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

 

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

 

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

 

Oh, baby, it’s shower time March 4, 2016

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I designed a BABY banner to hang in my living room. Here it lies on the bed in a spare bedroom.

I designed a BABY banner to hang in my living room. Here it stretches across the bed in a spare bedroom.

GRANDMA. The word slips off my tongue. Two syllables.

Baby. Also two syllables.

In less than two months, I will hold my sweet granddaughter, my first grandchild, in my arms.

Love. One syllable.

This weekend guests will gather in my Faribault home to shower the mom-to-be and dad-to-be with gifts. The other grandparents are flying in from California. My second daughter will drive 300 miles from eastern Wisconsin to be here for her sister. Aunts and cousins will join us for lunch and a few games. Down in the finally-updated basement, guests will stamp designs onto onesies.

It promises to be a lovely day.

Sure we’ll be a bit cramped for space. But we’ll make do as we ooooh and aaaah over baby gifts and laugh and talk and eat.

There will be hugs and “I love yous.” There will be the usual questions about how my daughter is feeling. Maybe prying questions, too, about Baby Girl’s name. Not even this Grandma knows.

But mostly, we will celebrate. Simply celebrate this baby girl who is already loved by so many.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Showering the bride-to-be (my daughter) with gifts & love August 6, 2013

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MY HUSBAND’S ELDEST SISTER suggested early on that I put away my camera.

But how could I, with no other camera in sight, set aside my Canon and simply allow the events of the afternoon to imprint upon my memory only?

Guests filled the living room and spilled into the dining room for my daughter's Saturday afternoon bridal shower.

Guests fill the living room and spill into the dining room for my daughter’s Saturday afternoon bridal shower.

I needed to visually capture these moments in which my eldest daughter, Amber, was showered with gifts and love at her bridal shower.

The bride-to-be opens gits.

When I look back now on these images, I remember the laughter, the emotions, the excitement, the joy, the delight that comes in knowing your daughter has grown in to this incredible young woman who is head-over-heels in love…

Shower, gift

White lace and white bows.

My floral designer sister Lanae created these bouquets, which include flowers that will be among the wedding flowers.

My floral designer sister Lanae created these bouquets, which include blooms that will be among the wedding flowers.

Flowers and chocolate and “fu fu.”

The most emotional moment of the shower came when Amber opened linens hand embroidered by her future husband's maternal grandmother, who died in 1992. She embroidered the linens to be gifted to her grandson's future bride.

The most emotional moment of the afternoon came when Amber opened linens hand embroidered by her future husband’s maternal grandmother, Beatrice (who died decades ago). The linens were to be gifted someday to Beatrice’s grandson’s bride-to-be. And this was the day when my daughter’s future mother-in-law delivered the precious packages. The embroidered hues of the flowers are the wedding couple’s colors, making this gift even more remarkable as Grandma Beatrice could not have known this.

Linens, a legacy of love and tears.

The gift of a clothes hamper prompted me to share that 30-plus years ago, the aunts on my father's side always gifted brides-to-be with a hamper and a bathroom scale.

The gift of a clothes hamper prompted me to share that 30-plus years ago, the aunts on my father’s side always gifted brides-to-be with a hamper and a bathroom scale. After much laughter, the group consensus was that a scale would not be a welcome gift. Times have changed. I still have my brown hamper, which looks quite similar to my daughter’s, but not the scale. That broke years ago.

Pots and pans and knives. A hamper for their clothes. The tools to create their new home.

Shower, recipe

Her husband-to-be’s favorite recipes handwritten by his mother, Lynn, who flew in from California for the bridal shower.

Personal messages written from the heart inside cards.

Hugs and well wishes.

Wishes shared...and read.

And lovely words to read.

She was gifted with a personalized bag bearing her new last name of Schmidt.

She was gifted with towels and a personalized bag bearing her new last name of Schmidt.

Soon Amber Helbling will become Amber Schmidt.

The bride-to-be with her soon-to-be husband.

Amber and Marc

My daughter. My sweet girl. All grown up. And, oh, so in love with Marc.

BONUS PHOTOS:

The wonderful family and friends who gathered at my sister-in-law Joanne's house for the bridal shower.

The wonderful family and friends who gathered at my sister-in-law Joanne’s house for the bridal shower.

As always, my floral designer sister created a beautiful gift package.

As always, my floral designer sister created a beautiful gift package.

The delicious food, especially the dessert on the right. That's my 81-year-old mom to the right. She traveled several hours to attend her granddaughter's shower.

The delicious food, especially the dessert on the right made by my husband’s eldest sister. That’s my 81-year-old mom to the right. She traveled several hours from southwestern Minnesota to attend her granddaughter’s shower.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The bride wore a white silk organza gown August 17, 2012

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A newspaper account of my aunt and uncle’s wedding 50 years ago is tacked onto a tree at their recent anniversary party.

The bride was escorted to the altar by her father. Her gown of white silk organza with chapel train had a row of satin bows down one side of the skirt. Her veil was attached to a small pearl crown and she carried a bouquet of white roses, pompons and a large aster with ivy.

Her attendants were attired in green faille dresses with attached overskirts and carried cascade arrangements of yellow pompons.

Fifty years have passed since that description from my godmother’s wedding published in The Redwood Falls Gazette. Lovely, isn’t it? Silk and satin and cascading bouquets.

A bridal party photo from Aunt Rae and Uncle Bob’s August 18, 1962, wedding. I’m the flower girl.

I wish I remembered that day, even a moment of it. But I don’t. I was only five, almost six, when my Aunt Rachel married Robert, who would become my Uncle Bob. A black-and-white photograph from August 18, 1962, clearly shows me in my short, pouffy flower girl dress, positioned in front of the groomsmen. I stood all prim and proper, and I assume well-behaved, in my shiny white patent leather shoes and lace-trimmed anklets. My white-gloved hands clench a starched, be-ribboned crocheted lace basket of fresh flowers.

If only I remembered the bespectacled girl who a year earlier wore a patch across her wandering lazy eye and later underwent surgery to correct her vision. But I don’t. Not even the flower girl dress, which my mom saved for 50 years, evokes any memories.

My flower girl dress, minus the petticoats, was hung in the screened porch during the anniversary party.

All of that aside, I thought my Aunt Rae would appreciate seeing the flower girl dress at a recent gathering in south Minneapolis to celebrate her and Uncle Bob’s 50th wedding anniversary. She did, barely believing I still had the dress. Surely she knows her oldest sister, my mom, saves everything, doesn’t she?

But did my aunt save her beautiful white silk organza bridal gown? Much to my dismay and that of a young woman whose middle name is Rachel, no. Rae gave her wedding dress to charity before moving from Minneapolis to her retirement home in Arkansas. I won’t explain the reasons, but suffice to say they are legitimate.

That leads me to wonder, how many of you married women out there still have your wedding dresses? My $80 off-the-rack dress hangs in the back of my bedroom closet. I possess no illusions that either of my daughters will ever want to wear it and that’s just fine by me.

Justin (my cousin) and Amy’s daughter Alison passed around chocolates during the anniversary celebration.

But give it another 20-plus years, and perhaps a family member will read this description of my bridal gown and ask, “Do you still have your wedding dress?”

The bride’s gown was of old fashioned style with stand-up collar, lace ruffling forming a V front neckline, long sheer sleeves and flounce skirt with lace trim. Her veil was held in place by a laurel wreath headpiece of yellow sweetheart roses and baby’s breath.

My beloved Aunt Rachel visits with guests.

Family and friends of Rae and Bob gathered in their daughter’s south Minneapolis backyard on a recent steamy Sunday for a picnic dinner to celebrate 50 years of marriage.

That’s my Uncle Bob, in the middle in the dark shirt, visiting with friends.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A graduation party nightmare June 3, 2012

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SERIOUSLY, WHO WAS I FOOLING?

Myself, apparently.

I awakened Friday morning with a headache so pounding severe that I popped two Ibuprofen before even going to the bathroom. Yes, that bad.

It seems the stress I hadn’t been experiencing about my son’s high school graduation party morphed into a single, full-blown episode of tension. I blame it on my inability to fall asleep on Thursday night and the party nightmare that followed when I actually drifted into fitful unrest.

Before details of this dream tumble from my fingers onto the keyboard, you need to know that we live along a busy, arterial street in Faribault, as in it can take a good five minutes for traffic to clear enough to walk across the roadway.

So…, I dreamed that four children were playing with four balls and four balls rolled across the lawn and down the street followed by four running children. I swooped one teeny, tiny girl from the street. I then deposited all of the children with their partying parents and instructed them to watch their children. I then stashed away all the balls.

Reality is that I am setting out a coloring book and sidewalk chalk (to be used on the driveway) for the kiddos. The only balls will be attached to string in a ladder golf game.

Later in my dream, these same kids, accompanied by their mothers, traipsed into my living room, opened the front door and attempted to bring a bird into my living room. My mother said it was OK. No, mom, it is not OK to bring a robin into my house.

Weather, certainly, has been foremost on my mind given I am a Minnesotan and we obsess about weather. Although the weather forecasters are promising a beautiful Saturday, I apparently, subconsciously, do not believe them as I dreamed skies were stormy, black as night. Imagine that.

I also dreamed a certain unnamed relative arrived at the party as if he had been partying all night. BTW, only water and lemonade will be served at the real party. And that would be water in a thermos cooler, not bottled, per my graduate’s eco friendly request. (He dislikes bottled water.) A friend suggested simply hooking up the garden hose to be über eco friendly.

I dreamed that hordes of unwanted strangers showed up at the party.

Those extra guests probably explain why we ran out of food by 1:40 p.m. when the event began at 1:00 p.m. Doesn’t every party hostess worry whether there will be enough food?

I know, this nightmare is getting incredibly long, isn’t it? But just a few more scenes, and I’m done. I dreamed my oldest daughter’s boyfriend, whom I am meeting for the first time today, was bonked in the head by something. This stems from my real-life concern that he will bump his head on a doorway in our house which has only 7-foot high ceilings. The boyfriend is six-foot-five.

To my second daughter, I would request that you not wash t-shirts and hang them on the clothesline during the party. FYI, my clothesline, when in use, is strung across the patio.

There. That’s it. Can you understand why I woke up with a splitting headache on Friday morning, pre-party day?

P.S. I FAILED TO PUBLISH this post on Saturday as planned because I was a wee bit distracted by the graduation party we were hosting in the afternoon.

My nightmarish dream did not become reality. The weather was absolutely splendid. Sunshine and mid-70s with no humidity.

No kids ran in the street or brought birds into my house.

We ran out of nacho cheese sauce and had seven buns left.

A few uninvited guests showed up. But the oldest daughter invited them and they are her friends and they were nice and we’re good.

The boyfriend did not bump his head on any door archways and I like him very much, thank you.

And so that, dear readers, is how this dream ended, in a reality that was not at all nightmarish. Not at all.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling