Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Dime store memories in Plainview June 23, 2022

Plainview’s version of the old-fashioned dime store. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2022)

GRAB BAGS AND VINYL SINGLES. Goldfish and tiny turtles. And, oh, an endless assortment of whatever you needed, and didn’t need. Such are my dime store memories upon entering J.T. Variety & Toys in Plainview.

To the left, knick knacks. Center and to the right, supplies for crafters. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

This crammed-with-merchandise store along West Broadway in the heart of downtown Plainview hearkens to yesteryear when Ben Franklin and F.W. Woolworth stores dotted Main Street USA. J.T. Variety & Toys fits the dime store model.

A sign directs customers to the shop at 333 West Broadway. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

And while I spotted no turtles, fish, grab bags or vinyl, the business offers a wide range of merchandise for all ages and interests.

Lots of fabric, lots of knick knacks. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Need a gift for Aunt Gertie or your next-door neighbor or whomever? There are knick knacks and home décor items galore.

Lots of rainbow yarn choices. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Crafters—whether knitter or seamstress or some other creative—can shop an array of colorful yarn skeins cramming cubbies, folds of sorted-by-color fabric layering shelves, and much more. Choices are bountiful.

Flowers, shoes, knick knacks, craft supplies…so much merchandise packed into this small store. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

The same goes for the selection of fake flowers splashing color into a display and spilling over into baskets lining the floor. Above the flowers I found a collection of summer shoes—flip flops, slip-ons shaped like insects…

Unlike the dime stores of old, credit cards are welcome at this variety store. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

If I sound a tad giddy about J.T. Variety & Toys, it’s because I am. A lot of those feelings trace to childhood memories of shopping dime store aisles. Back in the day, I mostly looked because, coming from a poor farm family, buying usually wasn’t an option, except for necessities. I would stand for a long long time in the pet section at the back of Woolworths looking at those mini imported pet turtles, wishing for one.

The toy section. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

I expect the kids of Plainview gravitate to the toy section of their local variety store with its puzzles and games, marbles and Play Doh, trucks and dolls, Little Golden Book and other books, and much more. I’d feel giddy if I was a kid with money to spend here.

Lots of great book choices. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

Plainview is fortunate to have this homegrown business akin to the dime stores of old. It was here in this southeastern Minnesota small town, the day before our 40th wedding anniversary in mid-May, that my husband purchased a lovely anniversary greeting card while I paged through a storybook about Paul Bunyan. It wasn’t like he could buy a tiny imported pet turtle for me…

More yarn choices for crafters. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2022)

TELL ME: Do you have dime store memories? Have you discovered a store similar to J.T. Variety & Toys (Dollar stores don’t count)? I’d like to hear.

To learn more about Plainview, read my previous posts by clicking here. And watch for several more stories on this community northeast of Rochester in southeastern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Crafty scarecrows at a craft show in Kenyon October 27, 2021

Fall harvest underway near Kenyon in the Monkey Valley area. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

AUTUMN IN MINNESOTA. Ah, what a season.

A welcome sign at a Kenyon craft show. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2021)

It is the season of harvest, of church dinners, of stunning fall colors. Of football games and simmering soups and visits to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch. September and October are, too, the season of craft shows here in southern Minnesota.

Celebrating the season with a yard full of scarecrows. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

Recently, while returning from a fall color drive into the Sogn Valley and then on to Cannon Falls and back, Randy and I stopped at the 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Sale along Minnesota State Highway 56 on the north edge of Kenyon. This marks the event’s 48th year.

Creative signage outside the craft sale building. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

I’ve shopped here previously, perusing the handcrafted works of regional artists and crafters. From holiday decorations to art to baskets to candles to furniture to coveted homemade caramels and much more, the variety of items showcased inside a poleshed style building are endless. Although I walked in with my camera slung across my shoulder, I didn’t take any photos inside. As I recall, photography isn’t allowed to protect the works of creatives. I get that.

Recognized in a well-known publication. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)
A fancy lady scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)
Love the bright hues of this creative scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

Instead, I aimed my lens at the scarecrows entered in the outdoor Scarecrow Contest. On a grassy area, scarecrows stake their spots and vie for visitors’ votes.

My favorite, which calls for close attention to details. Look at the eyes and mouth. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

The gathering of scarecrows adds a festive, seasonal feel to the autumn event.

Traditional scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)
The scariest, in my opinion. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)
Perhaps the most unusual scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

It’s fun to meander among them, to view the traditional, the scary, the unusual.

Humor among the scarecrows. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

These scarecrows, too, define the season. They remind me that Halloween is fast-approaching—an anniversary year here in Minnesota. This October 31 marks 30 years since the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. That four-day weather event dumped 28.4 inches of snow in the Twin Cities, with even more, 36.9 inches, in the Lake Superior port city of Duluth. Strong winds accompanied the overwhelming snowfall. And, yes, I remember.

More than just a tad creepy, another favorite scarecrow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

But in this moment, at this place defined by the works of creatives, I appreciated the autumn day. Sunshine and blue sky. Scarecrows’ hair and clothing flapping in the October wind. Winter not yet welcome in this season of craft shows.

FYI: The 100 Ladies and Gentlemen Craft Show continues from 10 am – 8 pm October 28-31 and November 4-7 (closes earlier on the final day).

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The art of Bean Hole Days July 27, 2021

Pottery from When Pigs Fly Studio, Nisswa, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

FROM POTTERY TO DYED CLOTHING and much more, creative works filled tents and spaces lining a paved path through Trailside Park during Pequot Lake’s recent Bean Hole Days.

Lots and lots of arts and crafts, some with outdoor themes for cabin country. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

While beans, baked in massive kettles in an underground pit, highlight this festival, the Arts & Crafts Fair adds another appealing dimension. I always enjoy meandering among vendor booths, occasionally chatting it up with these creatives.

Featuring flags crafted from wood. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

A time existed when I, too, created with my hands. As a teen, I sewed nearly all my clothes. I also stitched dresses for my paternal grandmother. I loved sewing. But college, life as a working professional and then motherhood ended that. Perhaps some day I’ll return to sewing and embroidery, two favorite hands-on crafts. For now I keep my hands primarily on my keyboard and DSLR camera.

A Flying Pig by Alice Harris. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.
Artists’ statement. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.
A mug by Dale Goodhue. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I admire the creative work of others, including those vending in Pequot Lakes. Like the pottery of Alice Harris and Dale Goodhue, Minnesota residents in the summer, Georgia residents in the winter. They create out of their When Pigs Fly Studio in Nisswa. Alice crafts the pigs while Dale creates more practical pottery pieces like mugs and plates. What a difference in approaches to pottery.

A Puzzle Box crafted by Ken Spurlin. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Perhaps the most unusual art I discovered are the Puzzle Boxes crafted by Ken Spurlin of Nevis. He takes a chunk of wood and then saws it into a puzzle with a hidden space inside. It’s magical.

Crocheted art from Spun A Yarn. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

When I spotted crocheted panels in the Spun A Yarn booth, I engaged in conversation with the artist, who, as it turns out, is also a freelance fiction editor and writer. Miranda Darrow (her pen name) creates “crochet with character.” Her crocheted loon panel caught my eye given the northwoods location of the Arts & Craft Fair. Loons are common on area lakes.

Vending dyed goods and other art. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.
Used for natural dyes. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.
A sampling of the dyed clothing. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

A creative backdrop and vendors dressed in dyed clothing caused me to stop and peruse the art of Shea J Maze and Diaspora Textiles. Memories of tie dying in the 70s flashed back. But unlike the chemicals I used to dye tees, these items are dyed naturally. A jar of dried flowers sitting on the table proved that. Beautiful, soft hues define this natural dying method.

Kids play at the Wondertrek booth. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Farther along the trail, the bold colors of mega blocks drew kids (and me) to the booth of Wondertrek Baxter Children’s Museum. The museum is an in-process undertaking.

Bean Hole Days included a small carnival. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Across the park, inflatables splashed color into the landscape in temporary, interactive public art.

Loved this little guy’s colorful sweater. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I can see art most anywhere, including in the striped sweater worn by a preschooler wandering the fest grounds. Handcrafted or not, I don’t know. But I found it visually appealing, albeit seemingly too warm for the hot and humid July day.

Oh, the sweetness of this little girl, providing entertainment as people waited in line for free baked beans. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

While I’ve only shown you a sampling of the arts and crafts featured in Pequot Lakes, I hope this entices you to attend Bean Hole Days next summer. Not only for the delicious baked beans but also for the art.

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Please check back for one final post (of three) on Pequot Lakes Bean Hole Days.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Flea market finds from art to crafts & more June 8, 2021

An overview of vendors at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market on Memorial Day weekend. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2021.

I’VE REACHED THAT STAGE in life where I don’t need more stuff (although I would like an updated kitchen). But I’m talking about all the miscellaneous that fills our homes. Not necessarily necessary, but stuff that we like, whether art, antiques, collectibles or whatever.

A beautiful mirrored gazing ball offered by a crafter. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

I’ll always appreciate those extras which personalize our houses and outdoor spaces, which make a place a home.

The event also included a live auction. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

And I’ll always appreciate swap meets and flea markets, a good source for unusual finds. Flea markets, after a year’s hiatus due to COVID-19, are back in my area of southern Minnesota. And recently I attended my second of the season, this one hosted by Rice County Steam & Gas Engines, Inc. in rural Dundas.

My favorite “character” at this year’s flea market. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

I delight in walking among vendors on this spacious acreage. I enjoy the people-watching and the array of merchandise.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.
A tractor raffle. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

And I welcome spotting a tractor or two, which takes me back to the farm.

Love this fish art by Ron Hammond Artworks of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Darlene Wondra of G & D Sales in Montgomery did this handstitched dish towel embroidery. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Beautiful rag rugs crafted by Lito Xydous Hufford of CA2 BY LITOUS. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Often, I pause to chat with vendors, including those who sell crafts or art.

Discovering art among flea market merchandise. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

“Snake woman,” found at the booth of Daniel Bell. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

I also search for art in the used merchandise available for purchase. As a creative, I view the world through an artful lens.

Among the unusual merchandise: wigs for sale. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

The unusual, the oddities, the unique draw my focus.

And then there’s the food, this time mini donuts, my long-time fair food favorite. These were especially good. Warm. Sugary. And not at all greasy.

Some of vendor Daniel Bell’s offerings. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

There’s so much to enjoy about flea markets, even if I’m only looking and not buying. And this year, especially, it feels exceptionally good to be out and about. Meandering. Reminiscing over merchandise. Admiring creativity. Simply appreciating life and being among people again.

© Copyright 2021 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