Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A behind-the-scenes peek at pre-baby shower mishaps March 10, 2016

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WHENEVER I PLAN a major party at my house—and I’m not talking something as simple as a few dinner guests—I make lists. List of guests. To-do lists. A menu.

I clipped lists and recipes to a clipboard, my party planning organizer.

I clipped lists and recipes to a clipboard, my party planning organizer, as I planned the baby shower.

Lists help me focus and not feel overwhelmed. They help me budget my time. But plans and lists don’t always jive with how things actually work out.

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

When I was making these cut-out cookies, I had to be careful not to break or burn the elephant trunks.

Take the baby shower I gave for my eldest daughter and her husband last weekend. Weeks prior to the event, I baked cookies. Elephant shaped cut-out cookies to serve at the party. And M & M cookies to place in thank you gift bags for guests. But before the dough was baked and the cookies placed in the freezer, I had my first mishap. My hand-held mixer jammed, spewing bits of whatever into the cookie dough. Into the garbage went the dough and off to the store I went to purchase a new mixer. As for the mini elephant cookies, I proceeded with care lest the trunks break or burn.

Everything went smoothly during the week prior to the shower as I completed tasks and crossed them off my list. But my luck didn’t hold. Friday morning, the day before the shower, I mixed up a cookie dough dip, not to be confused with dough for cookies. The new mixer worked fine. But the spatula broke and there I was, forking through the dip in search of the missing rubber tip. Not to worry; I found it.

Well in advance of the shower, I penned this haiku and glued it to tags.

Well in advance of the shower, I penned this haiku and glued it to tags.

Next, I assembled the thank you bags, placing a bag of microwave popcorn, a packet of flower seeds and several M & M cookies inside to match a haiku I’d written with the words pop, grow and sweet. I’d printed the haiku days earlier and glued the poem to muted pink gold-trimmed tags purchased at Target.

The gift bags, fully-assembled and ready for gifts. I purchased the bags at Party Plus in Owatonna.

The gift bags, fully-assembled and ready for guests. I purchased the bags at Party Plus in Owatonna.

When I was gluing the tags, I remember thinking, I wonder if this glue will hold. I should have listened to that inner doubt. After I’d tied several gift bags, I noticed the glue wasn’t holding. That meant more work—untying the bags I’d already tied and taping all the tags.

A snippet shot of guests gathered in my living room for gift opening at the baby shower.

A snippet shot of guests gathered in my living room for gift opening at the baby shower.

Both the spatula break and the tag snafu occurred before 9 a.m. This, I thought to myself, is not good. But the rest of the party prep went smoothly as did party day. For a March day in Minnesota, the weather was ideal, meaning no snow and good travel for all. We had plenty of food. Guests had a good time and I did, too.

The next day, after I finished washing dishes, I pulled the drain plug in the kitchen sink. The water disappeared, ever so slowly, emerging in the opposite sink. My husband removed the gooseneck. No clog there. He tried a snake. The clog remained. Then he turned on the air compressor and blew air through the drain pipe. That unclogged the clog. But he still had to head to the hardware store to replace the gooseneck section of piping which was now leaking.

As for me, I was simply thankful this problem didn’t occur on party day. Dealing with a clogged drain was definitely not on my to-do list.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Commemorating a Minnesota barn’s 100th birthday, Part II September 29, 2015

 

A welcoming scene staged next to the barn and attached milkhouse.

An inviting scene staged next to the barn and attached milkhouse.

FROM THE MINUTE I received a verbal invitation to the barn dance, I noted the event on the September 26 square of my kitchen calendar. Not only would I be celebrating the 100th birthday of the Becker family barn. But I would also be celebrating my birthday. How sweet is that?

Posted inside the barn...

Posted inside the barn…

With my deep rural Minnesota roots and appreciation for aged barns restored and maintained, this party suited me. Hosts John and Debbie Becker, Rice County crop farmers, are dear friends, a salt-of-the earth couple who cherish faith, family and farming.

Guests pulled up to tables and dined on hot beef and pork sandwiches, salads and more.

Guests pulled up to tables and dined on hot beef and pork sandwiches, salads and more.

And they know how to throw one heck of a party in their 100-year-old barn, in the Becker family since 1948.

Garden goods provided for great fall decorating.

Garden goods provided for great fall decorating.

One of numerous parking attendants waits for vehicles to arrive.

One of numerous parking attendants waits for vehicles to arrive.

The kitchen crew, and Debbie, prepare for guests to arrive.

The kitchen crew, and Debbie, prepare for guests to arrive.

Posted on the pie table.

Posted on the pie table.

Debbie, the eldest in a family of I’ve lost count how many siblings, could be a professional party planner. She’s that good at food planning, decorating and remembering every single detail of creating a memorable and fun event. John is right there beside her, assuring, too, that everything comes together. They complement one another. And even though they pulled in family and friends—for decorating, parking, kitchen duty, bartending, pie judging and more—ultimately they are the ones who managed to plan for and welcome 300-plus guests to their farm.

The kids all wanted rides on the golf cart.

The kids all wanted rides on the golf cart.

This little guy wouldn't even set down his toy John Deere tractor to stack over-sized Jenga blocks.

This little guy wouldn’t even set down his toy John Deere tractor to stack over-sized Jenga blocks.

The pie table drew lots of kids because...

This farm-themed pie drew lots of kids to look and some to play.

By far the most creatively-staged pie.

By far the most creatively-staged pie.

Lots of visiting inside and outside the barn.

Lots of visiting inside and outside the barn.

One family member flew in from England. And I overheard, mid-evening, young boys protesting their family’s early departure. I watched kids scramble onto a golf cart for rides with the guy giving lifts from parking areas to barn. A smile curved my mouth at the sight of young boys clutching John Deere tractors, a wee sweet girl in pink cowgirl boots peering at pies, and circles of folks visiting in the barn.

The opportunities for sweet portraits in the golden hour of photography were endless.

The opportunities for sweet portraits in the golden hour of photography were endless.

My dear friend Mandy arrives with her pear-gingersnap pie still warm from the oven. It was absolutely delicious as I sampled it after the pie judging.

My dear friend Mandy arrives with her pear-gingersnap pie still warm from the oven. It was absolutely delicious as I sampled it after the pie judging.

My husband tried on this abandoned cowboy hat. But it was several sizes too small.

My husband tried on this abandoned cowboy hat. But it was several sizes too small.

The scenes unfolding before me appeared down-home rural Americana—girls swaying in a weathered porch swing, a guest bearing pie for the pie-baking contest, a straw cowboy hat resting on a picnic table.

I photographed darling Ava at the last barn dance and her mom asked me to photograph her again. Daylight was fading. Yet I managed to snap a cute portrait.

I photographed darling Ava at the last barn dance and her mom asked me to photograph her again. Daylight was fading. Yet I managed to snap a cute portrait.

A grandma and her grandkids dressed in western attire for the barn dance.

A grandma and her grandkids dressed in western attire for the barn dance.

Many a farmer, including my dad, carried a hankie/bandanna in his pocket.

Many a farmer once carried a hankie/bandanna in his pocket.

Although costumes were not required, vintage or western attire was encouraged. I tied a red bandanna around my neck and called it good. But the kids, oh, the kids. So cute in their cowgirl/cowboy hats and garb. And even some adults dressed western style in flannel shirts and hats, in bibs or with red hankie in pocket. Many sported western boots.

While two girls sway on a swing, another builds blocks.

While two girls sway on a swing, another stacks blocks.

Debbie and John, loving aunt and uncle that they are, assured the kids had plenty to do, passing along to the next generation memories connected to family and the old barn.

 

Barn dance, 108 wheel in front of barn

 

FYI: Click here to read my first post about the barn dance. And check back tomorrow for one final post.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling