Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A summer-like day in March in Minnesota March 8, 2016

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At 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, the outdoor temperature in my Faribault backyard registered at 66 degrees.

At 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, the outdoor temperature in my Faribault backyard registered at 66 degrees. This photo shows the indoor/outdoor temp monitor atop my refrigerator.

IT WAS A THROW the windows open kind of day here in Southern Minnesota. Let the wind sail the scent of spring through the closed-up winter house. Air out the rooms. Turn off the furnace because it’s warmer outside than in.

Eat lunch outdoors. In the sunshine. In temps reaching about 70 degrees.

Tuesday was the kind of winter day that seems pinch me unbelievable. Is this really March in Minnesota? Or is it summer?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

All about love & family at my daughter’s baby shower March 7, 2016

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I picked up three helium balloons for my daughter and son-in-law's baby shower for a total of $3 at Dollar Tree.

I picked up three helium balloons for my daughter and son-in-law’s baby shower for a total of $3 at Dollar Tree in Faribault.

THE PATERNAL GRANDPARENTS flew in from California. The aunt drove 300 miles from eastern Wisconsin. A great aunt traveled from western Minnesota, near the South Dakota border.

I created this baby

I created this baby banner from construction paper, shiny paper letters, animals shapes and polka dot ribbon, then strung it across my living room window.

They gathered with 13 other guests (three of whom are pregnant) and three baby girls to celebrate the anticipated arrival of my first grandchild in less than two months.

Family from across the country shipped baby gifts to my home prior to the shower. I started stacking them, along with party supplies, in my daughters' former bedroom.

Family from across the country shipped baby gifts to my home prior to the shower. I started stacking them, along with party supplies, in my daughters’ former bedroom.

I’d been planning this party, this baby shower, for months for my eldest daughter, Amber, and her husband, Marc. It was perfect. In every way.

Guests created personalized onesies using stamps, stencils, paint and permanent markers.

Guests created personalized onesies using stamps, stencils, paint and permanent markers.

From the food to the conversation, art project, games and, yes, even the weather, the day proved lovely.

I purchased these napkins at Party Plus in Owatonna.

I purchased these napkins at Party Plus in Owatonna.

Guests loved the cute mini elephant roll-out cookies I made and sprinkled with pastel sugars.

Guests loved the cute mini elephant roll-out cookies I made and sprinkled with pastel sugars. I borrowed the cookie cutter from a friend.

Beanie Babies were big when the mom-to-be and dad-to-be were growing up. So I asked guests to identify the elephant, lion and zebra. Only one guest correctly names them: Peanut, Roary and Ziggy.

Beanie Babies were big when the mom-to-be and dad-to-be were growing up. So I asked guests to identify the zebra, elephant and lion. Only one guest correctly named them: Ziggy, Peanut and Roary.

It was my honor and my joy to throw this party for my daughter and son-in-law. When I settled on a theme—zoo animals—my creativity sparked. Elephant themed napkins and dainty elephant cut-out cookies. A baby trivia game included questions about the gestational period of an African elephant (22 months), plus questions about the parents-to-be and more. The two grandpas were the lifelines.

The great nieces played while their moms and others passed opened baby gifts around my living room.

The great nieces played while their moms and others passed opened baby gifts around my living room. That’s my husband in the doorway.

Laughter and conversation flowed. Arms of aunts and grandmas and cousins held babies. Wrapping paper fell onto the living room carpet, entertaining the 10 ½-month old who’s beginning to walk.

The adorable "Santa" outfit from Great Grandma Norma.

The adorable “Santa” outfit from Great Grandma Norma for Amber and Marc’s daughter.

The parents-to-be and guests, and grandparents, too, gushed over the red velvet Santa-style dress with matching hat and red-and-white striped leggings selected by Great Grandma Norma in California. You could almost hear the Minnesota dialect reaction, “Oh, fer cute.”

My daughter holds a colorful car seat activity toy for her daughter.

My daughter holds a colorful car seat activity toy for her daughter.

This whimsical creature from Uncle Jon Eric and Aunt Stephani in California drew many admiring comments.

This whimsical creature from Uncle Jon Eric and Aunt Stephani in California drew many admiring comments.

My daughter Miranda, who lives in Wisconsin, bought this shirt for her niece.

My daughter Miranda, who lives in Wisconsin, bought this shirt for her niece. My son-in-law is showing off his daughter’s shirt.

Baby’s first doll, a colorful car seat activity toy, a pink “Someone in Wisconsin Loves Me” long-sleeved onesie. Cute. The hand-stitched burp rags, the floral headbands, the cloth diaper shells. Cute. So many gifts from those who love my daughter and son-in-law and my unborn granddaughter.

The grandparents-to-be flank the parents-to-be. From left to right, my husband, me, Amber, Marc and Marc's parents, Lynn and Eric. We are standing outside the garage door where I hung the banner. I found the banner packed in a shoebox. Next-door-neighbors hung the banner on our garage door 28 years ago when our youngest daughter, Miranda, was born.

The grandparents-to-be flank the parents-to-be. From left to right, my husband, me, Amber, Marc and Marc’s parents, Lynn and Eric. We are standing outside the garage door. I found the “it’s a girl” banner packed in a shoebox with baby cards. Next-door-neighbors hung the banner on our garage door 28 years ago when our youngest daughter, Miranda, was born.

Sure, this young couple could have gone out and purchased most of these items. But there’s something special about gathering in a home, crowding into the living room to eat, visit, play games and then watch the opening of baby gifts.

I was delighted to have my two beautiful daughters in my home, together, for several hours.

I was delighted to have my two beautiful daughters, Miranda, left, and Amber, in our home for several hours. We haven’t all three been together since June.

This is about tradition. This is about family. This is about love. This is a baby shower.

FYI: Check back tomorrow when I’ll show you more baby shower details and ideas.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Now this is the kind of Minnesota winter day I like February 29, 2016

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SATURDAY BROUGHT A RESPITE from winter. An unbelievable respite as the temperature rocketed to new record highs throughout Minnesota. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the high temp of 56 degrees broke the previous high of 54 degrees set 120 years ago on February 27, 1896.

Pulling into the Dairy Queen, I snapped this temperature sign Saturday afternoon, February 27.

Pulling into the Dairy Queen, I snapped this temperature and time sign on Saturday afternoon, February 27, in Faribault.

It was a glorious day. Simply glorious. Here in Faribault, where I photographed a digital temperature reading of 55 degrees at 3:22 p.m., it seemed more a spring day than the middle of winter.

Eastbound on Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault Saturday afternoon.

Eastbound on Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault Saturday afternoon.

I spotted motorcycles and convertibles, folks in shorts and shirt sleeves.

And in my backyard, the sun shone so bright right after lunch that I wanted to curl up like a cat and sleep. Outdoors. On my back steps. Just feet from snow piles.

I set my peanut buster parfait on a table in my patio to show the backyard contrast of seasons. The white background patches are snow, the green, lawn.

I set my peanut buster parfait on a table on my patio to show the backyard contrast of seasons. The white background patches are snow, the green is lawn.

Hours later, my husband and I were pulling up to the Dairy Queen for peanut buster parfaits. The DQ had just opened and was offering a special. The place was busy. But not as busy as the next door car wash. There vehicles waited a dozen deep in two lines. Randy decided to wash our van and car at home, the old-fashioned way with a hose and bucket of water.

That was Saturday.

This Dairy Queen sign equates the difference in temps from Saturday (hot for Minnesota winter standards) to Sunday (normal for winter).

This Dairy Queen sign equates the difference in temps from Saturday (hot for Minnesota winter standards) to Sunday (normal for winter).

Sunday morning brought a drastic shift in temperatures, to the normal range for this time of year. Thirty-five degrees.

Snow flakes fell fast and furious around noon on Sunday. This shows my neighbor's evergreens and flag.

Snow flakes fell fast and furious around noon on Sunday. This shows my neighbor’s evergreens and flag, photographed from my back steps.

Around noon, a burst of snow reminded me that this still is winter in Minnesota. Even if we experienced a glorious spring-like day on February 27.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Valentine’s Day love at Sunday School February 14, 2016

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SS Valentine's Day, 48 stack of valentines

 

HOW WAS YOUR Valentine’s Day?

Except for the hour I spent photographing Sunday School students and their families, mine would have been just another Sunday. Early to church, followed by bible study. Then brunch at home prepared by my husband.

But because I’ve recently become the go-to person to document happenings at my church, Trinity Lutheran, I pulled photography duty this morning. And I’m fine with that because I enjoy photography. Now if I was asked to give a minute-man speech (which I’ve been asked to do) or count money or serve on a board (which I’ve been asked to do), I wouldn’t do it. My talents and interests don’t lie in those areas.

Ask me to bring my camera, however, and I will likely be there.

In the one hour I covered the Sunday School’s Valentine’s Day event, I shot some 200 photos.  But, because these images are for church use, I can only share a few generic photos with you.

 

SS Valentine's Day, 16 close-up hands making valentine

 

I can tell you, though, what I witnessed. And that was kids and parents, and, yes, even some grandparents, celebrating the gift of love. Kids made valentines, stacked candy hearts and unwrapped Hershey’s kisses with mittened hands. But the most memorable moment came when parents applied sticker dots to their children’s faces—each dot representing a quality they love about their children. I heard words like beautiful, smart, kind, my first-born…

 

SS Valentine's Day, 138 I love God because dots

 

After those professions of love, the kids stuck the dots to portraits of Jesus with the children, expressing their love for Jesus.

 

Valentine's Day Trinity SS 039 - Copy

 

I left feeling like I’d gotten the perfect Valentine’s Day gift—a reminder that I am—we are—loved.

TELL ME, what made your Valentine’s Day special/memorable?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Connecting a British rock band & ice fishing in Minnesota February 11, 2016

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The rock band name on this shed leaves the unanswered question, "Why?"

The rock band name on this shed leaves the unanswered question, “Why?”

IN A SOUTHWEST FARIBAULT backyard rests a shed emblazoned with the name of an English rock band, Led Zeppelin.

This might be more than a shed. It looks like an ice fishing house. For those of you from warm weather states unfamiliar with such a shelter, here’s the deal. In the frigid cold of winter, anglers walk or drive onto frozen lakes to fish. Yes, you read that right. Drive. Once there, they hunker down in the open air or in mini houses to fish through holes drilled into the ice.

Houses can range from mass-produced collapsible fabric to homemade from plywood to massive homey shelters resembling mini cabins.

 

Led Zeppelin name on shed 61 close-up

 

I’ve only ever fished in an ice house similar to the Led Zeppelin one. That was decades ago when I was in my late twenties, newly-married and slightly interested in the sport.

But many Minnesotans take ice fishing seriously. This past weekend, thousands of anglers converged on frozen Gull Lake in northern Minnesota for the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravganza, the largest ice fishing tournament in the world. The winner, a Chaska man, hooked a 5.33 pound walleye to land the grand prize of a GMC pick-up truck. Not bad for a day of fishing.

See how thoughts thread together, how the name of a rock band on a shed in Faribault can lead me to expound on ice fishing in Minnesota? Yes, winter is growing long.

Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Up on the rooftop shoveling snow February 10, 2016

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Shoveling snow off roof, 68

 

WHEN YOU LIVE IN MINNESOTA, not only do you have to shovel snow from sidewalks and driveways, but also from roofs. That is if too much snow accumulates on your rooftop and/or ice dams form.

 

Shoveling snow off roof, 67

 

Typically every winter, we face those problems, which require my husband to haul out the ladder and climb atop the south facing house and garage roofs to shovel away snow.

 

Shoveling snow off roof, 69

 

Sunday afternoon, when the air temp was at a relatively comfortable level for winter, he scooped snow from the house roof. I am always watchful of his movement, lest he slip and tumble off.

Thankfully this section of our roof is sloped only slightly, unlike the sharp-pitched section covering the rest of the structure. When he scales that two-story high area to clear leaves from gutters or to adjust the rooftop TV antenna, I’m nervous. I’ll admit that. He’s not young any more. But even youth doesn’t protect from falls. The last time our roof was shingled (due to defective shingles), I didn’t have to lobby, much to my surprise, for hiring professional roofers.

I digress.

But there are days I wish we lived in a rambler.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating God’s Creation at Trinity Lutheran in Faribault February 8, 2016

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Worship opened with the hymn, "All Creatures of Our God and King," shown on the big screen next to a mountain crafted for the 2015 Mt. Everest themed Vacation Bible School.

Worship opened with the hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” shown on the big screen next to a mountain crafted for the 2015 Mt. Everest themed Vacation Bible School.

GOD’S CREATION FOCUSED every aspect of worship at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, this weekend.

Quilted snowflake art by Kevin Kreger, who coordinated the Creation themed art display,

A snippet of snowflake art quilted by Kevin Kreger, who coordinated the Creation themed worship service.

The theme seemed ideally suited for a February weekend when a blizzard was forecast for portions of the state.

A painting of sunflowers jolted color

A sunflower painting jolts color into an art display.

Come this time of year, Minnesotans are beginning to long for green grass, sunshine and warmth.

The Rev. Paul Rieger uses a book to showcase Creation during the children's object lesson.

The Rev. Paul Rieger uses a book to showcase Creation during the children’s object lesson.

Singing about, hearing about and viewing depictions of God’s creation lifted my spirits. The words of my favorite hymn, Beautiful Savior; a scripture reading from Genesis; and a display of artwork brought in by worshipers highlighted Creation.

Viewing the art after the 8 a.m. worship service.

Viewing the art after the 8 a.m. worship service.

God's creation of fish depicted in this crocheted art piece.

God’s creation of fish depicted in this crocheted art piece.

Lots of Creation art in many mediums.

Lots of Creation art in many mediums.

After worship—after the singing and preaching and listening—congregants perused art displayed within the sanctuary. Creation worked into fabric and photos, yarn and paintings, wood and paper, and more. So much talent crafted by the hands God created.

Crosses, because they are made of materials from the natural world, were interspersed with the other art.

Crosses, because they are made of materials from the natural world, were interspersed with the other art.

And then there was the-feet-in-the-hammock photo that flashed onto the big screen during the pastor’s sermon. He used the image to illustrate that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

A simple bowl of fruit rests as a work of art and and example of God's Creation.

A simple bowl of fruit rests as a work of art and and example of God’s Creation.

Slight laughter rippled across the pews of the Lutheran church. Yet, the point was made. God rested. And so should we. But do we?

BONUS PHOTOS:

More artistic examples of God's Creation.

More artistic examples of God’s Creation.

Autumn leaves in fabric...more of God's Creation.

Looking up at autumn leaves in fabric…more of God’s Creation.

An overview of the major portion of the art display, including my photo on the big screen.

An overview of the major portion of the art display, including my photos on the big screen.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling