameries, Inc. commissioned the volume published in 1947. Perfect for someone who grew up on a dairy farm.

The "Spatial Odysseys" collection of notecards by David Paukert.

The “Spatial Odysseys” collection of notecards by David Paukert.

The last item in the package—a collection of rural-themed notecards—is a fitting gift also. The cards feature the work of Michigan, North Dakota, photographer David Paukert. Titled “Spatial Odysseys,” the photo cards showcase fields, a church, a barn and more from Paukert’s “Visions of the Prairie” Collection. Prairie. That reflects me, rooted in the prairie.

These gifts from Rena and Beth arrived at the end of a difficult week. They didn’t know this, of course, because the presents were originally intended for my birthday two months ago. But the timing of the delivery couldn’t have been better. Rena and Beth blessed me not only with the items they made and chose for me, but also with their thoughtfulness, love and care.

My sister-in-law also included a quote from Mother Teresa: “…do small things with great love.”

This week, please consider ways you can bless someone. Call a friend or family member who needs your support and encouragement. Listen. Avoid “hearing without listening.” Send a card with a heartfelt handwritten note. Or a gift. Volunteer. Be kind. Show your love. In whatever way you can.

Check back tomorrow for another “blessings” post.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating locally-grown, crafted & more at the Faribault Farmers’ Market September 15, 2015

Sunshine drenched sunflowers Saturday morning at the Faribault Farmers' Market.

Sunshine drenches sunflowers Saturday morning at the Faribault Farmers’ Market.

BRILLIANT SUNSHINE SLICED sharp angles into the morning. Not ideal for photography. But a perfect morning for Family Day at the Faribault Farmers’ Market. It was a pull your jacket around you in the shade and remove it in the sunshine type of early autumn Saturday morning.

All ages flocked to the market for Family Day.

All ages flocked to the market for Family Day.

Music adds to the festive feel of the event.

Music adds to the festive feel of the event.

Attendees could learn about bees.

Attendees could learn about bees.

And then purchase a jar of beautiful honey.

And then purchase a jar of beautiful honey.

These colorful hats would brighten any Minnesota winter day.

These colorful hats would brighten any Minnesota winter day.

And the crowd was in an almost festive mood as a piccolo played, bees buzzed, friends chatted and vendors displayed garden fresh produce, handcrafted items, baked goods and more. Shoppers could sample local honey smeared on graham crackers, homemade yogurt, apple slices and other goods as they meandered the northern and western perimeters of Central Park.

Feeding the goats.

Kids loved the goats…

...but were more cautious around the cattle.

…but were more cautious around the cattle.

Plus, the kids (and adults) could pet goats and Red Angus and Hereford cattle.

Freebies and samples.

Freebies and samples.

I love events like this geared toward families. From my observations, Family Day was a success. I frequent the Faribault Farmers’ Market. And never have I seen so many kids there. Several vendors remarked the same, expressing their appreciation for the number of folks who scoped out the market, many likely for the first time.

Henry, 21 months, enjoyed a cupcake from Bluebird Bakery.

Henry, 21 months, enjoys a cupcake from Bluebird Cakery.

Folks waited in line for these cupcakes.

Folks waited in line for these cupcakes.

Kids also waited to get their faces painted. Proceeds benefited four Faribault High School football players injured in a serious crash last week.

Kids also waited to get their faces painted. Proceeds benefited four Faribault High School football players injured in a serious crash last week.

Anne from Know-How Brews & Foods, spooned granola onto homemade yogurt as she handed out samples.

Anne from Know-How Brews & Foods spoons granola onto homemade yogurt as she hands out samples.

To me it seems a no-brainer, to offer activities for young families. Twice a month would be good. A line queued for face-painting and for Bluebird Cakery cupcakes. Grandmas strolled hand-in-hand with granddaughters. Kids poked sticks and grass at goats. Shoppers snagged reusable cloth bags from Rice County Public Health and other info from the University of Minnesota Extension Services and the Faribault Chamber of Commerce.

A mom and her young daughters sell gladioli through their business, Three Glad Girls.

A mom and her young daughters sell gladiolus through their business, The Three Glad Girls.

An example of the goat soap crafted at Whispering Creek Farm, rural Morristown.

An example of the goat soap crafted at Whispering Creek Farm, rural Morristown.

Produce abounds this time of year.

Produce abounds this time of year.

Our youth need this interactive connection to animals and the land, to those who grow and raise our food. They need to meet the hardworking individuals who tend plants and animals and the creative types who craft with their hands and hold dear those skills.

A perfect hot pad for the season.

A perfect hot pad for the season.

And now with harvest peaking, it’s the ideal time to showcase our local farmers’ market often and creatively with family-geared activities. A straw bale maze. Build a scarecrow. Pumpkin ring toss. The ideas are only limited by creativity and willing volunteers.

A musician plays her accordion at the market.

A musician plays her accordion at the market.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and suggestions on activities for families at a farmers’ market.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Peppers pop color and heat into the marketplace.

Peppers pop color and heat into the marketplace.

Vendors are still selling sweetcorn.

Vendors are still selling sweetcorn.

This jar of veggies carries the perfect name, "Summer in a Jar."

This jar of veggies carries the perfect name, “Summer in a Jar.”

Ears of colorful Indian corn are beginning to show up in vendors' offerings.

Ears of colorful Indian corn are beginning to show up in vendors’ offerings.

A vendor cradles a dog.

A vendor cradles a dog.

According to several vendors, the tomatoes were not that great this growing season. However, an abundance of them is available at the market.

According to several vendors, the tomatoes were not that great this growing season. However, an abundance of them is available at the market.

Zinnias, my favorite cut flowers from the garden.

Zinnias, my favorite cut, easy-to-grow garden flowers.

FYI: The Faribault Farmers’ Market is open seasonally from 1:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesdays and from 7 a.m. – noon on Saturdays in Central Park near downtown. You’ll find lots of other offerings, like jewelry, baked goods, wood crafts, and more, in addition to what I’ve showcased here in words and images.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Planning a heart attack February 10, 2015

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Birthday roses from my husband, Randy.

Roses from my husband, Randy. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

WITH VALENTINE’S DAY only days away, I hope you’re thinking sweet surprises for those you love.

You can't go wrong with chocolate, like this box from my daughter Miranda on Mother's Day.

Chocolates from my daughter Miranda. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Flowers/chocolate/a fun evening out with my sweetie all work for me. Most of all, I just want a reminder of how much I am loved.

If you’re looking for a really fun, and non-traditional, way to share the love, consider Operation Heart Attack. Those of you who have followed me for awhile may remember this operation carried out by my husband and me on the evening of February 13, 2014.

A test run in my backyard as, obviously, I could not photograph the heart attack in progress.

A test run in my backyard as, obviously, I could not photograph the heart attack in progress. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, February 2014

We parked near the houses of two friends and, in the cover of darkness, planted paper hearts in their front yards. Yes, in the snow. Thirty-five hearts in each yard. Two hearts included the messages: “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and “You’ve been heart attacked!”

We purposely chose young families to heart attack, knowing their kids would love this special Valentine’s Day greeting. They did.

I think we got as much out of giving as they did receiving. Yes, our friends figured out that we had heart attacked them.

I’d encourage you to share the love this Valentine’s Day in this creative way. I guarantee, you will make someone surprisingly happy.

Click here to read details on this project.

Bonus: The families we heart attacked pulled the paper hearts from their yards and heart attacked two more families.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Patriotic goodness & more at an occasional shop in Farmington June 28, 2014

Vintage Marketplace in Farmington

Vintage Marketplace in Farmington

I HAPPENED UPON a sweet little shop in Farmington today.

Nancy, left, and Nita.

Nancy, left, and Nita.

Nancy, the owner, and Nita, who sells at Vintage Marketplace, provided a warm welcome for my husband and me who were out on one of our “drives.”

This occasional shop at 302 Oak Street in the heart of downtown, is packed with antiques, collectibles and crafty goodness.

A summery patriotic scene outside the shop.

A summery, patriotic scene outside the shop.

With the Fourth of July only days away, I turned my camera lens to all things red, white and blue. Be assured, though, that this marketplace is filled with lots of great finds, not just Fourth of July related merchandise.

Here’s a sampling of the patriotic goodness you will discover inside:

Fourth of July, AMERICA

 

Fourth of July, embroidered flag

 

Fourth of July, banners

 

Fourth of July, Statue of Liberty

 

Fourth of July, light and banners

 

Fourth of July, star

 

Fourth of July, flag on ladder

 

However…if you want to purchase anything showcased here, you will have exactly five hours to do so. Nancy’s shop opens at 11 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday, June 29) and closes at 4 p.m. Remember, hers is an occasional shop, meaning she’s open only two weekends a month and on the third Thursday for Ladies Night.

When the Vintage Marketplace reopens on July 17, it will be filled with completely new inventory, Nancy tells me.

This is definitely a shop worth visiting as much for the merchandise as the friendly crew who run it.

FYI: Learn more about Vintage Marketplace by clicking here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Incredible quilt art in Owatonna April 9, 2014

The entry to the Owatonna Art Center

The entry to the Owatonna Arts Center, inside the former Minnesota State Public School for Dependent  and Neglected Children, later renamed the Owatonna State School. The City of Owatonna now owns the site, today called West Hills with the OAC located at 435 Garden View Lane.

HE EXPRESSED IT so well, the quilter’s husband waiting outside the Owatonna Arts Center Sunday afternoon for invited guests to arrive from Rochester.

A quilted work of art bursts with color.

A quilted work of art bursts with color.

Quilting, he surmised, has evolved from a homemaker’s craft to a recognized form of art.

The quilter's husband and the quilter view the extensive collection of quilts.

The quilter’s husband and the quilter view the extensive collection of quilts.

He’s so right.

If you appreciate art and quilts, you will want to see "Quilts in Bloom"

If you appreciate art and quilts, you will want to see “Quilts in Bloom”

“Quilts in Bloom,” featuring around 80 quilts stitched by members of the local Piecemakers Quilt Guild, blossoms in the nooks and crannies of gallery space in an exhibit that runs from now until April 27.

Baskets of blossoms and more.

Baskets of blossoms and more.

This show simply blooms with creativity:

A close-up of the traditional Dresden Plate pattern in the foreground with a second quilt in the background.

A close-up of the traditional Dresden Plate pattern in the foreground with a second quilt in the background.

A contrast of modern geometrical to the traditional Sunbonnet Girls.

A contrast of modern geometrical to the traditional Sunbonnet Girls.

This block from the 1930s Sunbonnet Sue pattern features quilting and embroidery.

This block from the 1930s Sunbonnet Sue pattern features quilting and embroidery.

I really liked this pairing of wood sculpture with quilt art. The wood tone compliments the earthy colors of the quilt.

I really like this pairing of wood sculpture with quilt art. The earthy tones in each complement one another.

For $1, you can buy a chance to win "Stars in My Garden."

For $1, you can buy a chance to win “Stars in My Garden.”

A block in a teapot themed quilt.

A block in a teapot themed quilt.

During the open reception, musicians performed in the venue space, where several quilts are displayed.

During the opening reception, musicians performed in the venue space, where several quilts are displayed.

Whimsical art.

Whimsical art.

Touring the exhibit on opening day.

A Faribault quilter and his wife tour the exhibit on opening day.

Floral design at its quilting best.

Floral design at its quilting best.

Quilt art lines a hallway.

Quilt art lines a hallway.

From the playful to geometric, abstract, traditional, whimsical and more, you’ll discover an array of eye-pleasing colors and patterns here.

Artist Lois Doyle created "Mountain Laurel," a quilt she started 25 years ago. She has several quilts in the show. Laurie Spindler machine quilted this quilt.

Artist Lois Doyle created “Mountain Laurel,” a quilt she started 25 years ago. She has several quilts in the show. Laurie Spindler machine quilted this quilt. Even with arthritic hands, Lois still quilts. Remarkable.

The talent of these quilters impresses me. Truly, they deserve the title of artists.

This sign posted at the quilt show says it all.

This sign posted at the quilt show says it all.

FYI: This marks the 10th annual Piecemakers Quilt Guild show, which is held every three years. You can tour “Quilts in Bloom” during gallery hours, from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday. A $3 donation is suggested. Click here for more information.

BONUS PHOTO: 

While at the show, be sure to stop and appreciate this beautiful space connecting the Owatonna Arts Center to the

While at the show, stop to appreciate this beautiful space connecting the Owatonna Arts Center to the Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum. I’d suggest allowing time to tour the museum and nearby cottage. Check hours before coming as they may differ from gallery hours.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shopping local: My beautiful vintage floral art find March 10, 2014

Crewel embroidery floral art, looking up

IT’S SIMPLY A STUNNING piece. Stitched flowers, artfully arranged, springing from a blue vase.

I was beyond tempted to keep the crewel embroidered floral art for myself.

But, instead, I would present it to my eldest who, for her 28th birthday, requested thrift art. She knows my knack for finding great original art at thrift shops, garage sales and elsewhere. I’d been searching for awhile for her gift, to no avail.

So I conceded that, until I found the perfect piece, she’d need to settle for a bouquet of real flowers. Fresh flowers are always welcome and would be a great way for my husband and I to thank our daughter and her husband for inviting us to lunch at their St. Paul apartment.

Remember to shop local as noted in this mat at the entrance to The Nook & Cranny. Edited photo.

Remember to shop small local stores as noted in this entry mat at The Nook & Cranny. Edited photo.

The day before the lunch date, Randy and I stopped downtown Faribault for St. Pete’s Select blue cheese from the Cheese Cave. Our son-in-law loves this locally-made cheese. And while we were on Central Avenue, I would pop into a floral shop for flowers.

Crewel embroidery floral art, front

But, before I even exited the car, I noticed that stunning floral art in the front window of  The Nook & Cranny, a gift shop which features vintage, collectible and handcrafted merchandise.

The Nook & Cranny, 412 Central Avenue, Faribault, Minnesota.

The Nook & Cranny, 412 Central Avenue, Faribault, Minnesota.

I beelined for the store, my husband trailing. When he read the price tag on the artwork, my excitement diminished. It was priced way higher than I expected or wanted to pay. Art, but not exactly thrift art. As is typical of me, I debated whether I should spend that kind of money. I circled the store, fingering other merchandise, my thoughts never far from that floral art in the window.

Crewel embroidery floral art, side view

To make the potential purchase even more enticing, the shopkeeper shared its history. The floral art was created as a wedding gift some 75 years ago by a mother-in-law. Now no one in the family wanted the long ago gift nor two other crewel embroidered pieces, also for sale in The Nook & Cranny.

That history, combined with a comment by my spouse that real flowers would last perhaps a week, made the decision final. Our daughter would have this art forever.

The Nook & Cranny is among numerous one-of-a-kind locally-owned specialty shops in historic downtown Faribault.

The Nook & Cranny is among numerous one-of-a-kind locally-owned specialty shops in historic downtown Faribault.

So I meandered to the back room and, in an atypical move, asked the shopkeeper whether she would consider dropping the price. She did, by 10 percent. That was just enough. I knew, too, if I didn’t buy this vintage art with its wonderful history, I would regret my decision.

This crewel embroidery art, crafted by the same woman who created the floral I purchased, now hangs in the front window of the Nook & Cranny.

This 1970s vintage crewel embroidery art, crafted by the same woman who created the floral I purchased, now hangs in the front window of The Nook & Cranny. I photographed this through the window when the shop was closed, thus the glare on the glass. If you buy this art, tell them I sent you.

Truly, this art was meant to be purchased by me and gifted to my eldest. I am convinced of that. I know she will treasure it. When she saw the art for the first time, her enthusiasm was genuine.

Table setting

Besides that, when we arrived at her and her husband’s apartment for Sunday lunch, a bouquet of fresh flowers already adorned the dining room table.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

You’ve been “heart attacked!” February 14, 2014

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TWENTY-FOUR HOURS HAVE PASSED since the deed was done. Correction. Deeds. Plural.

The covert operation began, as all such operations do, with a plan.

Piling up the hearts in anticipation of Operation Heart Attack.

Piling up the hearts in anticipation of Operation Heart Attack.

Days before the staging, my husband and I (mostly me) traced and cut hearts from construction paper. Red hearts, pink, yellow, blue, purple, orange… The color didn’t matter as much as the quantity.

All told, there were about 70 hearts in three sizes—half destined for each home.

Then the search was on for stakes to which the paper hearts would be secured. The original intent was to purchase wooden skewers. But since this isn’t exactly grilling season in Minnesota, none were to be found.

Clearance holiday light stakes worked perfectly.

Clearance holiday light stakes worked perfectly.

That left us wandering the aisles of Walmart, where I happened upon universal light stakes on the clearance shelves. These 9-inch long plastic sticks, typically used to secure Christmas lights in the ground, were on sale for the bargain price of 10 cents for a box of 25. I snatched three.

Each paper heart was secured to a plastic stake with regular tape.

Each paper heart was secured to a plastic stake with regular tape.

But would tape adhere and stick in Minnesota’s brutal temps? We tested regular tape, packaging tape and masking tape and rated the everyday tape as the best option. And so stakes were taped to hearts.

On the morning of February 13, the day of Operation Heart Attack, I divided the hearts into two piles and later stashed them in canvas tote bags.

That evening, around 7, Randy and I set out to place the hearts in the front yards of our friends. We knew we had to work quickly and quietly in the cold and darkness of a Minnesota winter evening.

The plan was to park around the corner from the targeted homes. There was no need for such stealth at Billie Jo and Neal’s, though, as their house was dark. So Randy stopped the car right in front of their place along a quiet residential street.

A test run in my backyard as, obviously, I could not photograph the heart attack in progress.

A day-time test run in my backyard as, obviously, I could not photograph the evening heart attack in progress.

We hustled out and then begin stabbing the stakes into the snow banked along the edge of their driveway. We had not anticipated rock hard snow. But we managed and in less than five minutes were out of there, contemplating when our friends and their two elementary-aged children would discover they’d been heart attacked.

Then on to the next house, where we did have to park around the corner and use extreme stealth. Our friends Tammy and Jesse had an exterior light switched on and their living room curtains partially open. They also have a dog. We thought for certain that we would be caught by them or one of their four children as we, once again, jabbed stakes into hard-packed snow.

However, we made a clean get-away.

Some creative mind (not mine) came up with the "You've been heart attacked" idea.

Some creative mind (not mine) came up with the “You’ve been heart attacked!” idea.

Early Friday morning Tammy emailed: “I was wondering if we have you and Randy to thank for the heart attack in our yard?”

Busted. No interrogation tactics needed. I confessed immediately.

Seems Tammy and Jesse’s daughter, Hannah, discovered the clutch of hearts within a half hour of their placement when she let the family dog outside. Violet set up quite a racket barking at the fluttering hearts. Apparently she didn’t bark, though, when we were executing Operation Heart Attack. Good doggie.

Then the mystery needed to be solved. And here’s the funny part. Tammy and Jesse and family thought Billie Jo and Neal and family placed the hearts in their yard. And Bille Jo and Neal and family thought Tammy and Jesse and family had carried out the attack in their yard.

Ruling each other out, they eventually settled on Randy and me as the likely suspects.

Says Tammy after my confession, “…the kids couldn’t wait until morning so they could get a better look at it. Everyone has been smiling all morning. How very thoughtful of you.”

That Randy and I could give such joy to our friends on Valentine’s Day…

Image three times-plus this number of hearts placed in our friends' yards.

Imagine three times this number of hearts placed in our friends’ front yards.

Both families have since pulled up the hearts we left and heart attacked others.

Billie Jo, along with her daughter and son, passed the joy along to a classmate of Nevaeh. While my friends were driving home, Nevaeh told her mom, “…wouldn’t it be cool if they did it to someone else then it got all the way around the world. Then Audrey could get famous just by doing one little thing.”

I cannot claim credit for the Operation Heart Attack idea. I saw this online. But I will accept the grateful thanks of my friends for making their Valentine’s Day a memorable one.

As Billie Jo says, “I never knew I would be so thankful for a heart attack!

And Tammy claimed she and her kids had a blast sneaking out to a place in the country and passing the hearts on to mutual friends of ours.

Oh, the joy in something as simple as a heart attack.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Crafts galore & a bonus scarecrow contest October 26, 2013

The sign marking the entry to 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale near the intersection of Minnesota Highways 56 and 60 just outside of Kenyon.

Signs mark the entry to 100 Ladies & Gentlemen Craft Sale near the intersection of Minnesota Highways 56 and 60 just outside of Kenyon.

I WISH, OH, HOW I WISH I could show you all the crafty goodness that encompasses the 100 Ladies & Gentlemen Craft Sale just outside of Kenyon.

This building and a wing in the back house the craft sale.

This building houses the craft sale.

But no photos were allowed of the merchandise stuffed inside this pole shed. So you will need to imagine the stitched, hammered, painted, baked, preserved, knitted and other handcrafted items sold here.

Need an apron? Homemade caramels? A Minnesota-authored book? Some crazy saying to decorate a wall? Handcrafted furniture? Seasonal decorations? A photograph of a barn? The list is endless.

The property features a paved parking lot for shoppers.

The property features a paved parking lot for shoppers.

For 40 years, Marlene and Curt Morrow have hosted this craft sale on their property at 45986 Minnesota State Highway 56, just north of State Highway 60.

The show was abuzz with shoppers when my husband and I stopped on a Saturday afternoon, so busy that wiggling through the narrow aisles proved challenging.

I thought Randy would be bored, but he lingered longer than me, reading humorous sayings at a booth of quirky signage.

It wasn’t until I spotted upcycled freestanding cabinets in the back section of the building that I found merchandise which truly interested me. At that point I called Randy over for his opinion on a cabinet to fill a hole in our dining room wall. We removed a chimney several years ago, but I seldom notice anymore the cardboard sheets that hide the space. Until we have guests. Yes, we really need to do something about that. But then I need new flooring and kitchen counters and cupboards and a sink, well, the list is endless. I would love to win a kitchen make-over.

Oh, yes, back to that craft show. I pulled a tape measure and notebook from my purse and Randy measured while I jotted numbers, hopeful that maybe one of the three cabinets we both liked would fit the space. It was not to be, we learned later upon returning home and measuring the void.

Despite purchasing nothing at the sale—because I really do not need more “stuff”—I still enjoyed the drive over to Kenyon and perusing the handcrafted merchandise. I always appreciate the talents of local artisans.

And the scarecrow display, which I was allowed to photograph, provided for some fun photo ops. At least I didn’t bring my camera with me for naught:

Visitors can vote for their favorite in the scarecrow festival with cash prizes awarded to the top three.

Visitors can vote for their favorite in the scarecrow festival with cash prizes awarded to the top three.

Here's a close-up of the Queen Mom, the scarecrow in the foreground in the photo above.

Here’s a close-up of the Queen Mom, the scarecrow in the foreground in the photo above. Her red hat sisters surround her.

Look at the attention to detail by the creators of the Queen Mom.

Look at the attention to detail by the creators of the Queen Mom.

Some of the scarecrows can be a little frightening.

Some of the scarecrows can be a little frightening…

While others can be as fashionable as the Queen Mom, like this hip 60s scarecrow.

while others can be as fashionable as the Queen Mom, or this hip 60s scarecrow.

Scarecrows making a statement.

Scarecrows making a statement.

Among the humorous tombstones on display.

Among the humorous tombstones on display.

Another scarecrow.

Another scarecrow.

An empty chair provides a photo op for a shopper.

An empty chair provides a photo op for a shopper.

And these four hang out outside the craft sale. (Yes, they are for sale.)

And these four hang out outside the craft sale. (Yes, they are for sale.)

FYI: The craft sale is open from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays from now until November 10.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling