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VETTERSTONE AMPHITHEATER AT THE RIVERFRONT PARK

www.verizonwirelesscentermn.com

Home Hockey Schedule

Dec 1 Dec. 7 & 8 Jan. 4 & 5 Jan. 11 & 12 Jan. 26 Feb. 15 & 16 Mar. 8 & 9

Bemidji State Alaska-Anchorage Providence Wisconsin Minnesota Michigan Tech North Dakota

Every Third Thursday of the Month Visit City Center galleries from 5 til 8 p.m. on the third Thursdays. It is a great opportunity to see local art, meet area artists and unwind with friends.

For participating galleries, go to:

www.citycentermankato.com/events.php

• DECEMBER 2012 • Kiwanis Holiday Lights Show at Sibley Park in Mankato, MN

S TAY. P L AY. E AT. S TAY. P L AY. E AT. S TAY. P L AY. S H O P. D I N E . S TAY. E AT. S TAY.

City Center Mankato sits at the geographic heart of southern Minnesota and provides unique opportunities for dining, playing and staying. Sports, entertainment, historical, and cultural events are plentiful within the City Center. Being home to the Verizon Wireless Center, there are many opportunities to take in a show, concert, or sporting event. And, experience the blend of our local shops rich in history and charm. Best of all, you can finish your day by visiting a great City Center restaurant.

www.kiwanisholidaylights.com Live Entertainment • Food • Beverages

THURSDAYS IN AUGUST

5:00-8:00 P.M. JACKSON PARK

Find your way at::

w w w. c i t y c e n t e r m a n k a t o . c o m Find us on Facebook! Underwritten by the City Center Partnership which supports investments in projects, programs and initiatives that attract increased traffic, employees and residents to the City Center of Mankato and North Mankato. Our support encourages growth of businesses, arts and culture that continue to make the Mankato Area a great place to live and play.

W W W. C I T YA R T M A N K ATO.C O M


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Call 507-625-4451 x 7 Order online at www.MankatoFreePress.com


ANKATO M

FEATU RES December 2012 Volume 7, Issue 12

magazine

14

The nice list

30

Phone home

Gift ideas for stuffing stockings, warming hearts and buying local.

Twig Case covers combine functionality and art.

22

Choosing the ‘write’ gift

36

The gift of support

Mankato authors offer a selection of titles for lovers of literature.

Breast cancer survivor breaks new ground in Mankato.

On the cover: Magan Klinkner, 9, of Madelia, visits with santa during an event at Drummers Garden Center and Floral.

Photo by John Cross MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 3


ANKATO M

DEPARTME NTS

magazine

10

12

26

34

6 From the Editor Holiday memories feed narratives 9 From the kitchen Neat, sweet and petite 10 Familiar Faces Liz Brown of Holiday Sharing Tree 12 Artist Insight Dennis Neidt 28 Get Out! Getting into winter 34 Things to Do, Places to Go Events to check out in December 35 Happy Hour Sour memories 40 Garden Chat Winters grow garden optimism 42 That’s Life Still smiling after all these years 44 Good Health Ten tech tips for a healthier heart 46 Placs in the Past Let there be lights! 52 The Way It Is The annual Christmas letter

Coming up in the January issue of Mankato Magazine ... We’re going to do a little traveling. We’ve been cooped up and are getting restless. It’s time to get away and do some sightseeing. We’ll travel with those who’ve made a difference abroad and those who’ve learned something while they’re at it. We’ll look at some international flavor here at home and enjoy what the world has to offer. Join us and we’ll pack our bags together.

42 4 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

46


Explore, Connect, and Buy Tickets at www.twinriversarts.org

Scro&oge Marley

www.festaldesign.com

Saturday, December 1, 2pm

Students, seniors and children $8 General admission $10

Sunday, December 2, 2pm


MANKATO magazine

December 2012 • VOLUME 7, ISSUE 12 PUBLISHER EDITOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

PHOTOGRAPHERS PAGE DESIGNER

James P. Santori Joe Spear Tanner Kent Nell Musolf Pete Steiner Jean Lunquist Grace Webb Marie Wood Britta R. Moline

John Cross Pat Christman Christina Sankey

ADVERTISING MANAGER

David Habrat

ADVERTISING Sales

Karla Marshall

ADVERTISING ASSISTANT

Barb Wass

ADVERTISING DESIGNERS

Sue Hammar Christina Sankey

CIRCULATION DIRECTOR

Denise Zernechel

Mankato Magazine is published monthly at 418 South Second St., Mankato, MN., 56001. To subscribe, call 1-800-657-4662 or 507-625-4451. $19.95 for 12 issues. For editorial inquiries, call Tanner Kent at 344-6354, or e-mail tkent@mankatofreepress.com. For advertising, call 344-6336, or e-mail kmarshall@mankatofreepress.com.

6 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

From The Editor

By Joe Spear

Holiday memories feed narratives I’m always struck by the role personal histories play in the way we view the world. And the way we view the world often instructs our choices of profession, family, where we live and even how we cast our ballot for president. Personal histories are, of course, built by memories, and the holiday and Christmas stories in this month’s issue get life from recollections of seasons past. The “Places in the Past” feature by Grace Webb tracks the history of holiday lights in Mankato from the grand displays of lights and trees in downtown Mankato in the 1940s to the re-igniting of the tradition in Mankato and North Mankato neighborhoods of North Broad Street and Mary Circle in the 1970s and 1980s. The narrative comes alive through the memories of Lee Schweim, who lived on Mankato’s North Broad Street, and Dan and Mary Jo Menden, of North Mankato, who started their Mary Circle display as part of the annual Free Press holiday decorating competition. And while the neighborhood displays dimmed in the 1990s like the city-owned displays of the 1950s, history has begun to repeat itself. The Mankato Downtown Kiwanis Club has organized what will likely be Mankato’s biggest holiday light display in history. With the financial help of the Mankato Area Foundation and CHS as well as dozens of others, the Sibley Park light display brings Mankato full circle in its embrace of holiday lights. All because someone remembered the grandeur of years past. Stories of Christmas and holiday charity and goodwill abound in this issue as well, and again, they are driven by memories of years past. Some of those stories keep Liz Brown, manager of Mankato’s Holiday Sharing Tree project, going strong during what can be a stressful time. She is profiled in this month’s “Familiar Faces” feature. In her 20 years organizing the project, she knows each year she will hear story or have a “moment” that will at some point tug at the emotions for its almost miraclelike goodness. They’re simple stories that take on much more meaning in the context of the giving season. She remembers recipients of Holiday Sharing Tree gifts who never forgot how much it meant to their children after their father lost his job. When they got back on their feet, they paid it forward with yearly gifts back to the Sharing Tree. She recalls going into an elementary school classroom and getting and envelope filled with $100 the students had raised on

their own by selling Christmas cards they had made. The Sharing Tree’s goodness touched 182 families when it began in 1985. This year, it will touch more than 3,000 individuals. If there are stories to tell as Mankato turns into Christmastown, there are plenty of folks to write them. Mankato has found ways to give that don’t always involve a present. Rick Robbins, an English instructor at Minnesota State University, might argue there’s plenty of writers here who offer literary gifts to the world. And they’re here because they want to be here. Mankato author Nick Healy, whose first book of short stories was published in October, has chosen Mankato even though he knows there’s a “metro-centrism” in the literary world. He resided in a big city at one time as a writer, an experience he described as lonely. “Mankato is unusual,” Healy says, “I think it’s a Mankato thing, not even a Mankato literature thing. People turn up for one another here — they support one another.” Dennis Neidt’s gift involves painting. He teaches painting classes to people who’ve never tried it before but takes satisfaction in a certain liberation, confidence and selfesteem, people get from completing their first painting. He’s profiled in our “Artist Insight” feature this month. “It’s your own world when you paint. You are in charge of your own world. For a lot of people, this is the only time they are in charge of anything,” Neidt says. History and memories can shed a brighter context on a story that might seem insignificant in the normal run of time. Newspapers and magazines help preserve those stories and histories. We’re happy to oblige. M Joe Spear is editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at 344-6382 or jspear@mankatofreepress.com.


December Almanac

This day in history

Dec. 8, 1965: Two Mankato men were credited with some quick thinking when a truck driven by a 29-year-old man tipped over during the final day of fill hauling on the LeHillier dike. When the truck tipped, the driver’s eyes were doused in battery acid. John Thissen and Jack McGowan used milk — which they procured from a nearby worker who had spiked the milk in his Thermos with an anti-ulcer additive — to flush the acid from the driver’s eyes. A doctor later credited the treatment for saving the man’s eyes. Dec. 10, 1900: Vernon Center resident O.M. Robinson discovered a holiday surprise when he drew a load of cordwood from the banks of the Blue Earth River to his homestead nearby. After sawing one piece of timber, he found 27 pennies — one from 1797, one from 1798 and the rest between the years of 1800-1827. Dec. 9, 1892: One of the city’s most revered pioneers, Lafayette G.M. Fletcher — who settled in Mankato in 1854, became one of the city’s first school teachers and later a founder of Mankato Savings Bank — effectively barricaded the street to his home after a dispute with the city of Mankato. Fletcher owned seven acres of land, including a portion of Minnesota Street (described as “just west of Cherry Street”) for which he claimed the city had not properly compensated him. Fletcher ordered a load of rock laid across the street, shutting off access to 40 residences. Naturally, neighbors were not pleased with one even making a threat on Fletcher’s life. Fletcher told The Free Press: “The land is my own and I shall occupy it.” A court injunction later ordered Fletcher to clear the road. Dec. 20, 1951: The Free Press reported that “City Clerk Herb Matson never got a bigger charge out of getting a Christmas present.” After running an errand, Matson returned to his secondfloor office in the city hall to find a large, heavy box with a note to “handle with care.” When he opened the package, he found dynamite — a gift from two local men who donated the dynamite to help blow out the Sibley Park dam, an action previously approved by the City Council.

Photo courtesy of Blue Earth County Historical Society

The Sibley Park Dam in the winter of 1930.

Maximizing small spaces

By The Washington Post l t h o u g h maximizing space while also taking design and function into account might seem to require a little smoke and m i r r o r s (mirrors will, in fact, make a space look bigger), it mostly takes smart shopping. In the living room, for example, instead of a room-dominating, L-shaped sofa, a cozy settee might make more sense — especially when paired with slipper chairs and poufs — and will provide more flexibility in function and furniture layout. Double-duty pieces, abundant lighting

A

and a monochromatic palette are other sleights of hand that will visually expand rooms. But above all else, make sure to edit, edit, edit. • If you love color add special details and pops of color with accessories to make the space you your own. • Use as much light, natural or artificial, as possible. Mirrors can bounce extra light around a room. • Demilune tables are half tables that can tuck into small spaces, making them ideal for entryways. • A trunk is a prime example of a multifunctional piece. Fill it with board games, seasonal throw pillows or extra blankets, and then put a tray on top for use as a coffee table. • The most important piece for small room is a great place to sit.


From

the

Kitchen

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Neat, sweet and petite — the holiday mini-pie

S

hort of any family drama, the biggest dilemma most of us face at the holiday table revolves around dessert. Specifically: Which pie do I choose? Why stop at one? Friends and family, there is a solution: the minipie. You don’t need anything fancy to make the cute little guys - a couple of standard nonstick muffin tins will do, maybe one or two tiny cookie cutters if you want to get fancy. As for ingredients, a single standard pie’s worth of filling and two to three single pie crusts are enough to give you a dozen or so mini-pies.

Flaky Pie Crust Total time: 20 minutes, plus chilling time Servings: This makes enough dough for 1 single (9-inch) pie crust or 4 (double-crust) to 6 (single-crust) mini-pies 1 1/2 cups (6.4 ounces) flour 3/4 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons sugar 3 tablespoons cold shortening 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into -inch cubes 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, more if needed Prepared egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) 1. To make the dough using a food processor, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the shortening and pulse until incorporated (the dough will look like moist sand). Add the butter and pulse just until the butter is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture, and pulse once or twice until incorporated. Remove the crumbly mixture to a large bowl and gently press the mixture together until it comes together to form a dough. Mold the dough into a disk roughly 6 inches in diameter. Cover the disk tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours. To make the dough by hand, whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the shortening and incorporate using a pastry cutter or fork (the dough will look like moist sand). Cut in the butter just until it is reduced to small, pea-sized pieces. Sprinkle the vinegar and water over the mixture, and stir together just until incorporated. Proceed as above. 2. Form the mini-pies: Prepare the muffin tins by greasing every other cup (fill alternating muffin cups to allow extra room to form and crimp the mini-crusts and to allow the heat to circulate more evenly to bake the crust as it bakes). On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a round one-eighth-inch thick and roughly 14 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into rounds using a 51/2inch cutter . Gather the scraps and re-roll, cutting more large rounds (for bottom crusts) or smaller rounds (about 3 inches) to make the top crust . Carefully place the rounds in the muffin cups, pressing the dough against the bottom and edges of the cups. The dough should extend above the cups by one-half to three-fourths inch; roll the edges and crimp as desired. 3. If pre-baking the mini-pie crusts, gently line the shells with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes, then remove the weights and foil. Brush the edges of the

mini crusts with egg wash and prick the bottom once or twice with a fork. Continue baking until the bottom of the crust is dry and lightly colored, 6 to 8 minutes more.

Mini Double-Crust Apple Pies Total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus cooling time for the pies Servings: 12 Note: To rehydrate the raisins, place them in a small saucepan and cover with rum, another liqueur or juice, and warm over gentle heat until the raisins are softened and plump. Remove from heat and drain before using. 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter 6 large tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into -inch pieces 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup raisins, rehydrated in rum, another liqueur or juice 12 unbaked mini pie crusts, with 12 unbaked top crusts Prepared egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) Coarse sugar for dusting, if desired 1. Make the filling: In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the diced apple, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, and cook, stirring frequently, just until the apple starts to soften, 4 to 5 minutes (the pieces should still be crisp). Remove from heat and stir in the raisins. Spread the apple mixture onto a baking sheet to allow the apples to cool quickly, then cover and refrigerate until needed. The filling can be made up to 2 days in advance. 2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. 3. Fill the pie shells: Brush the edges of each bottom crust with the prepared egg wash and fill with the apple filling, a generous onefourth cup filling for each shell, carefully packing it in the shell so there are no gaps and mounding the filling slightly in the center. Top the filling with the top crusts (use a knife to cut vent holes in the top crusts if they are not already vented), and brush the top crusts with egg wash. Gently roll the outer edges of each bottom crust inward over the top crust to seal the pies and crimp as desired. Brush with a little more egg wash and dust if desired with a sprinkling of coarse sugar. 4. Bake the mini pies, one tin at a time, in the center of the oven until the filling is set and the crust is puffed and golden brown, about 35 minutes. 5. Cool the pies, still in the tins, to room temperature, twisting them gently every few minutes so they do not stick to the pan. M MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 9


Familiar Faces

Interview

by

Tanner Kent Photos

by

Pat Christman

Sharing the holidays Liz Brown and the Holiday Sharing Tree give the gift of goodwill Liz Brown is entering her 20th year of involvement with the Holiday Sharing Tree. Mankato Magazine: How long have you been coordinating the Holiday Sharing Tree? Liz Brown: Well, I kind of lose track of time, but I believe this is my 20th season being involved with the project. MM: Why did you pursue the position? LB: It started out when I worked with the project as the marketing director with the Madison East Center. Back then, the Madison East Center was the location where the project “lived.” Since then the project grew and a formal Holiday Sharing Tree Board was formed along with additional Holiday Sharing Tree sites. Several years ago, I resigned from the Board of Directors and became the project manager. I now work with the project six months of the year. MM: Tell me a little about the history of the Holiday Sharing Tree. When did it form? How much has it grown? LB: The project started in 1985. That first year, 182 families received gifts. Over the next 26 years — 2012 being the 27th season — the project has grown to more than 3,000 individuals in Blue Earth and Nicollet counties receiving gifts. Since 1985, an estimated 45,000 have been distributed. Several volunteers, along with businesses and people who pick up a giving card or make a donation, make this project successful each year. 10 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

MM: How does the Sharing Tree accumulate its list of needy individuals for the holiday season? LB: We utilize the Salvation Army and Nicollet County Social Services as clearing houses to determine the need. They interview families based on income and then provide the names. A first name is then placed on a Holiday Sharing Tree giving card along with a basic need and placed at several tree sites to be picked up and filled. MM: The Holiday Sharing Tree boasts an impressive record of providing gifts to everyone on its list. What does that mean to you? What does that say about the Holiday Sharing Tree, and about the community? LB: The Holiday Sharing Tree has been very fortunate to have filled every need for 26 years. There are other giving projects within the community to compete with, so the community feels pulled among them. I am amazed and overwhelmed with the generosity of this community. The Holiday Sharing Tree has a long history and is a wellorganized project. I think volunteers, businesses, and individuals look forward to this annual giving event. I also know many families use this project as an experience for young children who learn about giving.


MM: What are the emotions like on distribution day when people receive their gifts? LB: First of all, the many volunteers who help this project put in a lot of time and try to coordinate jobs and their own personal hustle and bustle of the season — so everyone gets a little tired. It all makes it worthwhile, however, to see the looks on faces of all ages when they receive the gifts. I wish everyone who picks up a giving card and fills a need, gives a donation or volunteers their time could see that gratitude. Some people who once were a recipient now give back and volunteer with the project. They tell me things like: “When I was young, I got gifts from the Holiday Sharing Tree. I didn’t know that’s where they came from — only that we got a gift at Christmas. Now that I am older, I realize the generosity of people in this community and now I volunteer my time and fill a need.” And this comment came from a mother of a family: “My husband had lost his job one year and we only had enough money to pay our rent, keep the heat on and buy groceries. We never thought we would be a family who needed help from the Holiday Sharing Tree. However, that year our children would have not have received gifts if it wasn’t for the nice people in this community who helped us. We got back on our feet the next year and now each year after, our family picks up giving cards to help someone else.” MM: There must be a certain stress involved with coordinating this project. Can you tell me about it? LB: The only stress is the worry that all the needs won’t get filled. This project is 35 days long. Within that timeframe, more than 3,000 needs are filled. I just can’t imagine telling someone during distribution that they are not able to receive a gift this year. For most of the recipients, this is the only gift they will receive during the holiday season. Most of the needs are things like a sweatshirt, pair of jeans, socks, personal care items, or Barbie doll — items most of us take for granted every day. There are many volunteers who assist with this project and so many people willing to give, so it makes my job as a project manager very rewarding. MM: What keeps you m o t i vat e d ? What do you find most gratifying about this work? LB: I will have to say each year I have a what I call a “moment,” a m o m e n t where I am overwhelmed with the kind-hearted and generous community.

To volunteer, make a donation, or receive additional information about the Holiday Sharing Tree, go to www.holidaysharingtree.org. A couple years ago, I was having a very busy and stressful day. I received a call from an elementary teacher who said her class had a donation for the Holiday Sharing Tree. I said that was great and I would stop by to pick it up. When I arrived at the school — of course in a hurry — I stepped into the classroom expecting to pick up an envelope containing the donation. The teacher asked if I had a few moments to talk about the project. I said as I was taking off my coat, “Sure, I would love to.” I noticed the elementary class very intuitive about what I was saying. In fact, they were actually anxious to tell me what they had done. Each class member handmade Christmas cards then sold the cards to raise money for the Holiday Sharing Tree. They handed me an envelope with $100 in it. It was like they were handing me a thousand. They were so excited and proud what they had accomplished. We took a class photo and I thanked them for their good work and kind hearts. By the time I reached my car I was in full tears realizing the precious moment I had just witnessed. These are the “moments” this project is filled with each year which make it such a wonderful holiday tradition to be involved with and makes me so grateful of this community. MM: How can people get involved? LB: First of all, they can help by picking up a Holiday Sharing Tree Giving Card and filling a need at any tree location in Mankato or St. Peter. They are: River Hills Mall, Madison East Center, both HyVee locations, Walmart; as well as Nutter Clothing and First National Bank in St. Peter. Make a donation either online or by mail. Donations are used for giving cards not picked up or not returned. This ensures all needs get filled. They can also volunteer time at the Holiday Gift Wrap Center located at River Hills Mall or help with sorting and distribution. To volunteer, make a donation, or receive additional information about the project, go to www.holidaysharingtree.org. M

In 26 years of existence, the Holiday Sharing Tree has never left a gift request unfilled.

MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 11


Artist Insight

By Nell Musolf

Submitted photo

Dennis Niedt is a certified Bob Ross painting instructor who delights in teaching oil painting to novices.

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ennis Neidt has a mission in life: To help budding painters learn how to make themselves happier, improve their self-esteem and generally enjoy life just a little bit more one stroke of the brush at a time. Neidt is a Bob Ross certified instructor who is currently spending his free time teaching classes that will enable students to come in with little or no painting experience and walk out four or five hours later with an oil painting tucked under their arms. For those who aren’t old enough to remember, the late Bob Ross hosted an art class on public television entitled “The Joy of 12 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Painting” that instructed painters how to quickly create oil paintings via a step-by-step method that broke down the process into more easily mastered steps. Ross also embraced the notion of “happy painting,” an idea that Neidt encourages. “It’s your own world when you paint. You are in charge of your own world. For a lot of people, this is the only time they are in charge of anything,” Neidt says. “You can move mountains in your pictures, put the sun up or down. It’s up to you.” Neidt remembers watching Bob Ross paint on PBS many years ago and thinking to himself that he could do the same thing. In


r e t n i a p The happy

Dennis Neidt shares the gift of painting in beginners’ classes

the early 1990s, he signed up for a class that taught Ross’ technique but it wasn’t until more recently that he became a Bob Ross certified instructor himself after working with another Bob Ross instructor, Amy Stanek. “I really owe Amy a lot. I assisted her with classes she taught around the area and she showed me the ropes,” Neidt says. There are only four places in the United States that hold certification classes and one is Viking Woodcraft in Waseca where Neidt earned his certification. “People can go into a Bob Ross class not knowing how to paint at all. Sometimes they don’t even know how to hold a paintbrush but they’ll leave a little while later holding a painting that they did,” Neidt says. “It’s great to see.” Ross is currently teaching a monthly painting class at Hobby Lobby. Before each class, he emails the students who are enrolled a picture of the subject they’ll be painting. Upon arrival, students are given everything they’ll need from canvases to paintbrushes. “I provide everything,” Neidt says. “All the students need to bring are their own sweet selves and a willingness to learn.” The Bob Ross method uses a wet-on-wet technique that allows the painter to put layers of different colors on top of each other. Students begin their paintings by starting at the farthest away point, such as the sun, and work their way in, creating details along the way. Subjects for paintings in Neidt’s classes typically include nature

scenes such as snow-covered landscapes, oceans and mountains. Students take their still wet paintings home at the end of each class. “Oil paint takes weeks to dry,” Neidt says, “so the students need to put them someplace safe while they’re drying out.” Neidt, who lives in Waseca, served in the Army during the Vietnam War as an official U.S. Army illustrator and has a degree in graphic arts from South Central College. He is currently working for Corporate Graphics in North Mankato and hopes to take on teaching more art classes when he retires. “There are people who will say that this is not fine art,” Neidt says, referring to the Bob Ross style of painting. “They’re right. It isn’t fine art. But it’s a start. Anybody can do this. There’s nothing mysterious about it, no secret handshake, nothing like that.” Neidt said that he’s observed people’s self-esteem improve after participating in one of his classes. Like Bob Ross, he enjoys seeing the happiness that comes out of creation. “I like to tell people that they’re doing fine while they’re working on a painting,” Neidt says. “Sometimes at the end of a class, we’ll take pictures of students holding what they’ve made. You should see the smiles. It’s very satisfying.” Neidt hangs his own paintings at the Waseca home he shares with his wife Vicki. “I still have fun painting. This is my own happy world.”

M

MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 13


The nice list Gift ideas for stuffing stockings, warming hearts and buying local By Marie Wood

I

f all you want for Christmas is a healthy environment and a vibrant community, you can do your part by buying gifts made in the Mankato region. By buying fewer massproduced items shipped to the box store near you, you can reduce your carbon footprint. It’s fun, convenient and your friends and family will thank you. The Mankato area is home to fine arts, music, crafts, foods and beverages that make great holiday gifts and introduce our traditions, flavors and artistry to others. For instance, Enchanted Forest in downtown Mankato and 14 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Stones Throw Gallery in St. Peter always carry a selection of hand-crafted work from local artists and artisans. “It’s better to buy regional products. The money stays in the community,” said Patty Conlin, owner and goldsmith of Stones Throw Gallery. Every time you give a local product or the gift of live theater and music, you are supporting the arts and businesses that give our community character For friends and family who have made your nice list, here are some southern Minnesota gifts.


Theater & Music Minnesota State University Theatre MSU Theatre is known for professional productions, popular musicals and provocative plays. The spring semester productions are the Tony-winning musical “Spring Awakening,” the mystery-comedy “Then There Were None” and the musical “Legally Blonde.” All plays are making their MSU debut. “We do shows 10 months out of the year. All our shows are in 3-D and you don’t have to wear those silly glasses,” said Mike Lagerquist, director of public relations for MSU Theatre & Dance. “You get to see the best young talent around.” MSU offers gift certificates that can be used at the box office or online. Gift certificates can also be used for MSU’s Highland Summer Theatre and beyond. Tickets for main stage shows are $22. For a gift certificate, call the MSU Theatre & Dance Office at 389-2118.

Mankato Symphony Orchestra Mankato Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-13 series is titled “Music Begins Where Words End.” Music Director and Conductor Kenneth Freed will be your musical tour guide in concerts that tell a story and transport listeners to other worlds. “We bring you the greatest music in the world with a comfortable laid-back approach,” wrote Freed in the 201213 season brochure. Let classical music ring in winter and spring with “Scheherezade,” the story of the 1001 Arabian Nights; Strauss’ Don Quixote; and Mozart and jazz with guest artist Andy Stein on violin and Freed on viola. Concerts are performed at Mankato West High School Auditorium. “This is something people might not do on their own, but once they go, they’ll love it. It’s such a unique experience,” said Sara Buechmann, MSO executive director. MSO also presents Music on the Hill in the Good Counsel Chapel and the Family Concert Series “Mozart In Me” at the Mankato YMCA. For tickets ranging from $5 for youth to $25 for adults, MSO CDs and gift items, visit mankatosymphony.com. For gift certificates, call 625-8880.

Trampled by Turtles This Minnesota string band was formed in Duluth, but guitarist and songwriter Dave Simonett grew up and learned to play music in Mankato. Trampled’s original sound combines fast-picking bluegrass and folk with lyrics that touch the soul. Appealing to music lovers from collegeage to gray hairs, this indie band plays all the major music festivals and sells out venues nationwide and in the U.K. The band’s latest release is “Stars and Satellites.” “We’re proud of this record and hope you can find something in there you can relate to,” wrote Simonett on the band’s web site. Visit trampledbyturtles.com for music, T-shirts and coffee mugs. Simonett also leads a rock band called Dead Man Winter, whose album “Bright Lights” can be found there. Trampled by Turtles is also sold at Mankato’s Tune Town, where you’ll find other local music as well.

MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 15


Photo by Pat Christman

Many different types of art and gifts are available at the Carnegie gift shop.

Fine Arts

Carnegie Gift Shop Carnegie Gift Shop is bursting with creativity and hand-crafted work from local artists and artisans. Choose from crocheted Merino wool scarves embellished with beads; jewelry made with semi-precious stones; hand-blown glass works; ceramics that combine beauty and function; unique prints and paintings; one-of-a-kind holiday cards; and woodwork that’s more art than craft. “Our mission is to provide our artists visibility and let the community connect with them. It’s been well-received by the artists and community,” said Janet Husak, gift shop coordinator. “It’s a beautiful experience.” Renovated last year, Carnegie Gift Shop is being rediscovered and the inventory has doubled for the holidays. With gifts available at all price points, this gift shop with a gallery approach features 35 to 50 emerging and established artists. Husak strives 16 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Photo by Pat Christman

The gift shop at the Carnegie Art Center in Mankato features gifts from up to 50 local artists. to make the gift shop something everyone can experience. You’ll find handmade earrings for around $10. “If you’re looking for a unique gift that’s locally made, now’s a good time to stop down here,” said Husak. Holiday open houses are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 1, 8, and 15. The gift shop is also open 1-7 p.m. Thursdays and 1-4 p.m. Fridays. Carnegie Gift Shop is in the Carnegie Art Center in downtown Mankato. Visit thecarnegiemankato.com.


Tastes Indian Island Winery

Schwarma Sauce In 1984, John and Najwa Massad brought the chicken schwarma to Mankato. The rotisserie chicken, lettuce and tomatoes nestled in a pita with Schwarma Sauce has become a Mankato favorite. John, who learned to cook in the Bekka Valley of Lebanon, created the signature garlic aioli sauce. Since the Massads have bottled their Schwarma Sauce, you can share it with your favorite foodies. Schwarma lovers have bought jars to send to friends and family out of town, especially former MSU students. “We can’t wait to send them out as Christmas gifts,” people tell Najwa. Schwarma Sauce isn’t just for chicken pitas and wraps. Najwa adds a tablespoon to her mashed potatoes, mixes the sauce with pasta, tomato, basil and Parmesan cheese, spreads on chicken breasts before baking, uses it as a vegetable dip or makes Schwarma pizza. Jars of Schwarma Sauce are $5.95 at Hy-Vee and Cub Foods in Mankato, Massad’s in River Hills Mall, and Olives in downtown Mankato.

Established in 2001, Indian Island Winery, owned by the Winter Family, grows its own grapes in its Janesville vineyard. Angie Netzke, a daughter in the family business, makes the wine from cold hardy grapes such as Frontenac, Marquette and LaCrescent. Grapes from other local growers are also used. Why buy local wines? “It brings more knowledge to the Minnesota wine industry. We have great award-winning wines,” said Netzke. Wita-Pa is a seasonal, sweet holiday dessert wine that is described as “Christmas in a bottle.” The Frontenac Rose is also a popular gift wine. Other choices include a variety of white and red wine from dry to sweet. With names like Hunter’s Red Reserve and Dreamcatcher, they bring both taste and conversation to the table. Gift baskets of wines, food and gift items range from $15 to $75. Individual bottles range from $11 to $17. To order and ship wines or for a list of retail outlets and winery hours, visit indianislandwinery.com.

Mankato Brewery For the first time since 1967, Mankato has a brewery that’s producing craft beers. Mankato Brewery has released the holiday 12-pack with a mix of Mankato Original, Stickum, and Center Street Series #1. The Center Street Series pays homage to its brewery building at Center Street in North Mankato, which was originally built as a beer distributor. Beer drinkers will enjoy the sampling of a traditional German beer, a hefty malt beer and an amber ale.

“They are very unique. The Center Street Series has been going over really well. It’s crisp with a nice malt base,” said Livia Lastine, Mankato Brewery market manager. You may also visit the Mankato Brewery to buy a growler jug for $5 and fill it for $9. Holiday 12-packs are $15.99 at local liquor stores. Six-packs are also available. Visit mankatobrewery. com for retail locations and brewery hours. MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 17


Crafts

Christmas ornaments

Pat Christman

In addition to glass ornaments, Mary Phillips also makes wine glasses and hand-painted bowls.

Mary Phillips, of Hidden Springs Farm north of St. Peter, uses enamel paint to illustrate candy canes, Victorian roses, holly berries and wreathes on her glass ornaments. “I’ve painted them for quite a while. I gave them to family members and they were a little different each year. I added them to my sales,” said Phillips. She also produces functional artwork, including handpainted wine glasses and trays made from recycled and melted wine bottles. She hollows out gourds to make handpainted bowls that can be used for any dry items. Stained Glass Studio of St. Peter supplies the melted wine bottles and Hermanson’s Harvest in Nicollet supplies the gourds. A lifetime student of art and nature, Phillips employs floral themes in her work. Phillips sells her ornaments for $4 and wine glasses for $5 each. Phillips will join area crafters at the Old Fashioned Christmas in St. Clair, Dec. 8, in the St. Clair School Gym. Or call 931-3587.

Santa Claus carvings

Stu’s Workshop in St. Peter makes Tomten, Swedish elves of different sizes that can be arranged in different shapes.

Tomten Tomten are Swedish elves of different sizes that can be arranged in different shapes, such as a diamond, circle or pyramid. This Nordic tradition comes from Scandinavian folklore. The tomte is an elf-like mythical creature that was believed to watch over the family farm. Stu’s Workshop in St. Peter is making sets of wooden tomten in a variety of sizes and designs ranging from 3- to 11-inch figures. Marlys Johnson paints the tomten that her husband, Stuart Johnson, cuts and sands. “The fun thing for families is that parents say ‘I never know how they’ll be arranged when I wake up in the morning,’” said Marlys of St. Peter. Children often play with the tomten like a set of Christmas blocks. Tomten make meaningful gifts for families, newlyweds and anyone who with an interest in Nordic culture. Tomten sets range in sizes, number of pieces and prices from $27 to $78.75. Tomten note cards created by Vicki Hagen are also available. Call 934-1878 or email mcjcsfa@aol.com. 18 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Nancy and David Allan of Winslow Woodcarving Studio in North Mankato make hand-carved and painted 3-foot Santa Claus figures that combine American folk art and Old World Santas. “We have a collection of Santas we bring out at Christmas,” said Nancy. “I wanted to do a big Santa.” Submitted photo Nancy, an art school graduate and retired Nancy and David art teacher, drew and carved the very first Allan make large-scale Santa. She had studied wood blocking in art Santa Claus school, got out her old art school tools, figurines. covered the couch with a sheet, and made her first Santa. Patty Conlin, of Stones Throw Gallery in St. Peter, saw the Santa and encouraged the couple to make and sell them. Today David, a retired industrial arts professor, carves the Santas and Nancy paints them. The Santas take David about 8 hours to carve. Next Nancy uses three layers of paint, continuing to add depth and detail with each layer. She finishes with an antique glaze. Most of the Santas are custom-made. Nancy has created German, Irish, Scottish and African Santas and has customized them to reflect family traditions. The Santas cost $300 and can be specially ordered. Stones Throw Gallery has one Santa for sale. Stones Throw Gallery also carries sets of the couple’s hand-carved evergreen trees, tipped with snow and topped with a gold star. The evergreen tree sets include a 4, 6 and 9-inch tree for $90. Individual trees are also available. Visit Stones Throw Gallery or winslowwoodcarving.com. M


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Choosing the “write” gift Please the reader in your life with these titles from Mankato’s thriving literary community By Britta Moline 22 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


Q

uick, name a few genuine Minnesotan gifts. What did you come up with? Moccasins, maybe? Plush stuffed loons? Viking horns? What about literature? Maybe southern Minnesota isn’t the first place you think of when the words “publishing mecca” come to mind, but we’re not slouches. Whether you’re interested in innovative young adult literature, humorous and heartfelt memoirs or scholarly academia, Mankato seems to have an author who has written it. Even avid readers may be unaware that southern Minnesota has such a flourishing literary culture. And it’s time for that to change. “Between New York and Los Angeles, Minnesota is one of the richest literary communities in the country,” Rachael Hanel, author and Minnesota State University mass media instructor, said. “I don’t see that going away.” It may or may not be surprising -depending on where you hang out on Saturday nights and whom you gossip with on weekday afternoons -- that Mankato is one of the hubs of publishing in the Midwest. Stumbling into a packed reading or running across a book signing now and then seems common place, but it’s actually quite remarkable that a town the size of Mankato has such a diverse and strong literary community. “There’s a great variety of writing here,” said MSU English instructor Rick Robbins, director of the Good Thunder Writing Series. “People have this inaccurate view that rural artists are only writing about cows and blizzards.” In addition to drawing in nationally recognized authors, the Good Thunder Writing Series has been connecting local authors to their audience and neighbors since 1983; and Robbins says it’s not difficult amassing talent from southern Minnesota. This year alone, more than a dozen have been published or accepted for publication. Mankato serves as homebase for a handful of publishing houses — among them giants such as Capstone. There may be a few stories about cows and blizzards, but clearly there’s a lot more going on to sustain this voracious market. Nick Healy is one Mankato author who set up camp here, despite the fact that he acknowledges there’s something of a “metro-centrism” in the literary world. Healy comes out of the Cities and wrote in St. Paul — an experience he recalled as lonely and stratified — for many years before finding his writing community in Mankato. “Mankato is unusual,” Healy said, reflecting on the bond that unites disparate authors. “I think it’s a Mankato thing, not even a Mankato literature thing. People turn up for one another here — they support one another.” Healy, like most of the authors in this article, grew up with the idea that it was, in his words, “an outlandish idea to be a writer.” Hanel, too, admits she had no idea that a creative writing world even existed. Both worked in journalism before realizing there was a market for their creative stories. For Healy, the moment of realization came internally, and

Submitted photo

Nick Healy earned the chance to publish his short story collection after winning the University of Minnesota-Moorhead’s short story contest. clearly. “I came to the point where I decided, if I don’t do something about it, I better quit talking about it,” Healy said. For Hanel, the image was of a gravestone. In a creative nonfiction writing class at MSU, Hanel was asked to write of an autobiographical moment. She zeroed in on her memories of being a gravedigger’s daughter. The image, of a gravestone from the 1970s bearing the photo of a teen girl, was so strong that 13 years later, she’s now seeing her memoir, “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down,” on shelves in April. For Healy, his creative writing was initially limited to oddball side projects in high school, such as the breakup letter he was commissioned to write for a friend (it was ultimately rejected for use, for being too well-written). Healy realized he could make it as a short story author when he won a short story contest at St. Thomas, while he was earning his master’s degree. Healy’s first book — the collection of short stories “It Takes You Over” — was published in October. Both cite the support of Mankato’s literary community as both a motivation and driving force behind their success. “It’s 100 percent supportive,” Hanel said. “If one person has a success, it’s everyone’s success.” Kirstin Cronn-Mills, who moved from Nebraska to Minnesota in 1992, says her 9-year-old writing group helps her from going out with her “zipper undone, metaphorically speaking,” but she cites the influence of the entire Midwest on her work. MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 23


Submitted photo

Kirstin Cronn-Mills’ “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” portrays the struggles of a transgender teen named Gabe. “I love being a Midwestern, “rural” writer because my heart is here,” Cronn-Mills said. “I think we’re in a unique situation to have our own voice that draws from and interacts with coastal influences but remains steady and solid, just like Midwesterners.” Cronn-Mills is a poet and young adult novelist, whose latest work, “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children,” was released in October. Mary Savig, an academic author at the Smithsonian Institution who grew up in North Mankato, had a slightly different path to publishing. After studying art history in school for years, she became hooked on holiday cards and just released a book on their history in “Handmade Holiday Cards from 20th Century Artists.” She describes her publishing experience as extremely positive, giving her an outlet for her curiosity and creativity. “My coworkers and family listened to me for three years, all year long, talk about holiday cards,” Savig laughed. These are just a few stories in a city bursting with writers. Staying on the pulse is easy: Everyone recommends the Good Thunder Writing Series for the biggest upcoming author events, conferences, interviews, readings as well as a four-day writing workshop. Open readings are happening all of the time, all over town, 24 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

particularly at the Coffee Hag, Barnes & Noble, and the What’s Up Lounge. Impromptu writing groups form all the time, organically, and writers are always, always willing to talk to their fans (Hey, it’s still a small town.) So get out there: read, listen, explore and maybe, if you have the itch, write. Mankato will be right there to back you up. M


Mankato’s literary gifts

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he following is a collection of published and soon-to-be published titles from area authors. Included are titles published by traditional publishers as well as a few selfpublished titles with regional interest. “The Mankato Reconciliation Powwow,” by Loren Dean Boutin (nonfiction): On the 150th commemoration of the U.S.Dakota War of 1862, the psychologist-turned-author recounts the history of the Mankato Powwow in exhaustive detail. Published by North Star Press. “Beautiful Music for Ugly Children,” by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (young adult): A transgender teen named Gabe wrestles with himself, his peers and fans of his late-night radio show to unveil his truest self. Published by Flux.

siblings who are removed to their strange uncle’s farm while their mother stands trial. Helget also has a historical fiction novel, “Stillwater,” slated to publish in 2013. Published by Egmont. “Handmade Holiday Cards from 20th-Century Artists,” by Mary Savig (nonfiction): North Mankato native Savig explores the history and aesthetic of handmade holiday cards. Published by Smithsonian Books. “Collected Stories of Maud Hart Lovelace and Delos Lovelace,” edited by Julie Schrader (nonfiction): Schrader compiles 12 published short stories by Maud and Delos Lovelace between 1915-1928. Published by Minnesota Heritage Publishing. “... We Cannot Escape History ...” by Bryce Stenzel (nonfiction play): Well-known Mankato historian and Abraham Lincoln reenactor Stenzel reviews the local and national forces that led to the president’s paroning of condemned Dakota and the Emancipation Proclamation. Published by Minnesota Heritage Publishing.

“The Vatican Diaries,” by John Thavis (nonfiction): The Mankato native and now-retired Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service delivers an inside look at the inner workings of the Vatican. Published by Viking Adult.

“The Wagon Wheel Project,” by Dave Engel (nonfiction): Engen, an MSU communications instructor, explores the sociological value of so-called “third places” by examining the regulars at the Wagon Wheel Cafe in Mankato. Published by Minnesota Heritage Publishing. “We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down,” by Rachael Hanel (memoir): Hanel’s memoir about growing up the daughter of a gravedigger in Waseca is due to publish in early 2013. Published by University of Minnesota Press. “It Takes You Over,” by Nick Healy (short stories): Healy, an award-winning short story writer, offers a collection of Minnesota stories at once tender and gritty. Published by New Rivers Press. “Horse Camp,” by Nicole Helget and Nate LeBoutillier (young adult): A witty, poignant and sometimes subversive tale of

“Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota,” by Gwen Westerman, Bruce White (nonfiction): Westerman, an instructor at Minnesota State University, collects oral histories and written records that remind readers that the history of the Dakota people begins long before 1862. Published by Minnesota Historical Society Press. MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 25


Reflections

By John Cross

26 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


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hen viewed through the gauzy veil of the holidays, a December snowfall is a pleasant thing. But in the harsher light of reality, a countryside already blanketed beneath a snowy mantle, even in late December, portends of an extended winter. Long after that white Christmas has become just a pleasant memory, Minnesotans will be left slogging across a wintery landscape through the months of January, February and finally, into March. And by then it will be a green Memorial Day that most of us will be dreaming of.

MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 27


Get Out!

By Rachel Hanel

Getting into winter The gifts of the season are apparent — if you look

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his month, we will hit the nadir of daylight hours. On Dec. 21, we’ll get a scant 8 hours and 52 minutes of light. As a whole, we generally welcome the first days of spring, summer, and fall. But poor winter — we greet its darkness and cold with a loud chorus of moans and trepidation. We tend to slip into a pattern of wanting to do the same things in winter as we do in summer. Summer equals fun, with its vacations, trips to the lake or cabin, time away from school or work, campfires, and reunions with friends and family. Fall signals a return to obligations of work, home and school, and winter only intensifies that. The weather doesn’t lend itself to extended time outdoors. My somewhat flexible schedule allows me to head outside to cross-country ski or run on a lunch break; but like everyone, I’m forced indoors more often than in summer. We simply cannot do in the winter what we did in the summer. But if summer is unique for what we can do and enjoy, shouldn’t we be able to say the same about winter? As The Byrds sang (the lyric poetry of Ecclesiastes cleverly set to music), “to everything there is a season.” In Minnesota, we’re blessed with a nearly perfect demarcation of three months of spring, summer, fall, and winter (give or take a few weeks in some years). I just spent a hot and humid summer swimming at Hiniker Pond or Tourtellotte pool, running and biking. But I like the return to chill and darkness and the excuse it gives me to do things differently. Winter allows me to: Swim more at the YMCA pool. Two years ago I took adult swimming lessons at the Y with the goal of entering triathlons. Since then, I’ve grown to enjoy swimming. I like slicing through lakes in the summer, but pool swimming in the winter gives me a chance to focus on form and technique. I also like the respite from the cold and snow that the warm water provides. Besides, it’s liberating to wear a swimsuit after hours layered in bulky sweaters and coats. Return to yoga class. Several years ago I discovered the Ashtanga 28 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

yoga practice offered at Sun Moon Yoga Studios. After some time away from regular practice, I returned to the Ashtanga class at Sun Moon two Septembers ago. I intended to take the class year-round, but when Daylight Saving Time began, the sun lured me away from yoga and I spent evenings biking or swimming instead. Now when triathlon and running season winds down, I look forward to going back to the studio for another six-month round of Ashtanga. It’s become my winter routine, the heat of the studio a perfect opposite for the cold weather outside. Reflect and plan. If dark, cold, snowy evenings force you inside, then you might as well be productive. Most everyone I know contends with hectic schedules in the summer. They train for running races or triathlons, shuttle kids from sporting event to sporting event, and schedule vacations and weekend trips here and there. The constant motion makes it difficult to look ahead. At times it’s a matter of simply hanging on for the wild ride. But winter seems tailor-made for reflection and planning. I look back on the goals I’ve met. I take inventory of the mistakes and missteps I made in the previous 12 months and decide on what changes are needed to make the next 12 months even better. I use the time to set new goals. In the dark, I can quiet my mind and practice selfawareness. As much as I enjoy the outdoors, and as much as I still find time to run, ski, or snowshoe in the winter, I also like the days of bitter wind or extreme cold that force me inside. I like the occasional excuse of staying in by the fire, a cup of hot coffee in my hand, a book by my side. I need that time to catch my breath, to recharge for the upcoming year. When winter is over, I’ll be among the masses celebrating the return of warm, lengthy daylight hours. The novelty of winter indoor activities will have worn off and I’ll itch to run on the trails, bike on the road, and swim in Hiniker Pond. But until then, I will enjoy what the darkness offers. Because The Byrds and Ecclesiastes had it right: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” M Follow Rachael Hanel on Twitter at @rachael18. She also blogs at www.rachaelhanel.me.


Many of the cases that Twig makes includes art by local artists, such as the design on this phone cover from Jason Knudson.

Phone home Twig Case iPhone covers combine artistic style and sustainable materials By Nell Musolf | Photos by Pat Christman

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ith a friendship that stretches back to kindergarten, Jon Lucca and John Woodland’s history together was a definite plus when the time came for their new business — Twig Case Company — to branch out. The two were friends throughout their early years but their relationship solidified when they played in the same band during middle school. “We really are like brothers,” Lucca said. “Being in a band together was a good background for going into business together.

30 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

When you’re in the same band, you have to have give and take — unless you’re Prince,” he added with a grin. Woodland first conceived idea of making cell phone cases out of Richlite while designing a guitar for musician Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco fame) at the same time the iPhone4 came out. Richlite is made from a combination of eucalyptus wood from trees in Brazil and softwoods from Sweden. “I wanted a nice, wood case for my new iPhone and first purchased a bamboo case that broke after three days. I then found


feels good in your hands,”Woodland added. It seemed like a natural move for Woodland to include his old friend Lucca in his new business. While guitars are Woodland’s primary interest, computers have always been Lucca’s passion. “We both started on Apple computers in 1985 at our middle school,” Woodland recalled. “Jon was the first to show me what a modem was in 1987. It made perfect sense to bring him into Twig.” Woodland said that Lucca is essentially running Twig while he continues to focus on Mastery Bridge. “Helping guitarists is what I do best,” Woodland said, “however, while doing some stuff for Norah Jones and her band the other day, the majority of the conversation was about how cool the Twig Case was.” Since Twigs are made out of paper, they are lighter and less bulky than other cases made from wood or bamboo. They are also light, weighing in at under an ounce. The fact that Twigs are environmentally friendly is important to Lucca and Woodland. “We make the only iPhone cover that is FSC and Rainforest Alliance Certified,” Lucca said. Twig cases can have plain covers or feature designs that include public domain art as well as work from local artists such as Mankato’s Jason Knudson. Some cases display photographs that

Twig Case products are manufactured from sustainable materials and feature a wide variety of artistic designs. a wood case that broke within the first week of owning it. It hit me that a cell phone case made out of Richlite would be the best of both worlds. It’s a plant material, way more durable than solid wood and you’re able to engrave it. Thus, Twig Case Company was born.” Woodland designs guitars and guitar parts for his other business, Mastery Bridge, and used Richlite for guitar bridges after amendments to the Lacey Act in 2008 made it unlawful to import certain plants and plant products without an import declaration. “With the amendments to the Lacey Act, many guitar manufacturers were left wondering what they were going to use to replace all of the ebony fingerboards and bridges that were traditionally used in making guitars,” Woodland said. Richlite came to the rescue as it can be shipped around the world without any worry of transporting endangered wood and is fully sustainable as well as made in the USA. “From a personal standpoint, it’s a nice material and it


were taken by Lucca and then transformed into artwork. Customers can send in their own artwork and have that put on a Twig, too — as long as the art is non-trademarked and is a black-and-white, copyright-free image. “We pretty much find artists we like and then track them down,” Lucca explained. Some of Lucca’s own artwork is included in the Twig cover collection. “I took a picture of a wren that had been visiting our backyard all summer long,” Lucca said. “After the wren stopped coming, I took the picture and put it on a case so I still get to see the wren every day.” Even the packaging that Twigs are shipped in comes under the scrutiny of Lucca and Woodland. With the launch of the new iPhone 5, Lucca designed packaging that could be reused as a recharging or video stand. The packages also feature a star over Waseca so consumers will know just where their Twig came from. “I’ve heard that people don’t throw our packaging out,” Lucca said. Twigs are sold online at www.twigcase.com and are available at Zinnia’s in Waseca. Lucca and Woodland are looking forward to helping their Waseca-based company grow. “I love being a local business,”” Lucca said. “We make an environmentally friendly product that we’re proud of and it’s made right here in Minnesota.” In addition to designing and selling Twigs, Lucca enjoys spending time making other objects out of recycled materials and also volunteers for the Waseca Animal Rescue group with his wife, Nicole. “Nicole deserves lots of lots of credit for helping Twig get going,” Lucca said. “She’s been very, very supportive and we couldn’t have done this without her.” Nicole Lucca said that she was both “excited and terrified” when she heard that her husband was starting a business. “I had Waseca’s Jon Lucca (pictured) partnered with longtime friend and Twin Cities resident high hopes but also became very aware of John Woodland to start the Twig Case Company. how many cell phone cases are out there,” Nicole said. “I was really excited about it determined to make their company a success. being earth-friendly in a time when awareness is starting to grow “It’s not like we’re selling delicious sandwiches in the middle of and people are starting to demand to know where and how the the desert,” Lucca said. “There are a lot of cell phone cases out products they purchase are made.” Nicole added that her husband there, but I think what we’re selling is more like art. Twigs are believes in the product Twig makes and has worked hard to make environmentally friendly, well-made cases. We are trying to make a product that he can be proud of. the best, coolest stuff. This is not anything I ever thought I’d be “Jon’s put his whole heart, soul and talent into this,” Nicole doing. It’s been really, really crazy. But it’s also a lot of fun.” M said. “The quality and customer satisfaction are of the utmost importance to him. If you keep people happy, they will tell their friends.” Woodland and Lucca know that they are facing stiff competition when it comes to finding customers for their Twigs, but both are 32 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 33


Things

to do,

Places

to go

December 1-2 • Minnesota Valley Chorale 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1 • Christ the Kind Lutheran, 3 p.m. on Dec. 2 • First Presbyterian • $15, $12 seniors/students • minnesotavallerychorale.org 2 • University Concert Bands 3 p.m. • Minnesota State University, Halling Recital Hall • $9 general admission, $7 students • mnsu.edu/music 4 • University Jazz Combos/ Jazz Singers 7:30 p.m. • Minnesota State University, Halling Recital Hall • $9 general admission, $7 students • mnsu.edu/music 4 • The Winds of Christmas 10 a.m. • Gustavus Adolphus, Christ Chapel • free • gac.edu/music 5-9 • Christmas at Bethany Concerts 7 p.m. • Bethany Lutheran College, Christ Chapel • free • blc.edu/music 6 • Lorie Line & Her Fab Five 7:30 p.m. • Verizon Wireless Center • $48 •verizonwirelesscentermn.com

6 • Bells on Belgrade All day Belgrade Ave., North Mankato • free • greatermankatoevents.com 6 • Holiday Choral Concert 7:30 p.m. St. John the Baptist Catholic Church $9 general admission, $7 students mnsu.edu/music 7 • Fall Dance Concert 7:30 p.m. • Minnesota State University, Earley Center for Performing Arts • $10 general admission, $8 students • mnsu.edu/theatre 6-7 • Fall Semester Student Art Show and Reception 7 p.m. • Bethany Lutheran College, Ylvisaker Fine Arts Center • free • blc.edu/art 7 • Michael Johnson in concert 8 p.m. • Gustavus Adolphus, Bjorling Recital Hall • $15 adults, $12 seniors, free for Gustavus students and staff • gac.edu/music 8 • Fall Dance Concert 2 p.m. • Minnesota State University, Earley center for Performing Arts • $10 general admission, $8 students • mnsu.edu/theatre 8 • The Gustavus Philharmonic Orchestra Winter Concert 1:30 p.m. • Gustavus Adolphus, Bjorling Recital Hall • free • gac.edu/music

6 • Jason Gray Christmas Stories Tour 7-9 p.m. • Crossview Covenant Church • $15 • greatermankatoevents.com 34 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

9 • Mankato Symphony Orchestra’s Candy Cane Concert 3-5:30 p.m. • Mankato West High School Auditorium • $25 Gold Section-Adult, $20 Silver Section-Adult, $15 Bronze Section, $5 17 and under, $5 student • greatermankatoevents.com

9 • The Gustavus Percussion Ensembles Winter Concert 1:30 p.m. • Gustavus Adolphus, Bjorling Recital Hall • free • gac.edu/music 12 • A Christmas Vespers 7:30 p.m. • Gustavus Adolphus, Christ Chapel • free • gac.edu/music 12 • Advent Instrumental Festival 7 p.m. • Bethany Lutheran College, Trinity Chapel • free • blc.edu/music 15 • Hark, the Glad Sound! (Holiday Concert with Musicorum) 7:30-9 p.m. • Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel • $10 general admission, $8 seniors, $5 students • greatermankatoevents.com 15 • The Nutcracker 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. • Minnesota State University, Ted Paul Theatre • $17 adults, $14 seniors/students, $10 children 12 and under • greatermankatoevents.com 16 • The Nutcracker 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. • Minnesota State University, Ted Paul Theatre • $17 adults, $14 seniors/students, $10 children 12 and under • greatermankatoevents.com


Happy Hour

By Jason Wilson Special

to

The Washington Post.

Sour memories: Refreshing a cocktail standby

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he sour once occupied a place of pride at the bar. “When American meets American then comes the whiskey sour,” declared the Atlanta Daily Constitution in 1879. From the 1860s into the 1960s, the sour was “one of the cardinal points of American drinking,” according to historian David Wondrich in his 2007 book on early American cocktails, “Imbibe.” A sour is a simple drink: base spirit, citrus juice and a sweetener, such as simple syrup. Within cocktail circles, there is much discussion over small points of taxonomy between sours and similar drinks. To wit, a Collins is a sour that is built over ice, with soda water; a fizz is a Collins that is shaken, often with egg white; a daisy uses a liqueur or grenadine as a sweetener, rather than simple syrup. A few weeks ago, I rummaged around a used-book sale and came across a 1995 edition of Charles Schumann’s “American Bar.” What makes Schumann’s cocktail guide a curious American classic is that Schumann is German, owner of a famed bar in Munich. It was interesting to see how Schumann was a man of his era, yet able to elevate his drinks to something higher. For instance, his Apple Brandy Sour is a perfect marriage of spirit and fruit: a fresh autumn day in a glass. Apple Brandy Sour 1 serving This rich, autumnal rendition is made with apple brandy: either Calvados from France or a good domestic apple brandy, such as Clear Creek or Laird’s 71/2 Year Old Apple Brandy. Ingredients Ice 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/2 ounce simple syrup (see note) 11/2 ounces apple brandy Maraschino cherry for garnish Steps Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the lemon juice, simple syrup and brandy. Shake well, then strain into a rocks or old fashioned glass. Garnish with the cherry.

Note To make simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a slow, rolling boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a heatproof container and let cool to room temperature. It can be refrigerated, covered, for several months. M

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MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 35


Sherri Saunders said support for breast cancer victims and survivors is critical: “You’re all sharing the same journey.”

The gift of support Breast cancer survivor breaks new ground in Mankato By Grace Webb | Photos by Pat Christman 36 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


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t’s a Tuesday evening and about 20 women have gathered in a room at the Scheels All Sports in Mankato. They’re sitting in chairs arranged in a semi-circle, so that everyone can see each other. Some of them are older, into their 60s or beyond. Some of them are younger, barely in their 20s. They come from different backgrounds, different tax brackets and different walks of life. But they all have one important thing in common: breast cancer. Some of the women are survivors; some of them have been recently diagnosed and are just starting their journeys through chemotherapy and radiation. They’re here to support each other, whether it is sharing their experiences or simply offering an understanding ear. The group, called Cheryl the Hope, was started in August by Sherri Saunders, herself a survivor of breast cancer and skin cancer. The group is among very few in existence that both meets weekly and offers support for friends and family members. “(Cancer) makes you a stronger person and shows you what’s really important,” Saunders said. “So many people have been inspiring to me, and now I want to inspire others.” Finding hope in darkness Saunders was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2010. As she finished chemotherapy and prepared for radiation treatment, she found a support group for breast cancer survivors in the Twin Cities. One support group focused more on younger women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, while another support group included older women who had beaten the cancer and were dealing with the aftermath. “Going to a group of women that have been where you are is very incredible because there’s such a sense of family,” Saunders said. “You’re all sharing the same journey.”

After Saunders finished her radiation and went through surgery to remove her right breast, she decided to start a support group in Mankato so that people from southern Minnesota could still find support even if they couldn’t make it to the Cities for weekly support meetings. Saunders started looking for a building that could host the group’s weekly meetings. She wanted some place easily recognizable, so people traveling from out of town could find it. She contacted Scheels in Mankato to ask if it would be possible to use a room in the store for a few weeks, at least until she could find a more permanent area. Scheels replied that her group could meet at the store free of charge as long as the group wanted. The room where the support group meets can hold more than 60 people and is handicapped accessible. “We always have a home, every single week,” Saunders said. “We are so grateful to them.” Support for the supporters Right now, the support group is just starting out and finding its footing, but Saunders said she wants to bring in more activities and opportunities for members in the future. In fact, one of her biggest hopes is to eventually turn the group into a nonprofit organization. “I want to pay it forward,” she said. Saunders’ plans for the future include helping members with travel expenses as they pursue treatment, setting up an awareness marathon and offering more education about prevention. To set this up, she needs to raise money. In October, Saunders organized a fundraiser at Jack McGowan’s Farm outside Mankato. The family-friendly event was free, but visitors could donate or buy items from vendors and at a silent auction. Local restaurants such as Bakers Square and Perkins donated pies, and Caribou Coffee donated a special coffee blend, Amy’s Blend, in remembrance of those affected by breast cancer. Saunders said that, even though the fundraiser perhaps lost some people to that weekend’s Mankato Marathon, the turnout was still very good. “It was an amazing event,” she said. “We just enjoyed coming together as a community to support a worthy cause.” Future cheer Saunders’ support group offers two unique qualities: It meets every week, and it offers support for not only cancer survivors but also their friends and families — both of which are unique among such support groups throughout the region and state. The first and third Tuesdays are reserved for women and men who are undergoing treatment or who are breast cancer survivors, while the second and fourth Tuesdays are opened up to family, friends and caregivers as well. Saunders said she saw how difficult it was for her own family when she was diagnosed because they tried to be strong for her and didn’t know where to find their own support. For this reason, she made sure to include friends and family in the support group. At the same time, she said she is committed to hosting the group every week, in case people can’t make it every time but still need that support. “It’s always going to be once a week,” she said. And, while she is still working to get the group up and running MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 37


and face the challenges of hosting a brandnew support base, Saunders is already planning even more ways to bring a little more light into the group members” lives. This month, Cheryl the Hope is hosting a holiday party at Scheels. The party, which will be Dec. 11, will include a pink Christmas tree, pink ornaments for cancer survivors, a potluck and holiday music. Saunders said everyone is welcome to come to this “celebration of life.” Fo r m o re information about the holiday party or Cheryl the Hope, contact Saunders at 507-304-5320. M

38 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Sherri Saunders (far right) talks with members of a support group for breast cancer survivors. Saunders started the group this year after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2010.


MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 39


Garden Chat

By Jean Lundquist

Winters grow garden optimism

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hese dark days of December are good for two things when it comes to gardening. One is reminiscing; the other is planning for next year. To me, the word “reminisce” means seeing things more bright and beautiful than they were. I saw my old friend Greg Husak last month, and he asked me, shaking his head, how my garden had worked out last summer. By the shaking of his head, I knew that the garden he and Janet tended hadn’t done very well. I told him ours had done poorly, and that by the time I decided to water, it was too late. He said Janet had finally given up on watering. So there’s the yin and the yang of watering, I suppose. But there is always optimism for the coming season, even though the Department of Natural Resources has this area in a drought warning. Knowing it will either rain, or it won’t, there are still plans to be made. As my body grows older, I’m always looking for the best way to avoid the

back-breaking and time-consuming chore of weeding. I’ve been trying to avoid it since I was 25, but now the need seems more urgent. I actually like to weed a bit, but I believe in moderation in all things. Weeds don’t seem to have a similar philosophy in life. I tried the newspapers and straw to deter weeds, until the chickens scratched that idea into small pieces all over the garden. I tried laying down black plastic until my conscience put a near immediate halt to that. Besides, the wind blew up the plastic, and it broke off my plants. But really, my conscience was the deciding factor in trying that only one growing season. Then came the black garden paper idea. It was spendy — the paper, not the idea, so much. But the wind was again a deciding factor in choosing not to pursue it, as it also broke off my plants. That, plus the fact that it was crinkly and broke into small pieces when I walked on it while it was dry, and it just wasn’t efficient. I still have several rolls in my garden shed, if any gardener wants to give it a try. I might not even ask any money for it because I’m pretty sure I won’t use it again. But — the tree order form came from the Blue earth County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) this year, and I found another possibility to try. No, I’m not going to plant the garden with trees. But one of the miscellaneous items offered on that form is a weed mat. According to the SWCD, it can be put around the base of a tree, over brush and weeds. Pound it in place with up to five

stakes, and it will kill whatever is beneath it and keep weeds and brush away for up to three years. The price for a three-bythree-foot mat is only $1.50. When I read that, my mind began to tumble all over itself. Why, I wondered, wouldn’t that work around a tomato plant? Or a pepper, or Brussels sprouts? My excitement began to grow. If I could use it for three years, that’s only 50 cents per year, per weed mat. I started filling out the form when Larry walked into the room. He read the top of the page where it said “Tree Order Form,” and in his really crabby voice said, “WHAT are you buying?” Larry thinks there are already enough trees and bushes to mow around in the yard, you see. I excitedly started to tell him about these miracle weed mats, and how I was going to buy 15 of them, and my weeding worries next summer will be all but over. He started shaking his head, much as Greg had done earlier, indicating a negative reaction. Larry started to explain that weeds are why we have hands and knees and gloves and hoes. That, he believes, is the way to eradicate weeds in the garden. He then proceeded to remind me of the newspapers and straw, the black plastic and the black garden paper, the tiller and the mini tiller I had spent money on, and how, in the end, I still had to use hands and knees, gloves and a hoe to get rid of weeds. So far, of course, he’s been right. But this is 2012. If the Mayans were wrong, and the world continues into 2013, as I believe it will, then who’s to say these miracle mats won’t be just the thing? If these things can kill and keep brush and weeds away, then I think purslane will have met its match. I’ll keep you posted. M

Jean Lundquist is a master gardener who lives near Good Thunder. 40 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE


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That’s Life

By Nell Musolf

D

id you know that Barbie turned 50 a few years ago? I think about her every Christmas with the half-hope of finding a Barbie under the Christmas tree with my name on the gift tag. And whenever I think about Barbie, I remember the time Hank and I went shopping for a birthday present for a friend of his. It was a bitterly cold winter day and we were running late when I took a sharp left in the toy department at Target, Hank trailing along behind me in that endearing way that 8 - year olds have. Almost immediately, he stopped in his tracks. “Mom! I can’t go down there!” “Why not?” I asked a bit testily. We had less than an hour to find a present, wrap it and then deposit the present and Hank at his friend’s birthday party. “Because that’s the Barbie aisle!” “We’re only cutting through,” I assured him. “We’ll be back in the boy aisle in a couple of seconds.” After looking over both shoulders with the air of someone about to engage in a highly criminal activity, Hank allowed me to steer him past Barbie playing tennis, Barbie in a business suit, Barbie as Scarlett O’Hara and about a million and a half Barbies clad in different sparkly bathing suits. It was a very long aisle. We were almost at the end of it when Hank asked me a question. “Mom, why is Barbie always smiling?” Not knowing the answer, I did the old throw-the - question-back-at-the -asker technique that moms everywhere have employed throughout the ages. “Why do you think she’s always smiling?” Hank shrugged. “Probably because she has so many clothes. You always smile when you get new clothes.” His eyes grew 42 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

Still smiling after all these years thoughtful. “They should make a Barbie fab outfit, she can apply the Pouting face, with a face that changes. That way she complete with extra lipstick to cover her could have a happy or a sad or an angry stuck out lower lip and more blush on her face. Like your face changes all cheeks to indicate her mounting anxiety. the time.” Interchangeable heads might be an Tugging him along, I didn’t even better idea. There could be the answer but Hank gave me a My Hairdresser is a Sadist head couple of things to think when Barbie’s having a bad hair about that day. Such as, why day, and the One French Fry Too is Barbie always smiling? Of Many head with a few course, she has a wardrobe blemishes on so that little that is endless, a ton of career girls could see that everyone options that don’t seem to — even Barbie — doesn’t require either an look perfect all the time. education or an There was a doll i n t e r v i e w , out several years go accessories galore that had shorter and has never heard thighs and a thicker of the words waist than Barbie’s. It “cellulite,” was touted as a more “liposuction” realistic toy for girls to play or “calorie.” with but I noticed that doll She also didn’t stick around for very has Ken, long. The reality is that little the perfect girls, just like their mothers boyfriend before them, are smart who can neither enough to know that no talk, leave his grown woman truly looks underwear lying in like Barbie, with the the middle of the exception of a few bedroom floor or insult her supermodels who I’m pretty mother when he’s had one beer sure are from alien galaxies anyway. too many. Of course, those two I suspect little girls are also smart are always smiling — they don’t enough to know that no grown have mortgages, gray hair or woman is going to be smiling all the children. time either. But I think Hank may be onto I never got around to sending something. Maybe an Mattel my son’s idea about giving interchangeable face for Barbie is Barbie a face that does more than a pretty good idea. That way, when smile. She’s done pretty well with the Barbie’s boss fails to appreciate her face she’s had for the past fifty-some invaluable input at work she could years. Why mess with perfection? M slap on the Downtrodden Employee face. When her best friend Midge flirts with Ken, she can wear her Don’t Mess with My Man face. And when Ken fails to notice her latest Nell Musolf is a mom and a freelance writer from Mankato.


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MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 43


Good Health

By Family Features

Ten tech tips for a healthier heart T

he message that a healthy lifestyle helps protect your heart isn’t new. If you’d like to do more to take care of your heart, here are 10 ways technology can help make that easier. Stop smoking Apps such as Smoke Reducer for Android, and iQuit for iPhone can help you wean off tobacco. You can also use the Firefox add-on Quitomzilla, which shows you how much money you save by not smoking, the number of cigarettes not smoked, and the overall time since your last smoke. Stay within a healthy weight range Make it easier to monitor your weightloss progress with the iHealth Wireless Scale. You can track your weight over time, and see results in relation to daily activity, time of day, diet, exercise, and more. The scale lets you set a milestone and share your results with doctors, fitness buddies and family. The free companion iHealth Scale app works with iPod touch, iPhone and iPad. Learn more at www. ihealth99.com. Limit alcohol and caffeine Keep track of how much you’re drinking with the DrinkControl or Alcohol Monitor apps for iPhone, or the SoberApp for Android. They estimate your blood alcohol content and let you know whether or not

you should drive. To monitor your caffeine intake, try the Caffeine Zone 2 for iPhone and iPad, or the Caffeine Monitor app for Android. Take care of your teeth Research suggests that there may be a link between periodontal disease and heart disease. Go online and check the American Dental Association’s database at www. ADA.org to find oral health care products that have the ADA seal of approval. At the ADA website, you can also watch videos on a variety of oral health care topics. Keep tabs on your blood pressure The Mayo Clinic recommends you monitor your blood pressure at home and visit your doctor regularly. With the iHealth Blood Pressure Dock, (www. ihealth99.com), you can accurately measure your blood pressure, track your readings over time, and share that information with healthcare providers, friends and family members. The Dock comes with a blood pressure arm cuff and doubles as a charging station for your iPod touch, iPhone and iPad. The companion iHealth app is available for free. Reduce stress Try a portable biofeedback device, like the StressEraser, to help you relax by synchronizing your breathing and your heart rate. If having too much on your plate and too many interruptions causes you stress, try Quiet Hours. It lets you shut down your computer’s communication apps, like instant messaging, for a specified period of time. Exercise regularly The Online Activity Tracker from the American Heart Health Association lets you create a personalized walking plan, log time or distance traveled, plot and save walking routes, and more. Check it out at www.startwalkingnow.org. You can also use the AHA Walking Paths app for Android and iPhone. Eat right Tracking the foods you consume helps you better understand your caloric and nutritional intake. The Lose It! app for the iPhone allows

44 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

you to enter and track your meals and snacks, and keep track of your weight loss progress and goals via the app, as well as access your account online. Visit www. loseit.com for more information. Offering many of the same capabilities, Android phone users can use the Diet Assistant app at www.dietassistantapp.com. Make sleep a priority Not getting enough sleep can raise your blood pressure and make it more likely you’ll have a stroke or heart attack. Learn more about your sleep patterns with a sleep monitor. You can try a headband monitor, such as the Zeo, (www.myzeo. com), or an armband monitor such as the SleepTracker, (www.sleeptracker.com). Each keeps track of your sleep cycle and helps you wake up at the optimal time. Know your family history Knowing your family’s medical history can help you identify patterns that might be relevant to your own heart health. There are a number of online tools such as My Family Health Portrait at https:// FamilyHistory.hhs.gov to help you gather and store that information. M


Places

in

The Past

By Grace Webb

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y day, Sibley Park looks like it usually does every winter: bare trees, a foot of snow, bleak gray and white colors as far as the eye can see. But by night, the park transforms into something magical: a world of dazzling lights, every color of the rainbow, glowing and twinkling and changing the park into a true winter wonderland. Sibley Park features more than 1 million Christmas lights this year, all patiently strung by the Mankato Kiwanis Club and volunteers from around the state. The idea was to create something breathtaking that could bring the Mankato community together. “This can be the key event that the Kiwanis can do to be part of the community, and be a great fundraiser to give back to the community,” said Kyle Mrozek, who helped organize the event. Mankato used to have spectacular lights displays every Christmas, but the lights went dim nearly 10 years ago. The Mankato Kiwanis Club wanted to bring the holiday tradition back, building on Mankato’s rich history while adding new ideas of its own. A city goes dark The city of Mankato lit up during the winter holidays as far back as the 1940s, when its Chamber of Commerce purchased new lights to string up along four downtown blocks, from Main Street to Cherry Street. Besides the lights, evergreen trees, stars 46 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

and lanterns were also placed along the streets to add to the Christmas cheer. Up until the 1970s, the Downtown Council would purchase holiday decorations, and city crews would put the decorations up. By 1980, however, Mankato had grown so much that the city could no longer afford to decorate its streets. When Christmas lights became too old and unsafe to string up in 1980, the City Council decided not to purchase new decorations, and Mankato lost its holiday glow. Trying again Shortly after the city of Mankato stopped organizing its holiday displays, two area couples decided to take matters into their own hands. It started in 1980 when Dan and Mary Jo Menden, of North Mankato, entered the annual Free Press holiday decorating competition and transformed their Mary Circle property into a spectacular holiday display. At the same time, Lee Schweim, who lived on Mankato’s North Broad Street, wanted to bring back Mankato’s holiday lights. He had always decorated his home with over-the-top displays, and now he proposed a plan to the city: If he received permission, he’d solicit support and commit himself and some friends to putting up a new holiday light display on the median that ran down his street. The city agreed. From there, things just snowballed. Every year, more and more


Let there be lights!

The Mankato Kiwanis light display at Sibley Park includes more than 1 million lights.

Mankato Kiwanis puts dazzling new twist on holiday tradition houses on North Broad Street and Mary Circle started participating in the holiday event. The two streets went from showcasing 1,000 lights to a 100,000 lights to nearly 1 million lights. Residents were spending upward of 60 hours meticulously planning and executing their home displays. The holiday spectacle drew thousands of visitors from around the state, attracting up to 80 tour buses a year. In fact, this “Festival of Lights” was listed as one of the top 10 tour group events in the state, according to the Mankato Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The event received statewide news coverage and even had a visit from then-governor Rudy Perpich, who gave participating residents a plaque celebrating their holiday cheer and charity. Within a few years, the city of Mankato realized the event’s potential and started offering more support. The name was changed to the “Celebration of Lights,” and even more activities were added. Mary Circle was even turned into a one-way from Thanksgiving to Christmas to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Starting a new tradition By the early 2000s, residents of North Broad Street and Mary Circle were finding it difficult to keep up with their dazzling reputation. In 2001, the North Broad Street display quietly died out, mostly because residents were growing older and finding it difficult to keep up the strenuous physical work. In 2004, the Mary Circle neighborhood followed suit and pulled the plug on

their holiday lights display. Thus, Mankato was once again left without holiday lights — until this year. The Mankato Kiwanis began planning for the display nearly two years ago, when one of the members who remembered Mankato’s spectacular holiday displays voiced the desire to create a holiday event for new generations. The club gathered ideas from other communities, met with the city and pitched a plan, going on to find sponsors and volunteers to help create the massive exhibit. The display features 1 million lights and is the product of thousands of volunteer hours from people from across the state. It lit up for the first time Nov. 23 and goes until Dec. 31. Many of the lights and displays were donated by residents who used to participate in the North Broad Street and Mary Circle event. In addition to the lights, the park’s “Holiday Lights” event includes a skating rink, Santa and reindeer and a tribute to U.S. Forces. Mrozek said Kiwanis has even more ideas for the future, but right now the group is just glad they were able to create something special for the community. “Our (display) is new but directly tied into the history of what (Mankato) had,” Mrozek said. “We’re trying to reach out to that history, but in some ways it’ll be something different that Mankato hasn’t seen. Hopefully, we start creating a new history with this.” M MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 47


Faces & Places

Photos By Sport Pix

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Cambria Crush Annual Grape Stomp at morgan creek vineyard 1. The grape stomp contest winners, the Pirates, were awarded with a case of the vineyard’s wine. 2. Bill Way, also known as the “Green Man,” stops for a photo. 3. Visitors were also entertained by dancers. 4. The Narren of New Ulm wear traditional masks as they enjoy a beverage on the tree swing. 5. John Turner pulls some bread and pizza out of the firebrick oven. 6. Brenden Humbard (left) and Sydney Massey enjoy a swing from the oak tree.

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48 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

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Faces & Places

Photos By Sport Pix

River Ramble Ride 2012 1. A participant waves as he speeds past on the Judson Bottom Road. 2. Riders head down the scenic Red Jacket Trail portion of the ride.

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3. Some groups rode for a cause, as was the case for the Moore Tour group. 4. A few riders biked alongside a Union Pacific train for a stretch of the trip. 5. There was a nice turnout once again as the ride entered its second year. 6. Participants brave a large hill on County Road 90 outside of Mankato.

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MANKATO MAGAZINE • december 2012 • 49


Faces & Places

Photos By Sport Pix

MArch of Dimes Signature Chef Auction 1. Hundreds turned out for this worthy cause at Snell Motors.

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2. Great food and drinks were part of the benefit for March of Dimes. 3. Bidders take a look at the silent auction tables. 4. Lisa of Minnesota 93.1 interviews Charley’s Executive Chef John Lowery. 5. Executive Chef Khwan Sukhum of the Best Western hands out one of his creations.

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The Way It Is

By Pete Steiner

The annual Christmas letter

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reetings! And deep thoughts for the Season (I’ve been reading and thinking): Ten or twenty-thousand years ago, glaciers scoured our landscape. When they at last retreated and their meltwater burst out from Lake Agassiz, creating the mighty River Warren, that eventually left the lovely valley in which our lives play out today. Time, not unlike a glacier, scours our lives, often destroying beloved components, yet also continually enriching our experience. The glaciers did their work over millennia. Our human perspective experiences the scouring of time over a much shorter span. A lot can happen in a year. Over the past few Decembers, I’ve used this space to indulge an Auld Lang Syne, to note a few of those cherished souls who’ve left us, whose loss diminishes our existence. But we also recall transitions and events that uplift us and make our lives better. •••• A nearly full moon was rising just above the Oleander. It was around 40 degrees, not bad for January in Minnesota. Across the street in the big room at the Eagles Club, they had gathered — Harley riders, Legion members, faces from the old crowd at Spinners. They were there to remember the burly guy with the hearty laugh and big bear hug who never got cheated out of a good time. “Tuna” had left us too soon. He was born the same year I was, and like me, Charlie Anderson had made his life in the Valley. Anybody who says a bartender 52 • december 2012 • MANKATO MAGAZINE

can’t make a difference, well, you wouldn’t have dared say that to the hundreds of mourners, many with brew in hand, who were laughing as much as they were mourning Charlie’s memory at his wake. His daughter Lacy eulogized by paraphrasing a rock classic: “git your motor runnin”, ridin’ off to Heaven, lookin’ for adventure ...” Also far too soon, we lost officer Troy Mueller in January. Cops operate in a dark world, dealing with people most of us want to avoid. But Officer Mueller always had something funny to say about it, always could look on the sunny side of life. I trust somebody still goes down to his man cave at home on football Saturdays to root for Notre Dame. At Kathi Cliff’s wake, among all the flowers and photos and mementos, there was a little printout that asked, “What do teachers make?” T h e answer h a d nothing to do with money. It said, teachers make kids wonder, make them question, make them think. She was only 64, but Kathi had enriched the lives of hundreds of children in her kindergarten classes through the decades. ••••

2012 has been unique in many ways. It was the year without winter and the summer of no rain. (I went two months without mowing my un watered lawn, and at the Vets Bridge, the river fell to record-low levels, below 1 foot in depth.) It was the year of the endless political campaign, which had actually begun early in the previous year; that must mean the 2016 presidential campaign is nearly ready to begin. In July, I hit a personal milestone, announcing my retirement from the newsroom. My mother, who at 91 still has a job, promptly told me that when you

retire, you die. So I made arrangements to keep working 20-25 hours a week. Still, I no longer get up at 4 a.m., and I go to far fewer night meetings. That the retirement is PARTIAL means I cannot join other Minnesota snowbirds. But last year, there was virtually no snow to flee. True, San Diego would be warmer, and we don’t have an ocean here. But the rent there is so much higher, and I truly do fear earthquakes. •••• On April 22, I just had to go see it, to hear it with my own ears. Elton John, one of the biggest stars in the world, made it Mankato. He performed a three-hour concert right here in my little town! Somehow that made me feel good about where I live. In fact, there was so much good entertainment here all year, that, well, I really think it makes that halfpercent sales tax worth it! Don’t tell Grover Norquist. •••• A person can’t come close to summing up a year in just one page. But unlike good old Aunt Mathilda, bless her, I’ve learned that most folks don’t want to plow through something resembling “Moby Dick” for their Christmas card, don’t need to know about the latest developments with their seventh cousin twice-removed in Seattle. Just the highlights, please. And a highlight for me was going to Taylor’s graduation last June. Taylor had lost his dad when he was very young. His dad was my supervisor and my friend. But here the son was, now a strapping young man, just like his dad had been, and he was surrounded by family and friends munching cake and peanuts, sipping lemonade, chatting, and celebrating his passage into manhood, watching him get ready to put his imprint on our world. That’s surely a hopeful image I’ll carry into 2013. Merry Christmas and all the best for the new year. M

Pete Steiner is host of “Talk of the Town” weekdays at 1:05 p.m. on KTOE.



Mankato Magazine