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NO. 28 • WINTER 2011-12




Center Stage Series Center for Faith and Life, Luther College, Decorah, Iowa

Got a great friend, teacher, staff, or simply a special someone? Treat them (and yourself) to the gift of a memorable performance of their choosing! Tickets and holiday-perfect gift cards are available in the Luther College Box Office in various amounts. Consider these great shows to spread joy in the midst of winter!  

Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul Friday, February 10, 2012 7:30 p.m.

$25, $23, $15. Tickets available Thursday, January 19. Dynamically altering the medium of fiddling while connecting Celtic, American, and world music.

Spirit of Uganda

Produced by Empower African Children Tuesday, February 21, 2012 7:30 p.m.

$24, $22, $15. Tickets available Thursday, January 19. Rhythmic drumming, vibrant voices, and spirited dancers bring to life lush East Africa.

The Brentano String Quartet

Fragments: Connecting Past and Present Friday, March 2, 2012 7:30 p.m.

$23, $21, $15. Tickets available Thursday, February 9. The Luther College Center Stage Series is delighted to be a co-commissioner for Fragments.

Center Stage Series tickets:, 563-387-1357,

Sponsored in part by Luther College Diversity Council

WINTER 2011-12 contents Oneota Film Festival

10 14 19

Science You’re Super: Snow!


Chef on the Block: Mattias Kriemelmeyer


Chinese New Year’s Eve (Let’s Party!)

Mississippi Mirth: Holy Hot Dish!

26 32 38 44 48

Probituary: Bob Usgaard


Mike McAbee THE Spirit of Uganda

page 10 page 32

Boxed (IN): La Crosse, Wisconsin Lanesboro Coffee Street Dancers Artist Feature: Knitter Bev Bakkum

page 44

...and more! ON THE COVER: Chinese New Year is a special time in publisher Aryn Henning Nichols’ heart. She lived in China for a year and thought for this Inspire(d) she’d tell you about it and share ideas for your own celebrations! Aryn bought these lanterns in Chinatown in San Francisco and shot this photo before the Driftless Art Collective’s Arty Party at T-Bock’s Second Floor. \ Winter 2011-12


Who says winter can’t leave you feeling all

Real men


SIM’S TV & ELECTRONICS Local & friendly US Cellular, Dish Network, Direct TV, & Satellite Internet services. We’ll help you plug into the world!


Check out our great selection of HD TVs, laptops, digital cameras, & electronics supplies – we’ve got your part or can order it.


Winter 2011-12 /

for all!

Tues-Sat: 11 - 3. Store opens at 10

Nestled in the heart of historic Decorah

113 W. Water Street . 563-382-3795


Mon - Fri 8 am - 6 pm • Sat 8 am - 5 pm • Thurs ‘til 8 pm

experience | Specials posted daily!


Under new ownership!

eat quiche!

Steak & Guinness Pie ...Bangers and Mash ...Cornish Pasties too!

A dining 112 Winnebago St., Decorah, Iowa 563-382-CELL (2355) •



Plug In


warm & fuzzy?

From the Editor What I love about new years is the new beginnings. The clean slate. A whole year stretching before you, full of possibility, dreams, goals, and progress. What I love about Chinese New Year is that if you didn’t get off to the amazing start you had hoped with the traditional calendar’s New Year, you can re-assert your hopes/goals/dreams with the lunar year! Hoorary for second chances! I also love the traditions of Chinese New Year – I lived in Southern China for a year teaching English, and try to host a Chinese New Year party each year for our friends and family. Plus it’s a great time of year for a party! You can read about my experiences and tips for celebrating this unique holiday in your own home on page 26. Inspire(d) has some of its own big goals this year – we’re working on year five of publishing this magazine, and are excited to keep making it better and better. In a way to help illustrate our readership’s region, we’ve decided to highlight the “Driftless” part of our cover. Let us know what you think. Maybe we’re just getting a little crazy as the depths of winter approach. But, of course, we’re here to tell you winter is not all bad! We’re nothing if not positive, you should know this by now! Read more about the fantastic world of snow on page 20, think about all the fabulous knitting you can do by getting inspire(d) by Waukon knitter Bev Bakkum on page 44, and take a fantastic little road trip to La Crosse with our Boxed (IN) on page 32. Seriously – winter is awesome. You know what else is awesome? People. People are awesome. Recent Luther graduate Madison McMullen, for instance, started a youth dance group in tiny Lanesboro while just a junior in college (pg. 38)! Mike McAbee continues to chase the dream, creating a life, love, and career as a musician in Northeast Iowa (pg. 10). The non-profit organization Empower Africa Children does just that – and we get a chance to see what they’re all about through the Spirit of Uganda as the drum and dance production tours Northeast Iowa (pg. 14). We also get the chance to check out the Oneota Film Festival (pg. 19), make hot dishes casseroles (pg. 48), eat tasty food like what Chef Mattias Kriemelmeyer serves up at Decorah’s Oneota Co-op (pg.22), and in general just enjoy this holiday season. So, dear reader, curl up by a fire or with a cup of something warm and enjoy being Inspire(d). Winter’s not so bad. And Happy New Year. Xin nian kuai le. Gung hay fat choy! (Now go light some firecrackers!) Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Just what IS the Driftless Region? While much of the Midwest is pretty flat terrain, the Driftless Region is a section of the Upper Midwest that was skipped by the glaciers, leaving the bluffs and valleys that make this region so darn beautiful. The term “Driftless” means there is a lack of “drift”, the glacial stuff such as sediment or large rocks that was left behind when the glaciers last slid across the land many, many years ago.Inspire(d) Magazine covers just a part of the Driftless Region – roughly a 70-mile radius of Decorah including towns such as Lanesboro, Rochester, Winona, La Crosse, Prairie du Chien, McGregor, Elkader, Postville, West Union, Fayette, Calmar, Cresco, and more. We want our readers to understand it’s important to work together as a region to thrive and grow. Together we are strong. Together we create better events, better commerce, and better opportunities for residents and visitors alike. Spread the word: tell someone about the Driftless Region today!

Inspire magazine

Who are we? Co-founders: Aryn Henning Nichols / editor & designer Benji Nichols / writer & advertising sales (& husband, support team, dinner-maker)

We couldn’t do it without: Kristine Kopperud Jepsen/ contributor Allison Croat/ intern Jim McCaffrey/ Mississippi Mirth

Inspire(d) Magazine is published quarterly by Inspire(d) Media, LLC, 412 Oak Street, Decorah, Iowa, 52101. This issue is dated Winter 2011-12, issue 28, volume 5, Copyright 2011-12 by Inspire(d) Magazine.

support inspire(d) Although Inspire(d) is free on the newsstands, you can have it sent to your door for only $25/year. Email for a membership or visit for more info.

Write inspire(d) Want to make a comment about something you read in the magazine? Email Interested in advertising? Contact Benji at or call 563-387-6290.

Visit our website: “Like” Inspire(d) Media on Facebook! 05


Looking for more details about events on the calendars? Check out these fantastic winter activities! In chronological order, each event’s number coincides with the number on the calendar!

1. December 1: It’s Holiday Lights Magical Nights Time! Pulpit Rock Campground, Decorah. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays & Every night Christmas week. Freewill donation supports Helping Services,


local to a whole new level.

2. December 3-4: ArtHaus Holiday Art Fair, 10 Artists, 2 Locations. Shop Local at the ArtHaus and ArtHaus Studio (508 and 516 W. Water St.) Saturday 10-5, Sunday 11-3, FREE – www.arthausdecorah. org

Books by local and regional authors available in your local bookstore! WWW.DRAGONFLYBOOKS.COM 563-382-4275 • 112 West Water Street Decorah • Store Hours: M.Tu.W.F 10-5:30 | Th 10-8 | Sat 10-5

Start planning your garden now! 2012 Catalog available in December

Call, go online, or stop out at the Visitors Center to get a catalog.

3. December 31: THE NYE PARTY with Galactic Cowboy Orchestra & Mike McAbee, Elks Lodge, Decorah. Dancing, bubbles, fun festivities! 7pm until its over…

25W/ $25B

4 January 19: New Minowa Players presents The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) A family-friendly show! January 19 22 & 27-28. Information at 563-382-5174 (recording) or 563-379-5738 (Sheryl). 5. January 20-22: Third Annual Oneota Film Festival. View Nationally and regionally recognized films in multiple venues on the Luther College Campus. New in 2012 – submit your film. More at

December Specials

50% 2011 Seed OFF


10% Books OFF Tools–Gloves–Dishtowels–Hats–Calendars–Ornaments–More

Lillian Goldman Visitors Center Open Mon-Fri 9-5 • Weekends 10-5 through Dec. 23

upcoming event

Winter on the Farm

Horse drawn sleigh rides, old-fashioned holiday treats & more Saturday, December 17, 11am-2:30pm

Seed Savers Exchange

3074 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 563-382-5990 • 563-382-6104 • 06

Winter 2011-12 /

More 25 Words/$25 Bucks events on page 9! \ Winter 2011-12


fun stuff to do


Tuesday Wednesday


Friday Saturday



DJ Smiley, Haymarket, Decorah

21 22

Dec 17: Burning Bright, 1st United Methodist, Decorah, 5 & 7:30pm



Vesterheim Free Thursday, every Dec. Thursday!

Joe & Vicki Price, T-bock’s, Decorah

Merry Christmas!



28 29

Vesterheim Free Thursday!– Cabin Fever Open House, 11am-3pm

Dec 31: Volcano Holiday, Haymarket


T-bock’s Mike Holiday Lights Magical Vesterheim Open Stage McAbee, Nights through Dec 25, Free night w/ Thursday-Sunday, open every Old Store, Thursday! Kaija Kjome, Frankville night of Christmas week. T-Bock’s, Decorah, Dec 23: Catfish Keith, The Mill, Iowa City 7pm




National Hot Cocoa Day!

Ryan Adams, State Theatre, Minneapolis




Big Daddy Cade, Haymarket


Bluff Country Artist Gallery Cookie Walk, Spring Grove, 9am


31 New Year’s Eve!

Christmas Eve – hooooray!


Decorah NYE Bash with Galactic Cowboy Orchestra & Mike McAbee, Elks Lodge


Holiday 23 Sing-Along with Dan Chouinard, St. Mane Theatre, Lanesboro, 7:30pm

Winter on the Farm, Seed Saver’s, Decorah Lew Klimesh 11amBand, 2:30pm Haymarket


Joe & Vicki Price, The Root Note, La Crosse

8 DOSH, 9 Lady Antebellum, General B “Winter Wonderland” & The Wiz, La Crosse Holiday Exhibition bo.monro, Center, Reception, Minnesota Club 7:30pm Marine Art Museum, 5pm Pyramid, Dec 10: Hesper Christmas Cantata, Decorah, 10pm Hesper Friends Church, 7:30pm


Kathy Griffin, Gallagher Bluedorn PAC, Cedar Falls, 7:30pm


Luther Jazz Q4 Christmas Jam, Jensen, 3pm


2 2 3 1 Mike Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17: Dec. 3-4: The Pines, McAbee, Winter Market Strasse, Rochester, 11-8 The Root Note, ArtHaus Dec. 2-4: Forgotten Carols, Elkader Opera House Players Horseshoe, Holiday Art La Crosse Dec. 3-4: Vesterheim Norwegian Christmas Weekend Calmar Fair, 10-5 1 Holiday Lights Decorah Holiday Parade December 1-4: Luther Artists Collective Magical Nights Opens, & Fireworks, 6 pm Christmas Sale, Dahl Centennial Union Decorah Campground Two Many Banjos, Haymrkt



Dec. 3: Johnny Rawls Blues Review w/ Paul Kaye & the Blues Cartel, Nob Dec. 3: Book launch of Susan M. Nelson’s “A Dead Woman’s Hill, 7pm Mirror” (pub. posthumous), Baker Commons, Luther, 1-4 pm

T-Bock’s Open Stage night w/ Jeni Grouws, Decorah, 7pm


Martin Sexton, Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul




Monty Python’s “Spamalot”, Gallagher Bluedorn, Cedar Falls, 2 & 7:30pm

New Year’s Day



2 3



Mamma Mia, La Crosse Center, 7:30pm


Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Dragon…


Martin Luther King Jr. Day



Mike McAbee, Horseshoe, Calmar





Watch for Vesterheim “Free FIRST Thursday” Events in 2012!

Iowa Caucuses









Kinderhaus fundraiser w/ Absolute Hoot, Elks Lodge, Decorah



Jan 27-28: Iowa Bicycle Summit & Expo, Des Moines


Gypsy Lumberjacks, Haymarket

Vesterheim Exhibitions —”The Peale Collection: Norwegian Furniture from Hill Farm,” and “Sigvald Asbjørnsen, Sculptor” through 2012.

January 25-29: Frozen River Film Festival, Winona, MN

Joe & Vicki Price, Spring Grove Movie Theatre


El Caminos, 4 Jan. 19-22 & 27-28: New Minow The Back 40, Players presents The Big Friendly Giant Caledonia, MN

5 Jan 20-22: 3rd Annual Oneota Film Festival, Decorah



Dinner on the Bluff w/ Craig Blacklock, Eagle Bluff, Lanesboro

Jan 7: La Crosse YMCA New Year’s Resolution 5K Run, 8am


Decorah Rotary Chili Supper, Decorah High School, 5-7pm

Jan 19-20: “Rock of Ages”, Gallagher Bluedorn, Cedar Falls, 7:30pm

18 Tea Leaf Green, The Mill, Iowa City

Jan 23: Roller Derby – Mississippi Valley Mahem vs Mad Rollin’ Dolls’ Quad Squad, High Roller Skating Center, La Crosse



JANUARY 20: La Crosse Children’s Museum “Night Out”, 5:30-8pm Joe & Vicki Price, Ed’s No Name Bar, Winona Michelle Lynn, Two Tiger’s Art Gallery, Minneapolis




fun stuff to do


Winter 2011-12 /

Tuesday Wednesday



T-Bock’s Open Stage Februaru 29: Reverend Night Horton Heat, w/ Helen First Ave, Johnson, Minneapolis Decorah, 7pm


Presidents Day Apollo Cobra, Haymarket

Spirit of Uganda, Gallagher Bluedorn, Cedar Falls, 3pm







Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul, Luther Center Stage



See 11 sidebar to left!


Jeffrey Foucault, The Root Note, La Crosse


23 ArtHaus Poetry Slam, Elks Lodge, Decorah


24 Garnett Rogers, Pump House, La Crosse


Feb 17-19: ArtHaus Presents, Rothrock/Bourcier Cabaret, 7 Fri-Sat 8pm, Sun 4pm





Feb 11-12: Eagle Bluff “Becoming an Outdoor Family” Winter Weekend, Lanesboro


Mike McAbee, Hideaway, leap Lower year! Chaseburg, WI



Mike McAbee, My Second Home, La Crosse


2: The Brentano String Quartet, Luther College CSS 3: XI OMICRON Benefit Show with El Caminos, Elks, Decorah 3: Dinner on the Bluff with Bryant Tarr, Eagle Bluff, Lanesboro 3: The Chieftans, Gallagher Bluedorn PAC, Cedar Falls 4: Mark Nizer, 3D Juggler/Comedian, Elkader Opera House, 2pm 23-24: Save the Date for Edible Alien Theater – details to come!


Spirit of Uganda, Luther Center Stage Series


Zoe Keating, Englert Theatre, Iowa City

Valentine’s Day!



See ArtHaus sidebar First Friday, New Works by to left! Emily Temte, 7-9pm Feb 3-4: The Second City Laugh Out Loud Tour, Englert Theatre, Iowa City

Ground Hog Day


February 11: La Crosse YMCA “Heart Throb” 5K Run, 8am Joe & Vicki Price, Byron’s, Pomeroy, IA El Caminos, Sandbar, Lansing Boys N the Barrels, Haymarket



Feb 7: “Elvis Lives”, Gallagher Bluedorn PAC, Cedar Falls, 7:30pm


Dinner on the Bluff with Gene Merriam, Eagle Bluff, Lanesboro, 5:30pm


February 4: Barneløpet, Children’s X-Country Ski Event, Decorah Prairie, 10am Leo Kotke, Sheldon Theatre, Red Wing, MN Joe & Vicki Price, The Starlite, La Crosse




fun stuff to do












Inspire(d) World’s Greatest Party


Inspire(d) invites you to the world’s greatest party in the world’s greatest venue! We’ll have amazing amounts of fun! See you there! Time, day, month.



Learn more about 25 Words/$25 Bucks at

See - we told you about our amazing fictional party in just 25 words! On the visual calendar (like the one at left), your event will be listed along with a number that corresponds. People can just scan on over to the following pages to get the details!


For example:

So we’ve added some pages starting with this issue and have implemented a simple, expandable list of events after our regular calendars (see the next couple of pages). Those planning “fun stuff to do” will get a guaranteed spot on the calendar and in the event listing by purchasing “25 Words/$25 Bucks.” We know it’s a tough racket to put on live music, activities, and special events, so we want to give you a chance to get the word out without breaking the bank.

Calendar time is always an exciting time at Inspire(d) Headquarters. “Just how much can we fit on there this month?!?” Up to this point, what we’ve chosen for these lovely pages has been entirely editorial and subjective. We figure, hey, you like our magazine, so you’ll probably like the fun stuff to do that we pick out from around our region. But we’re running out of space and want you, our lovely readers, friends, and fellow event-planners, to be able to tell us a little more about your fun.

25 Words/$25 Bucks


Looking for details about events? Check out these fantastic winter activities! In chronological order, each event’s number coincides with the number on the calendar!

6. February 3: ArtHaus First Friday Opening: View new works by Emily Temte, 7-9pm at the ArtHaus and ArtHaus Studio (508 and 516 W. Water St.) 7. February 17-19: ArtHaus presents Rothrock Bourcier Cabaret: Half-Priced Chocolates in a Heart-Shaped Box, Friday and Saturday at 8:00, Sunday at 4:00, $14/$7 students; $12/$6 for Sunday matinee 8. February 24: Do not miss the ArtHaus Poetry Slam! Friday, February 24, 8pm, $5/$3 students, at Decorah Elks Lodge, Sponsored by Dragonfly Books, www.

DO YOU LOVE INSPIRE(D)? Help support us! Become a member of our family, or give us one of your family members (aka give them the gift of Inspire(d) for one of these lovely upcoming holidays)! When you become a member (just $25!), you get Inspire(d) Driftless Magazine sent to your door for one year for FREE! Go to, click on “Become a Member”, and check out with PayPal. It’s that easy! Thank you for your support – you inspire us.

You know what else you’ll find at • Local gift ideas! • Great tips for outdoor winter activities! • It’s Roller Derby season – revisit Aryn Henning Nichols’ “Derby Girls” story. • Or getaway to Decorah this winter – take our suggestions in “Decorah I Adore Ya” • And more! And at, we give away fun, in the form of gift certificates, tickets, and more! Like us to stay in the loop!

Save money... AND the world! (Almost) Everybody’s doing it!



• Residential & business programs • Partnerships & volunteer opportunities

Visit us online at or call 563-382-4207


507.226.3735 | 255 5th St. SE, Harmony, MN |


Market Hours Sunday, Nov. 27th: 5-8pm

Fridays & Saturdays, Dec. 2nd-17th: 11am-8pm Location: Peace Plaza, Downtown Rochester For a full schedule of Market Strasse & Santa’s Arrival events, visit:

QUARTER/quarter Restaurant & Wine Bar

Stephen Larson Chef/Owner

Serving refined comfort foods in a contemporary setting

Please call for current hours, reservations or to arrange a special party.

507.886.5500 | 25 Center Street East, Harmony, MN

where nature and art are merely the raw material We use natural, local materials. We create pragmatic, modern, inspired landscapes.

507-281-3865 • Serving all locations since 1998 \ Winter 2011-12



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“Dentist day! Those 6 months took FORever!” Okay…we know you’re probably not going to say that. But we do have digital x rays with less radiation, metal-free dentistry available, plus cable TV in every room, local art, nice views, and, of course, free toothbrushes and floss. Hooray for Dentist Day!

Dr. Jon R. Hart • Dr. Peter J. Blodgett • Dr. John E. Wilmes • Dr. Lana W. McDermott 108 Fifth Avenue, Decorah, Iowa • 563-382-3657 • Visit our website at: 10

Winter 2011-12 /


he rest, folks, is the very true story of how McAbee – known to many as Mr. “I Like to Pee Outside” – carved out love, life, and a career as a full-time musician in rural Northeast Iowa with little more than a guitar, a kilt, and an entrepreneurial



www.kd com

spirit. “Well,” McAbee says, squaring his shoulders and puffing his chest a bit, “like most earnest young musicians, I always figured I’d be a ‘serious’ singer-songwriter.” It’s hard to imagine a serious side to this man best known for his irreverent lyrics and on-stage antics – such as playing “Johnny B. Goode” by holding his guitar to a ceiling fan. Often in (and on) bars in the region, McAbee heads out in his regular stage get-up – plaid flannel shirt, khaki kilt, and sneakers – with a guitar slung like a weedeater over his shoulder, mouth Photo by Aryn Henning Nichols open wide in song, thoroughly alive in the moment. Whether he’s the center of attention or not, McAbee screams fun. Literally – he sometimes screams “fun!” But McAbee isn’t all jokes and funny tunes. It takes a certain bravado to be “that guy” three to four nights a week, or 250 shows a year. For McAbee, it started in the late 90s, after he’d graduated from Luther College’s art scene and had already spent nearly a decade as a professional trucker, first of Ore-Ida potatoes, then of fine art (including Oprah’s portrait of her dog and Madonna’s first baby crib, but that’s another story...or another Mike McAbee song). “At the time, my son Abe was little, and I wanted to be close enough to see him regularly in Wisconsin,” he says. “I could live anywhere between Chicago and Minneapolis and still be accessible for the trucking gigs.” So, he gave his old college town the old college try. “I had just gotten divorced [reader, please reference “Divorce Alone” on his first CD ‘Live at the Cresco Opera House’], and I realized I had a second chance to prioritize my life. Not many people get to say, ‘You know, I’m not sure I need this mortgage, two cars, this domesticity’ and have the freedom to figure out another way.” So, he went back to gigging, playing two shows a month, then six, then 10, connecting with audiences over song topics such as used cars [reference: “20 Cars,” once featured by NPR’s “Car Talk”] or small-town Midwestern life, with some folksy philosophy thrown in for good measure. While it may have been his quirky covers of everyone from Johnny Cash to the Violent Femmes that gave McAbee his reputation, he

SAVE ON! \ Winter 2011-12


e om c l We o t

207 WAShIngton STREet, DecOrah, iowa • 563.517.1022 Take a class. Schedule a party. Walk by & pop in to paint a quick pot. We can’t wait to see you!

Happify your creative side! CLASSES • EVENTS • WORKSHOPS

inspire & create

Stop by or give us a call! 508 W. Water St. Decorah, 563.382.5440

See Inspire(d) calendar or ArtHaus website for details!



Lunch & dinner Monday - Saturday • 563-382-3067 12

Winter 2011-12 /

quickly leveraged the exposure to launch his own songs – lots of them – writing whenever the mood struck him. “I Like to Pee Outside” came about while he was planted on the sofa, watching football. “I started thinking how ridiculous it was to waste two to six gallons of water flushing the toilet during halftime, when really, I would rather just go outside. Simple, but true,” he says with a laugh. Now settled in an old retrofitted bank building in Frankville, with wife (and Decorah KinderHaus director) Mika and new daughter Lula Mae, McAbee does a few regular gigs weekly and monthly, and travels hundreds of miles “up and down the Mississippi River Valley and throughout the Midwest” to perform single shows. Sometimes it’s even a family affair – for Halloween, he and Mika Photo by Lisa Brainard carved a booster seat from a pumpkin for little Lula Mae, who caught part of his show in full costume. He tries not to “overplay” a location – that’s why he’s so infrequently in and around Decorah. “Your hometown crowd carries mixed associations,” he says, probing at the right words, like he’s counting syllables for lyrics. “These are your friends, your family, the people who know you off stage. Sometimes you don’t want to be both business and leisure.” “It’s kind of an odd thing, being in business for yourself fulltime,” McAbee continues. “There are things I love – I set my own schedule, and hey, I get to play music. And of course, there are things about it that I don’t like – I’m gone every weekend, for example – and you have to do what pays the bills, which might mean selling “I Like to Pee Outside” koozies from my website, when I really want to sit people down and make them listen to an entire album of serious witty stuff that I recorded but never released.” That said, his Decorah friends and family still want to see him around. “Sometimes, my friends ‘book’ me just so that they can hang out with me. Literally, they pay me so that I don’t have to be out gigging for my house payment,” he says. “It’s a little weird.” While making the mortgage is of course important, McAbee’s still not all about the money. Growing up, his father was a minister, and it became fairly commonplace that he’d be playing a Christmas Eve gig in a bar at the very hour his dad delivered his Eve message in a church up the street. “I sort of felt like we were both ministering somehow,” he says. “Christmas is an emotional time of year for everybody. It’s the darkest season in lots of ways, but there’s this rising spirit of goodwill. You have dark and light. Dark and light. I wrote ‘World’s Oldest Trucker’ thinking about my dad.” The song is about Santa, who laments that modern gifting seems far removed from the joy of giving. But, he doesn’t hang up the harness. Instead, he thinks of the warmth of the home he’s returning to and how his work still changes some lives for the better, even though he doesn’t always get credit. “I was in tears finishing that,” McAbee says, “not because it was so awesome but because I connected to it. I wrote it thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s something I want to hear.’” The tune appeared in 2009 on “Helping (Inspire) Services for Northeast Iowa,” a locally produced

album featuring mostly Iowa musicians and ensembles. It was distributed during Holiday Lights Magical Nights, and all proceeds went to support Helping Services for Northeast Iowa, a nonprofit that provides family programming and mentoring for at-risk children and adults. You could say McAbee’s next set will continue playing for the common good. “I have a two-month-old daughter, born the same week my son got his learner’s permit,” he says, stating more a mission than a fact. “I want to be home more, and I have to be more involved in my community to see it be the place I want to raise her in.” So he does a free mini concert for the Postville School District, where Lula will enroll, and he’s looking to rev up his local Elks chapter. He’s also volunteer entertainment for the Ossian [Iowa] Senior Hospice and at Northgate Care Center in Waukon. [No comment on whether they have ceiling fans fit for Johnny B. Goode.] “I don’t care about getting ‘Famous’ famous,” McAbee says, “but I do want people to listen to me long enough to understand that I’m doing this to get my serious thoughts out, as well as my funny stuff.” Although he’s probably not going to stop wearing a kilt or playing

HOLIDAY TRUNK SHOWS Thanksgiving through Christmas

Featuring the works of Kristi Evenson, CB&CO, Helen Wang and Pam Kester, Rare Bird Artful Adornments

Agora Arts

104 E. Water St Decorah IA 52101 • 563 382-8786

non-profit, non-partisan, interfaith resource center Offering services such as: Diversity Training • Conflict Resolution Training & Facilitation • Facilitation of interfaith events and initiatives • Immigration assessment & document processing • Mediation Services • Human rights education & advocacy • Peer-support substance abuse counseling • And much more.

119 Winnebago St, Decorah, IA 563-382-5337 More information at

promoting peace, pursuing justice

Photo by Aryn Henning Nichols

“Wisconsin Small Town Polka”, the singer-songwriter appears to be approaching his self-professed ideal: “Mike McAbee – Trucker, Musician, Sensitive Guy.” Kristine Kopperud Jepsen tips her hat to anyone who makes music for a living. A closet clarinet player, she hopes to learn to improvise in this lifetime. In the meantime, you’ll find her writing about farming and other occupational hazards at \ Winter 2011-12


Photo by Dan Ozminkowski

Music = Life, Hope... the Spirit of Uganda

By Benji Nichols

Shining bright smiles, indigenous rhythms telling the stories of thousands of years, movement as powerful as life itself: this is the Spirit of Uganda. When you ask someone what they know about an eastern African country like Uganda, chances are it’s limited and far from positive. Despite the negatives – and there are plenty of them – the people of Uganda continue to not only exist, but foster their traditions and ways of centuries past with brilliant passion. Most dear to heart are the thousands of years of drum and dance culture – passed down from generation to generation, from womb to grave. Luther College student and native Ugandan Dickson Kwatampora explains, “In Uganda, you have many tribes and kings that have been preserved for ages. The traditions have been preserved, and you learn them by learning their music – their language.” And that music, that language – in more than one sense – is life.


Winter 2011-12 /

The Republic of Uganda, aptly nicknamed “the pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, is a relatively small country. Several large lakes help define the country’s geography and also provide the source of the Nile River. Amongst rich natural resources and beautiful terrain, Uganda is equal parts modern African success story and tragic history. The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s left millions of orphaned children throughout the country, making up a staggering estimate of 10 to 15 percent of the population, and of Uganda’s entire population, over 50 percent are under the age of 15 – the largest percentage of any country. (Read that again!) Only in recent years has the government shown relative stability, modern growth, steadily falling AIDS rates, and a bourgeoning tourism industry.

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But much is left to improve with continued concern over serious human rights issues, poverty stricken rural areas, and instability in national leadership. Thus countless aid organizations have been working on fronts throughout the country for decades – including helping young people who have lost one or both parents. Forced to fend for themselves, or work to feed their families, these children often lose the opportunity for even the most basic of educations. “Even to attend a primary school in Uganda, you have to have enough money for a uniform, books, food – those can be preventing hardships,” says Dickson Kwatampora. “A typical villager may live on around $1 a day, and often even if people can make money, they don’t see the need for education in comparison to feeding their family. If a family farms on a small piece of inherited land and has enough to exist, that is the priority. If a family member is off at school or spending money to go to school, they can’t help on the farm or in the village. It is a cycle – wealth is not prominent.” And like the shrill cries heard amongst the sweet harmonies of traditional Ugandan music – despite all of the circumstances and challenges that exist – the inherent comfort of joy is found in the rhythms of tradition. Kwatampora adds with a perfect accent, “Because even if you don’t know any other way of life, of course you still find happiness.”

Empowering African Children In 1993, Texas native Alexis Hefley was 10 years into a career in banking and finance. Through multiple connections, Hefley became familiar with the challenges and atrocities taking place in Eastern Africa, and despite having a great career, found that she was being pulled to do something bigger with her life. A congressional connection put her on a path to visit Uganda and meet First Lady Janet Museveni. Through her experiences, including an introduction to The Daughters of Charity orphanages, Hefley saw firsthand the needs of Ugandan orphans. It was there she met Sister Rose, whose work – spanning 40 years and three orphanages – helped thousands of Ugandan children and gave her the moniker “Uganda’s Mother Theresa”. For the orphans, a major part of life was spent learning the ancient culture of song and dance, giving them a larger sense of place and community within their fostered home.

Whether your event is big or small, we offer a variety of custom menus showcasing locally grown foods and homemade recipes. We also have beverage service featuring house baked goods and Starbucks coffees. Peace Dining Room overlooks the beautiful Oneota Valley and accommodates 200+ guests. Reserve your event today by contacting the Catering Department at 563-387-1395 or email

Don't forget these upcoming events: Sunday Peace Brunch in the Peace Dining Room is back starting on February 5, 2012. Call 563-387-1030 for reservations today. The first spring installation of the Center Stage Dinner Series is on February 10, 2012 for Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul, featuring traditional Irish-inspired food. Alexis Hefley \ Winter 2011-12


“One of the things I realized was that by investing in young peoples across the world. lives,” says Hefley, “by truly empowering children to pursue a path – The program has already seen multiple full circle success anything is possible.” Upon returning to the US, Hefley knew she had stories, like Uganda native Peter Kasule. found her calling – to help do just that: empower orphaned children “Peter is a great example,” says Hefley. “He graduated from high in Uganda. school in Texas, went to Santa Fe, interned at the World Bank and Shortly after her return, a non-profit organization was created to is now back in Uganda working. He has his own recording studio, fundraise and support programs for Ugandan orphans. Eventually and comes on tour with us as artistic director. Investing in his this became Empower African Children – the non-profit that potential has touched so many other young lives.” presents the Spirit of Uganda performance ensemble. At its root, Indeed, Peter was born in Kampala in 1981 and lost both of his the group not only provides the basics of daily life to Ugandan parents by the time he was a teenager. Through his involvement at orphans, but most the Daughters of Charity importantly educational Orphanage and with the opportunities in holistic assistance of Empower environments. As their African Children, he website states, “Food, is now a successful shelter, and medicine producer, performer, can sustain a life, but to DJ, and role model in transform a child’s life, Uganda. nothing compares to Through the work education.” of Empower African Empower African Children and the Spirit Children runs The of Uganda ensemble, Kisugu House in there are many more Kampala, Uganda, examples of students which provides a home who have truly been for 38 children. The empowered to find facility also acts as a their path. The hope is rehearsal home for that there will be many, the Spirit of Uganda many more in the near ensemble. School fees future, especially after and supplies, as well the development of a as basic life essentials, secondary school just See Spirit of Uganda LIVE! outside of Kampala. A 10-acre parcel has and ongoing counseling and support are provided at no cost. been purchased and plans drawn up for February 19: Gallagher Bluedorn The Spirit of Uganda performance is Performing Arts Center, UNI, Cedar Falls the campus that will educate up to 400 a way for Empower African Children to February 21: Center for Faith and Life, students at a time – the majority funded show the world what the organization and through scholarships from Empower Luther College, Decorah Uganda is all about. With 22 performers African Children. In addition, a US from age nine to 20, the group provides powerful examples of scholarship program makes it possible for some of the best and traditional drum, dance, and song from Uganda’s many regions and brightest to attend US colleges and universities so that they may surrounding areas. Touring every two years in the US, each of the come home to Uganda and in turn educate and empower people in performers has their own unique journey in life, often involving the their own communities. loss of one or both parents. By performing with the Spirit of Uganda, “It’s about success stories,” says Hefley, “windows of opportunity students are given the opportunity to learn and share in an ancient to empower children who say ‘If you invest in me, I am going oral tradition, while also having their voices and stories heard somewhere,’ and those young people go on to change lives.”

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2011-12 Season details at


Winter 2011-12 /

Photo by Dan Ozminkowski

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That circle of transformation is as valuable as the ancient messages and rhythms performed on stage each night by the Spirit of Uganda. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of the incredible process as they share all of their joy from eastern Africa with audiences in eastern Iowa this February. Benji Nichols is a native of Northeast Iowa who experienced the profound power of African drum and dance while studying at the Berklee College of Music and traveling to Africa in the late 1990s. He is incredibly grateful to be able to help support the mission of Empower African Children and the Spirit of Uganda organizations in whatever small way possible, and encourages you to see one of their performances in February!


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Inspire(d) by this story about the Spirit of Uganda? Would you like to help these amazing young people continue on their paths to changing Uganda? Here’s how you can directly help: • Buy a ticket to one of Spirit of Uganda’s performances in eastern Iowa this February. By purchasing a ticket, you directly support funding the Spirit of Uganda 2012 tour, which funds much of Empower African Children’s work. Sunday, February 19: Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on the University of Northern Iowa Campus, 3 pm. Tuesday, February 21: Luther College Center Stage Series, Center for Faith and Life, Decorah, 7:30 pm. centerstage • Make a tax-deductible donation to Empower African Children online, by phone, or by mail: • 214828-9323 • P.O. Box 141226,Dallas, TX 75214 • Connect and help promote the Spirit of Uganda tour on Facebook and through sharing this article with your friends and family (also available at Keep an eye out for special events and workshops in both Cedar Falls and Decorah that may give you opportunities to interact directly with the staff and cast. • Check out a new project of Empower African Children called Uwezo. Launching this winter is a line of funky, unique shoes produced by Africans in Africa. Each purchase empowers African children with educational opportunities. Check out more at

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Thursday-Friday, January 19-20, 2012 7:30 p.m. Adult: $58, $53, $50, $38, $33

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Oneota Film Festival: Submit (WIN!), Volunteer, Watch, Support! By Allison Croat


tep aside Sundance. Look out Los Angeles. Back up Berlin – the Midwest is buffing up…on films, that is. This winter, the Driftless Region and surrounding areas will welcome the Oneota Film Festival (OFF) back to Decorah screens. Films for the popular event, now it it’s third year, will be shown January 20 through 22, 2012, on the Luther College campus. These generally aren’t films you’d see scrolling through Netflix or Redbox. “We like to provide content that folks don’t have access to anywhere else,” says Kristin Torresdal, vice president and treasurer of OFF. The festival operates under a common, but flexible theme: current and relevant issues. So at Oneota Film Festival, you might see an adventure film on one screen, and in the next hour, take in an environmental flick, or something covering community and family, or the ever hot-button topic of sustainable energy. “We keep the theme broad and have categories that connect to our region,” says festival director Kyra Bellrichard. “A focus on local issues raises some motivating conversations between viewers.” These conversations are a big part of OFF’s mission. There are a number of follow-up discussions and panels – sometimes even including directors or writers from the films – for viewers to further participate in and process a movie’s message. “We want the ideas from the films to take action, to have a lasting impact,” Bellrichard says. Along with discussions, many film websites have additional information about how to help or donate, and things you can do locally to take action. Access to these websites and other ways you can get involved – even in the festival itself – is and will be available at For the filmmaker, submissions are also encouraged! This year, the festival is doing something a little different: juried submissions with the top film earning a cash prize of $500. There is also a $100 award for the best student film. Often, as mentioned, filmmakers get to speak

directly after their screening, fielding questions from audience members about not only the broad goals of the film, but technical things like “how you did that cool special effect” or “how’d you make your backyard into such an amazing film set?” Submission guidelines for filmmakers may also be found at At the time this Inspire(d) is hitting the press, the OFF schedule was not yet finalized, but readers can count on a few dozen carefully selected films well worth the trip out into winter weather. Up for consideration are movies such as The City Dark, Truck Farm, Miss Representation, Long Treks on Skate Decks, and more (note consideration – these movies may not be on the 2012 OFF docket). Luther College is once again graciously hosting the event, and the Oneota Community Food Co-op and Sodexo Dining Services are primary sponsors, in addition to support from many other businesses and individuals. OFF is a not-for-profit event, thanks to the fiscal agency of Driftless Arts Collective. With assistance from these supporters, attendance to the festival remains affordable to everyone: it’s FREE! Register at the event or avoid lines by signing up online now, or head online to find more information about volunteering at the weekend-long event. Whether you come for the films, the discussion, or just to have a reason to get out of the house in January, the Oneota Film Festival is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Forget the global film festival hotshots and check out the local phenomenon known as OFF. Allison Croat loves to travel, and in fact considers Ireland a second home after spending a semester in Galway. On plane rides, she passes the time by knitting and/or crocheting – her current project is a blanket! She also enjoys reading and writing, and usually has a book in her hand. She’s really excited to be writing for Inspire(d)!

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Summer Hours (Apr-Oct) Monday-Saturday 8:00 am - 8:30 pm Sunday 10:00 am - 7:00 pm Winter Hours (Nov-Mar) Monday-Saturday 8:00 am - 8:00 pm Sunday 10:00 am - 7:00 pm

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You're super!


or The Clouds Are Falling! Story and graphic by Aryn Henning Nichols

We all know what that white stuff is falling from the sky. The s word. Snow. But it really is truly amazing just how truly amazing frozen water can be! Let’s take a moment to appreciate snow as the beautiful and incredibly interesting/cool/ unique thing it is (instead of complaining about it on Facebook!). First, the basics: snow is made up of snowflakes (groundbreaking!). A snowflake can mean one, a few, or many snow crystals. A snow crystal is a single crystal of ice. Even though sometimes raindrops freeze as they fall, this is not snow – it’s sleet, and sleet does not have the intricate patterns found in snow crystals (so complain away about sleet, in my opinion). Snow crystals, on the other hand, form when water vapor condenses directly into ice, which happens in the clouds. The patterns emerge as the crystals grow. (1) Simple, right? Well…sort of simple.


Winter 2011-12 /

As we said, it all starts in a cloud – which is just a big mass of water vapor, or condensed air, high up in the sky. As water vapor gets colder, eventually it begins to condense (turn from vapor into water). It condenses into tons of itty bitty droplets, where each droplet contains at least one dust particle. A snowflake begins to form when an extremely cold water droplet in the cloud freezes on its dust particle. This creates an ice crystal.(1) As the ice crystal falls to the ground, water vapor continues to condense and freeze onto the first crystal, building new crystals – the six arms of the snowflake. The snowflake’s ice crystals are symmetrical and patterned because there’s a predetermined way a crystal’s water molecules arrange as they freeze (known as “crystallization”). Temperature and also humidity of the air determines what that arrangement will be, forming the basic shape of the crystal. Different shapes will form at different temperatures. At a warmer temperature we’ll see long, needle-like crystals and at cooler temps, flat plate-like crystals. Crystals will continue freezing and arranging differently as the temperature and humidity change on its long fall to the world below. Virtually no two snowflakes are alike because there are always at least slightly different paths and atmospheric conditions present during that fall. (2) It was photographer Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley who perfected catching a snowflake in its act – freezing the frozen beauty in time before it melted – and helped us learn more about the intricacies and total uniqueness of snow. He amassed a collection of images that has yet to be replicated – more than 5000 snowflakes in total. The broadest collection of Bentley’s photographs is held by the Jericho Historical Society in his hometown, Jericho, Vermont. (4) Bentley first became interested in snow flakes and crystals as a teenager on his family’s farm. He tried to draw the flakes while viewing them under an old microscope, but they melted too quickly. So he attached a bellows (folding, expandable, oldtimey) camera to a compound microscope and, after much experimentation, photographed his first snowflake on January 15, 1885. Each crystal was caught on a blackboard and zipped over to a microscope slide for photographing. (3) Bentley called snowflakes “tiny miracles of beauty” and snow crystals “ice flowers”, and he was also the first who proposed that no two snowflakes were alike, publishing an article at University of Vermont. This concept caught the public imagination, and it’s still a common phrase – no two snowflakes are alike. For the most part it’s true, although scientist Nancy Knight of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado discovered two identical (at least under a microscope) snowflakes in a Wisconsin snowstorm in 1988. (5) Snow kidding!

Aryn Henning Nichols loves snow in early winter and tolerates it in late winter. She’s hoping she can embrace its beauty all season this year!

1. 2. 3. 4. View some of Wilson Bentley’s amazing snowflake images at: 5.

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Winter 2011-12 /

WATER STREET CAFÉ / ONEOTA FOOD CO-OP’S MATTIAS KRIEMELMEYER Introduction and photos by Aryn Henning Nichols


he sunniest spot in Downtown Decorah is the Water Street Café in the Oneota Food Co-op. It’s also one of the tastiest places to eat – not only do you get the best local and organic ingredients available, you get a terrific selection of meals through their diverse, deli-style offerings. Chef Mattias Kriemelmeyer and staff serve up meals morning, noon, and night. They’ve got breakfast sandwiches and burritos Monday through Saturday, a Hot Bar with a rotating lunch food “theme” ranging from Scandinavian to Indian to Soul Food to good, ol’ American, plus a salad bar and soups. There’s also amazingly delicious whole roasted Amish chickens daily starting at 3 pm ‘til they’re sold out – get there early because they do sell out, and they are a fantastic quick meal that, for my family, lasts more than one night. Panini (yummy grilled sandwiches) are also made fresh to order and available daily – our favorite is the BBQ chicken, although the Caprese (tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil) is delightful too. And if you’re in Decorah on a weekend, check out the Sunday brunch buffet – it’s quite a spread. So how does it work? All you have to do is step inside the Co-op doors and head over to the deli on the right hand side of the store. You put in your order for panini or plate up your food or just quickly grab something already prepared from the cooler. Go through the checkout, find a sunny spot in the front seating area, and enjoy. (Warning – you might be tempted to head back in for some amazing carrot cake or cookies for dessert. We suggest you give in to the impulse. It’s worth it.)

Name: Mattias Kriemelmeyer Age: 32 Restaurant: Water Street Café at the Oneota Food Coop Number of Years Cooking: 15+ Formal training or live-and-learn? Formal training at Bauman College Cotati, California. Natural Chef Degree & Nutrition Educator Certificate What’s your earliest or most significant memory of cooking or being cooked for? My Swedish mother is an amazing cook and baker. She taught me the importance of using the best and freshest ingredients to cook with. Why did you decide to become a chef? I started out working in kitchens at a young age and when it came time to decide what to do with my life I couldn’t think of anything more important than food. Food is the cornerstone of culture, family, entertainment, and society. Everybody has to eat and if I could find my niche I would be happy doing what I was best at. What’s the best thing you’ve ever made? That’s a hard question and I get asked this a lot. Right now I will say “Guacamole by Mattias”, my signature dip that we sell in the Café. It’s a twist on the traditional Mexican dip. I use all organic ingredients featuring mango as the special ingredient. Come by and try some, if you like guacamole you will love this. Do you have any monumental food fails you’d like to share with us? I can think of only one monumental fail that I was part of. Most of the time I try to forget those “bad dohs”. One time my mom and I were making a gravy that called for corn starch to thicken it. We were at my grandmother’s house making her a meal while she was ill. We found some white powder that looked like corn starch so we used it in the sauce. Somehow the sauce wasn’t thickening as we wanted it to so we just kept adding more. Finally we tasted the sauce because obviously something wasn’t right. It tasted extremely sweet like chicken flavored frosting. We were using powdered sugar to thicken the sauce. Our lesson was “always taste the white powder before using it”. We had a good laugh and ran to KFC in a last-ditch effort to have gravy for dinner.

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How about secret food indulgences you don’t normally talk about? Sharp cheddar cheese. I can eat sharp cheddar with pretty much anything and it tastes good. What’s your favorite: Ingredient: Organic butter Dish: My wife Claudia’s Curried Chicken with Roti bread Cookbook: Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” Random (or not so random) kitchen tool: Chef knife Vegetable: Zucchini Fruit: Apple \ Winter 2011-12



New albums from the region… gift on! Dosh, December 9: Minneapolis loop rocker and pal of Andrew Bird brings the noise to Club Pyramid in Decorah for a super intimate get down. Winona’s Bo.Monro and Luther favorite General B. and The Wiz round out the evening.

Kathy Griffin, December 11: Seriously – laugh all you want… no really, laugh all you want. We’ll be there laughing our asses off. Gallagher Bluedorn PAC, Cedar Falls. Bourcier/Rothrock, February 17-19: Take your sweetie out to enjoy amazing songstress Lynne Rothrock and piano man Tom Bourcier for a cabaret event at ArtHaus in Decorah entitled: Half Priced Chocolates in a Heart Shaped Box!

Envy Corps, “It Culls You” – Des Moines Darlings have a new record out (on their own imprint - Tempo Club) that is set to rock your wool socks off. Give this to all of your snooty coastal friends who still think Iowa doesn’t exist. Maritza – Even the coldest NE Iowa winter night can be turned upside down with a good dose of Klezmer-Balkan-boogie. Decorah based Maritza sends “Rekindled” out into the world for that express purpose. Pert’ Near Sandstone – Inspire(d)’s favorite Minnesota bluegrass bad boys return with 14 new tracks of pure string blisscipline on “Paradise Hop”. Give this to your grandpa, and your girlfriend, and your gay cousin – because they’ll all love it. www.

Spirit of Uganda, February 21: 20 beautiful faces from Uganda share the ancient rhythms of eastern Africa on the stage of Luther College’s CFL. Do not miss this performance. www.

Laura Gentry – Apparently life just keeps getting funnier on the mighty Mississippi as “Laughing Laura” gives the world “Yule Laugh” – all of your favorite holiday favorites with the leading lady of Laughter leading the way. A perfect way to keep your laughter yoga up through the winter!

Close, convenient care for illnesses and injuries Your busy life doesn’t stop when you or your child get sick or injured. If this happens, turn to the Gundersen Lutheran – Decorah Clinic for treatment of cuts, sprains, allergies, infections, rashes and minor injuries. Same-day appointments are available when needed so you can get back to living your life. For your convenience, we open at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and stay open until 6 p.m. (5 p.m. on Fridays). We’re also open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

To schedule your appointment, call (563) 382-3140 or (800) 865-3140.


Winter 2011-12 /

dragon 26

The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

a r g D o n s ’ r e t n i W Story and photos by Aryn Henning Nichols


ung hay fat choy is something you may have heard belted out in late winter, especially in a major city (especially, especially in San Francisco). In China, you might hear xin nian kuai le (depending on your location). No, it’s not a curse to winter – it’s a greeting! Gung hay fat choy is Cantonese, (most commonly spoken in southern China) and means “Best wishes and congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year.” Xin nian kuai le is Mandarin, the dominant language in mainland China, and means “Happy New Year”. Either way, they are both said during the same fun, late winter holiday: Chinese New Year! In China, this holiday is known as “Spring Festival,” and marks the end of the winter season and the start of a new lunar year. The festival begins on the first day of the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day. In 2012, the Chinese New Year starts on January 23rd. Within this ancient calendar, each month follows the cycle of the moon. That means that Chinese New Year falls on different “traditional” calendar dates year-to-year. Each new year is associated with one of the 12 animals from the Chinese zodiac, and 2012 is the dragon, the only animal that is considered legendary. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why is Aryn talking about Chinese New Year? We’re not just in the middle of the US, we’re in the middle of the middle!” This festival has a magical place in my heart. From August 2004 to August 2005, I lived in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, in a “little” town called Foshan near the quite large city, Guangzhou. I taught oral English to middle school students, one high school class, and tutored a handful of kids too. It was one of the most amazing and life-changing years I’ve

A group of my adorable students!

had. Not only did I get to live in another county, I got to travel all around China and Southeast Asia, and made a best-friend-for-life, Li Qian (her English name is Cathy). Qian was a “proper” English teacher at our school, meaning she actually had a degree in teaching and knew what she was doing. I, on the other hand, was so clueless and completely terrified going in to that first class… but quickly got the hang of it. Just as quickly, Qian and I grew closer in our friendship. We started going on trips together. We visited Thailand for the first time, zipped off to Hong Kong on numerous occasions, and she arranged Christmas in the Guangxi province in a mountain town called Yangshuo, probably Qian and I Dec. 31, 2004 - NYE! the most touristy and Western village ever…and just what myself and some fellow expats needed for that holiday away from family. And for their major holiday, Chinese New Year, Qian invited me to celebrate with her family in the Sichuan province. Li Qian’s parents didn’t speak English at all, and I didn’t do terribly well with Mandarin, let alone the dialect most commonly spoken in her hometown, Nanchong. But we all got along just fine, eating, drinking, and celebrating the coming of another lunar year. Within China, customs and traditions of the Spring Festival vary widely. Often families will clean their house to clear out bad luck and make way for the good, then brooms and dustpans are stored away on New Year’s Day so the good luck won’t accidentally get swept out. Homes are decorated with red paper cutouts of Chinese couplets with positive themes of happiness, wealth, or longevity. And buying new clothes and getting a haircut symbolizes a fresh start to the year. Highlights for me from that amazing Chinese New Year’s Eve include buying lucky red underwear the day before (red is an auspicious color and helps scare away evil spirits), eating a huge meal with the family – food covering every part of the table –making sure not to finish everything because that meant you didn’t have enough, rolling dumplings with Qian’s wai po (grandma) later that night (dumplings symbolize wealth because their shape is like a Chinese coin), wrapping a string of fire crackers around the handle of a broom, holding that broom out a window, and lighting the end of the string, creating a deafening crack, crack, crack that only joined the booms and cracks outside on the streets and throughout the neighborhood. I’ve never heard anything so loud before or since…apparently making all that noise is supposed to help scare away evil spirits. Plus it’s fun. 27

Upscale Resale Do you have fabulous designer and vintage designer items and want some cash? We are always looking for clothes that follow the seasons and current fashion trends. Bring it in your fabulous fashions, or we can come to you and help you clean out your closet!

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For Luther College music professors Xiao Hu (from Wuhan) and Du Huang (from Shanghai), Chinese New Year stateside is more subdued. “Normally we would invite some local friends, especially Chinese friends, to get together, cook a nice meal, and spend an evening watching Chinese TV,” says Hu. “Sometimes, we got invited to go to the local Chinese restaurant in Decorah, Great Dragon, by the owner. He would cook a huge, fancy meal for all of his friends, and the kids would run around together, and each will receive a red envelope with you know what in it. Fun!” That you know what is money – early the next morning, New Year’s Day, children wish their parents a healthy and happy new year, and get money in red paper envelopes called hong bao. Traditionally married couples or elders give these envelopes to unmarried friends and family or children. It was definitely my oral English students favorite thing about Chinese New Year. “My niece made more than 6000 yuan last year,” says Luther College Chinese professor Hongmei Yu. (That’s almost $1000!) From the northern Chinese city, Tianjin, Hongmei celebrates the festival similarly to Li Qian’s family when in China. When she’s in the US, though, she’ll still have a party with dumplings and food and sometimes even hong bao, but it’s not quite the same. “We could not have the fun part, the firecrackers!” Aryn Henning Nichols loved her year in China and hopes to return one day soon, maybe to meet Li Qian’s new baby, set to arrive in 2012! She hopes you make some dumplings with your family in January and think about all the great traditions of letting go of the bad and letting in the good for this Chinese New Year! Happy year of the Dragon!

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Winter 2011-12 /

Families on their way to the Buddhist temple Chinese New Year’s Day.

What happens on New Year’s Day and beyond? The year I was in China, on New Year’s Day we visited a Buddhist temple – there were so many people heading up the hill, so much incense and ash falling to the ground like snow. People light incense in honor of their ancestors and pray for a prosperous year, and Qian’s father added his to the massive pile outside the temple. We then went inside and kowtowed at each deity – there were many, maybe 25– and after we finished, we had the oranges we bought on the way up blessed, then ate them just outside the door. It was important to eat all of it this time, so as not to start the year off with waste. The same went for the vegan longevity noodles in the “cafeteria” near the temple. Each day over the next two weeks is included in the celebration, although the more old fashioned traditions are starting to fade. The fifteenth day – the Lantern Festival – is still a major part of Chinese culture, though. Lanterns adorn many streets in China, and families walk the street that night carrying lighted lanterns and also light candles outside their homes as a way to guide wayward spirits home.

After returning to the US, I have tried to make a Chinese New Year’s Eve party an annual thing in our household, including the fun part (the firecrackers… shhh…). I think you’d enjoy it too! Why? Well...

Food and photo by Aryn Henning Nichols (except the oranges and fortune cookies, of course).

It’s the perfect time of year to have a get-together – enough time has passed after Christmas and traditional New Year’s Day, and it’s still the dead of winter (at least here in the Midwest) so people are dying to get out of their houses! IF YOU’D LIKE TO BRING A LITTLE CHINESE NEW YEAR FUN INTO YOUR WINTER, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO. 1. Send out or email invititations – I like to include the animal of that year, so there’ll be a dragon on our invites. Remind your guests to wear lucky red underwear too! 2. Plan a simple menu with only one rule – you gotta have dumplings. Look online for food ideas. Chinese cooking isn’t generally difficult – it’s really quite fun. We also like to order custom fortune cookies, even though fortune cookies aren’t a real Chinese thing. You can get 50 cookies with five different personalized messages for less than $40 (we order from 3. Pick out some fun decorations or make your own (learn how to make Chinese paper lanterns at

4. Print some interesting facts or tidbits about Chinese New Year, the Chinese zodiac, or China itself. It’s great to learn things at parties and who doesn’t love trivia? 5. Practice saying xin (sheen) nian (knee-en) kuai (kwhy) le (luh)! 6. Make some dumplings ahead of time (see following recipe). They are a little time-consuming to prepare so we often freeze some in advance and bake those during the party. We also make some veggie ones too (just omit the pork from the recipe) to appease our non-meat-eating friends. 7. Secure your fire crackers and warn your neighbors! Decorate your place, maybe put on a Chinese-themed movie (I like Mulan or Kung Fu Hustle), chill the drinks, cook some snacks (I like to make Sichuan food because it’s my favorite – dry fried green beans and kung pao chicken, plus dumplings are pictured here). 8. Have fun!

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Pork & Cabbage Dumplings Ingredients: Pre-packaged dumpling wrappers ( I use the square ones more commonly used for wontons)


Filling: 1 C ground pork 2 T soy sauce 1 tsp salt 1 T rice wine 1/4 tsp ground pepper 2 T sesame oil 2 green onions, finely minced (save the green parts for the dipping sauce) 2 C finely shredded cabbage (the food processor works well for this) 1 T ginger, finely minced 2 cloves garlic, finely minced




• Mix all filling ingredients together in a large bowl. • Set up your dumpling rolling station at your table with a cutting board or other surface to keep your space clean, a bowl of water, the filling, your bamboo steamer (if steaming dumplings instead of baking or frying), and a cookie sheet to hold additional dumplings before cooking. To roll: 1. Put one wrapper on middle of cutting board. 2. Place one tablespoon of mixture in the center of the wrapper. 3. Dip your fingers in the water and wet the edges of the wrapper all around. 4. Fold the bottom corner up to the top corner and “crimp” the edges toward the middle tip. 5. Set tip up in bamboo steamer or cookie sheet. 6. Repeat until all filling is gone!


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This is fun with a crew of people, making it a great family Chinese New Year’s Eve tradition! To cook: • Steam: Place bamboo steamer over simmering water and steam for 25 minutes. • Bake: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place dumpling on greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until slightly browned. Keep an eye on them, you may need to flip sides. • Fry: Put enough vegetable or peanut oil in shallow skillet to cover the bottom of pan. Preheat pan ‘til oil is sizzlin’ hot, then place (carefully!) the dumplings in the pan, cooking 7 minutes per side. Dipping sauce: 1/4 C soy sauce 1 t Siracha or other chili sauce Remainder of green onion, finely minced

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Dip in your cooked dumplings. Enjoy!

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“I start at your headwaters and work my way down through your Minnesota valley, down to the part of you that I find most pleasin’ and kiss you in the Coulee Region…” – Mike McAbee

Boxed (IN): La Crosse, Wisconsin Story and photos Benji Nichols

Through the high ridges and narrow valleys (or coulees) of Western Wisconsin sits a wide plain nestled up to the Mississippi river. First spotted by Native Americans and French fur traders, “Prairie La Crosse,” named by Zebulon Pike in the early 1800s after witnessing a rousing game amongst the locals, is a colorful river town to its core. La Crosse, as we all know it, has acted as a regional hub for commerce and society for well over 150 years. From the days of fur trading and timber to the brewing industry and today’s economy of education and health care, La Crosse has always been a destination and jumping-off point. To this day it holds the only passenger rail access for 100+ miles in most directions, and serves as a major river transportation route for barge traffic and river enthusiasts. Home to the G. Heileman Brewing Company from 1858 to 1996, La Crosse was well known as the brewer of Old Style amongst several other beers. It was even claimed that at one time La Crosse held the highest number of drinking establishments in a single mile stretch of road anywhere in the country, and while 3rd Street still holds its fair share of fun, this river town offers a lot more than that!


Winter 2011-12 /


Celebrate with a great La Crosse weekend package!

January 21 -22

The La Crosse Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has wrapped up some special weekend packages just for the girls! Go to our website or call 800-658-9424 for more information!

Courtesy La Crosse Children’s Museum

La Crosse is a four-season destination, offering a variety of fun no matter the climate. With easy access to the river, several hiking and biking areas, and a variety of festivals, it’s not hard to get outdoors in the Coulee Region – even in the middle of winter. Downhill skiing and snowboarding destination Mt. La Crosse lights up its 18 slopes – including “Damnation!”, one of the Midwest’s steepest runs – opens for the season as soon as enough snow flies (and don’t miss the St. Bernard room for an après ski beverage!). The Coulee Region Chill (North American Hockey League) also play a full season in nearby Onalaska, and if you’d rather be in the action yourself, Hixon Forest Park is home to great mountain biking, hiking, and snow shoe trails as well as Grand Dad’s Bluff ­– the most recognizable landmark from any vantage! Plenty of local lodging options can put you close to the fun of downtown La Crosse and its great variety of dining, shopping, drinking, and entertainment establishments. Save a bit of daylight to check out some of the great shops downtown like Three Rivers Outdoors, Kroner’s Hardware, The Deaf Ear record store, Dale’s Clothing, and more. A fun stop for home DIY folks is the Habitat for Humanity “Re-Store” just before the bridge heading back across the Mississippi. Inventory of used home and construction wares changes by the day, but treasures are found often. One of Inspire(d)’s favorite family stops downtown is the La Crosse Children’s Museum. With a climbing wall and rotating children’s exhibits, the museum is sure to keep your kiddo busy for at least part of a day. Also check their schedule for the “Night Out at

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the Museum”, usually offered once a month. Parents can drop their kids at the Museum for a couple hours of structured evening fun so they can go out and enjoy a meal, shopping, or fun downtown – all for a very reasonable price. And don’t forget to stop at The Pearl for a treat afterwards. This La Crosse landmark makes all of their ice cream on-site and also has a fantastic old time candy counter (The home made waffle cones dipped in chocolate and sprinkles are totally worth it!). But we’re getting ahead of ourselves with dessert. Downtown La Crosse also has no shortage of great dining spots. Locals will be quick to point out three restaurants owned by husband and wife team Kate Gerrard and Steve Scheuch. First, Kate’s on State (their original eatery) sits unassumingly on (where else?) State Street, serving up a rotating seasonal menu of Northern Italian influenced dishes. Kate’s Pizza Amore on Main Street is the second in Kate’s creations, offering fun and sophisticated versions of gourmet pizza. The Mashed Potato, Greek Gyro, and Thai Peanut Chicken are all favorites of Inspire(d) and the crispy cheese ravioli antipasto isn’t to be missed either. A full line of wines by the glass, cocktails, and local tap beers round out this stylish restaurant. And then, if you happen to be around earlier in the day or searching for Sunday brunch (after a Bloody Mary at Del’s, of course…), there’s one more Kate’s place: Crunch! In what is truly a “funkified” cafeteria setting, you order through the line, pay, and are seated in a cool dining room complete with baby grand player piano and fantastic collage wall.

Sundays have lavish brunch choices and an “all you care to garnish” Bloody Mary bar – not to mention amazing baked treats, and the chicken salad sandwich really is off the hook. Of course, Kate hasn’t totally cornered the La Crosse dining scene quite yet! Long time favorites like Piggy’s (grab a sandwich in the blues lounge before heading out on the town!), Buzzard Billy’s (Rice & Beans!) as well as the Freight House and Waterfront Restaurant and Tavern offer more upscale options. Four Sisters Wine Bar and Tapas near the river is also a fabulous place to enjoy the company of good friends in a civilized environment (the flat breads & ‘midwest platter’ are great for sharing!) Fayze’s on 4th Street is a perennial favorite with an easy, kidfriendly atmosphere, solid choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a great bakery counter, and arguably one of the tastiest meal-in-a-glass Bloody Marys around (gotta start the day right!). And of course, you can’t forget the local, organic food mecca, the People’s Food Co-op. Pick out something delicious at the deli inside, check out Hackberry’s upstairs for a delightful sit-down setting, or buy a nosh for a hotel picnic of your own. Downtown La Crosse also hosts another kind of local offering: great live music. We suggest you steer clear of the bigger neon-lit joints in favor for some of the smaller taverns. On 4th you’ll find The Bodega – a favorite spot to grab a beer with friends before hitting the music scene. And just across the street is one of La Crosse’s coolest low-key haunts: the Root Note. Order a bottle of locally brewed Pearl Street brewery beer, or try a different direction with a crepe and an espresso or one of 25+ lose teas and see what’s going on. They feature some of the regions best performers in an intimate setting. Down the block you’ll find the Popcorn Tavern, a La Crosse local music institution, and just around the corner from that, on Jay Street, is The Joint – another infamous watering hole that features great live music. After all that fun, make sure you swing by The Casino – it is neither a casino, nor does it usually have

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“Lousy Service” as the sign reads – but it has been there forever. And if your idea of fun doesn’t involve screaming across a bar, you may be more interested in checking the schedule at the Pump House Regional Arts Center, which features some of the best in folk and solo performers. (Make sure you stop in at the Wine Guys to say “howdy from Inspire(d)” across the street before the show!). Viterbo University also touts a great performance series throughout the school year as well as theater performances, and the La Crosse Symphony can be heard several times throughout the year (including Decorah’s own Nori Hadley!). And if your idea of a good show is one on a screen, check out what’s playing at the Rivoli Theatre (would a beer and pizza during the movie trip your filmstrip? It does ours!) Looking for some more “cultured” fun? Try The Moonlight Dance Studio with Kellen and Kathy Burgos – 30+ years of instruction won’t get you off on the wrong foot. The UW La Crosse Art Gallery is also worth checking out, as is the La Crosse Community Theatre. If you’re beverage inclined like us, the PSB (Pearl Street Brewery) also has a taproom that is open most evenings and allows you to drink and talk hops. They’re located just northeast of downtown in the old La Crosse boot factory and definitely worth searching out. (Try whatever is seasonal – Dankenstein, Smokin’ Hemp Porter, Rubber Mills Pils… you get the point.) And finally, if you like a good festival, this river town will definitely like you! From Oktoberfest to Irishfest to the annual RiverFest, Great River Folk Festival, and the Rotary Lights holiday display alongside that great Mississippi River, there truly is something for everyone. So drive up, down, or over and just park the car. Historic downtown La Crosse is made for walking – besides, a little fresh air between juke-joints is perfect, and a little exercise is the perfect excuse to enjoy that late night slice at Jeff & Jim’s. Benji Nichols has been digging around downtown La Crosse since he was a kid and loves to escape now and again to a handful of favorite haunts along the Mississippi River. He is thrilled to see La Crosse continue to re-invent itself.

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• Mt. La Crosse • W5549 Old Town Road • • 608-788-7878 • Myrick Hixon Eco Park • 789 Myrick Park Drive • • 608-784-0303 Grand Dad’s Bluff • 3020 Grandad Bluff Road • 608-789-7533 • Coulee Region Chill • 255 Riders Club Road, Onalaska • • 608-782-3252 • La Crosse Children’s Museum • 207 Fifth Avenue South • • 608-784-2652 • Pump House Regional Arts Center • 119 King Street • • 608-785-1434 • Viterbo University • 900 Viterbo Drive • • 608-796-3100 • La Crosse Symphony • 900 Viterbo Drive • • 608-783-2121 • Rivoli Theatre • 117 4th Street North • • 608-785-2058 • Moonlight Dance Studio • 601 3rd Street South • • 608-519-1995 • UW La Crosse Art Museum and Theater • 16th & Pine Street • • La Crosse Community Theatre • 118 5th Avenue North • • 608-784-9292 • Pearl Street Brewery • 1401 Saint Andrew Street • • 608-784-4832 • Oktoberfest • • Irishfest • • Riverfest • • Great River Folk Festival •

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• The Pearl • 207 Pearl Street • • 608-782-6655 • Kate’s on State • 1810 State Street • • 608-784-3354 • Kate’s Pizza Amore • 212 Main Street • • 608-782-6673 • Kate’s Crunch! • 333 Main Street • • 608-783-2110 • Piggy’s • 501 Front Street South • • 608-784-4877 • Buzzard Billy’s Flying Carp Café • 222 Pearl Street • • 608-796-2277 • The Freight Hosue • 107 Vine Street • • 608-784-6211 • Waterfront Restaurant and Tavern • 328 Front Street South • • 608-782-5400 • Fayze’s • 135 South 4th Street • • 608-784-9548 • The People’s Food Co-op • 315 5th Avenue South • • 608-784-5798 • The Bodega • 122 South 4th Street • • 608-782-0677 • The Root Note • 115 4th Street South • • 608-782-7668 • Popcorn Tavern • 308 4th Street South • • 608-782-9069 • The (Jay Street) Joint • 324 Jay Street • 608-785-6468 • Wine Guyz • 122 King Street • • 608-782-9463 • Four Sisters Wine & Tapas • 100 Harborview Plaza, Suite 100 • • 608-782-8213

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Dance, have fun, pass it on…. Photos and story by Aryn Henning Nichols




“On the Great River Road,” Genoa, WI.

Sometimes, all you gotta do is ask. When recent Luther grad Madison McMullen was spending the summer in Lanesboro, Minnesota, she decided to ask about yoga classes at Coffee Street Commons, the local fitness and dance studio. And before she headed out the door, she nonchalantly asked one more question: “Do you have any dance classes?”



“No we don’t, but do you want to teach one?” “I was like, ‘I dunno. Maybe,’” she says, recalling. “‘I’ve never done anything like that, but I think I could do it. It might be kinda fun.’” \ Winter 2011-12


Perhaps it was the magic of Lanesboro – interning that summer “I learned so much at Dubuque Senior and gained a ton of at Lanesboro Arts Center was inspirational and exciting for the now confidence. It gave me the skills I needed to survive the Colts 22-year-old. “It was the best summer I had in college! I loved it.” program. Our teacher, Steffany King, was the best. She was so She was heading into her junior year and already busy with great at bringing people in from the community.” classes and extracurriculars, but was ready to give back to a Evidently these traits rubbed off on McMullen. The Coffee Street community in which she had spent just three short months. Of Dancers range from kindergarten through high school. McMullen course, her can-do attitude had more than a little to do with teaches three different age groups in classes held every Thursday it. A background in dancing with Dubuque Senior High School of their dance “semester”. She operates her classes with the Colorguard and perfect amount marching with the of “fun friend” and award-winning drum “I’m the teacher”. corps Colt Cadets and They plié and slide eventually The Colts from first position in her hometown of to second with Dubuque didn’t hurt Michael Jackson’s either. It was through Thriller setting the these programs that beat. It’s obvious she discovered she liked this is no ordinary to dance, even though dance class. she’s a self-proclaimed “The number one “terrible dancer”. thing is that we’re “I took colorguard gonna have fun,” [at Dubuque Senior] she says firmly. because they took “Then my next hope everyone!” McMullen is that students says with a laugh. gain confidence The program and improve their provides a “positive, posture. It’s that supportive, and simple.” educational The classes are environment that will currently made Just as she was taught through Colorguard at Dubuque Senior High School, build confidence, selfup of all girls, McMullen teaches her students discipline while still keeping it fun. discipline, work ethic, and although Madison team work; develop musical, performance, and physical skills; and would gladly accept any boys who want to join in. Students laugh support music and performance education in Dubuque.” and make silly faces, but the minute McMullen says the magic While the Dubuque Senior program “took everyone”, the words – “go to set” – the entire class quickly gets in place. They’re Colts Drum Corps had a rigorous try out process and a huge in jeans, leggings, work out shorts – whatever works. It’s a casual commitment – three months traveling the US on a tour bus, environment where they actually still get an amazing amount done. 15-hour-a-day rehearsals, and two to three show competitions per McMullen focuses on what she calls “learning how to learn”. week. Madison was one of the youngest members, starting in their “We’re constantly doing different exercises that we’ll never do in color guard at age 15. a routine – I want them to always be guessing. We might just be

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working with basic dance moves one day, but the really fun thing is that we can take those basics and make other combinations.” The students have major dedication as well – when you go to school in Lanesboro, a tiny town of less than 800 people, you can do everything from student council to volleyball to band to drama, and many kids do. Adding a non-schoolrelated extracurricular is, well, extra. But enrollment in Coffee Street Dance continues to grow. The semester concludes with a dance recital held at the Lanesboro Community Center. The kids perform one routine in their Family Genealogy separate age groups, and then Research Services by come together to perform a group routine. “It’s the coolest thing to have all “You just never know where the dancers on the floor at once,” these old records and archives may lead!” SM McMullen says. “I’m always so amazed each semester at how quickly they learn.” She hopes some of them might even continue dancing after they graduate high school. Decorah, Iowa “But at the same time we’re not a competitive dance studio. We’re there to have fun,” she says with 319-610-7736 a shrug. “I mean, the only rules we have for the recitals are dance barefoot and wear black.” Call for a brochure The “tiny dancers” as McMullen has called them, continue to learn, grow, and yes, gain more or check us confidence. And if they aren’t inspired by dance, they might be by their teacher herself. McMullen out online! is a true renaissance woman, with a degree in art and business, mad photography skills (she helps out with her dad’s photography business, JM Studios in Dubuque), and she even works full-time as the marketing director for Decorah’s Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. At TG, her duties include shooting product photos, designing marketing materials, labels, and signage, running the Toppling Goliath website and social media…just to name a few. With all of this on her plate, juggling dance classes is getting more difficult. McMullen is crossing her fingers that she can find someone to help teach. (Interested? Email McMullen at madison@tgbrews. com) Cuts • Perms • Up styles • Color • Highlights “I would love to find someone to eventually take my place. • Facials • Manicure & Pedicures Someone who has the same passion as I do, who first and foremost • 60-minute massages • Makeup loves to work with kids. This person does not necessarily have to Consultation & application be a great dancer, just needs to be committed and excited about continuing to make the program better,”she says. “Everyone who knows me knows I’m not a good dancer. I’m not classically trained 303 W. Water Street but I love to teach.” Decorah, Iowa Oh yes, that’s right: although McMullen did have some experience 563.382.4941 as an assistant teacher in the past, she had never totally led a class before that first session in 2009. But she, of course, is not one to say no when asked to do something. “Eh. We stumbled a bit first semester but we’ve actually developed a pretty well-oiled machine since then,” she says. “I’ve always been a problem solver and always loved a challenge. I love finishing something I didn’t think I could do.” It’s something she’s passing on to her students, just as McMullen’s teachers did for her. Even in the first class of the semester, the dancers are tackling moves that many would assume far too advanced. But, just as McMullen suspected, the students rise to the challenge. All she had to do was ask.

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206 W. Water Street • 563-382-5970 \ Winter 2011-12


Purl Up and Knit for a Spell Story and photos by Kristine Kopperud Jepsen

“SOS! SOS! I’ve dropped a stitch and I can’t move forward!” It’s a typical distress call, and Bev Bakkum is on it. She arranges the specimen gently under her scope, adjusts her 2.0 reading glasses, and peers at the problem, her eyes searching its tissuey edges. “Ah, ha!” she says, laughing, both hands already at work, fingers delicately separating strands. Within another minute, she pulls the partially knitted sweater, made of a luxurious black wool yarn, from her examining table and pats it triumphantly. “You dropped a stitch when you started from the wrong side, but I found it,” she tells her friend and sometime student Bonnie, who is making the sweater as a gift for her husband. “You’re good to go again.” Bakkum is an “incurable” knitter herself (as in, knits with her first cup of coffee, on her lunch break, in the evenings while watching TV, maybe even in her sleep) and teaches a host of classes at Decorah’s Blue Heron Knittery. The teaching part weaves easily in and out of her work on her own projects, which usually (and concurrently) include at least one sweater, a throw or blanket, and several smaller whimsies like a Christmas stocking fringed in a pink “frou frou” yarn – mostly gifts for others. Several of her finished items go on display at Blue Heron, either on mannequins or in the windows – until the appointed recipient’s birthday or anniversary rolls around, and the gift is given. Several have taken top prize at county fairs. “I grew up where children were seen, not heard; so to keep me occupied when I was little and noisy, my Grandma Geraldine would hand me two needles with eight stitches on them and I would spend all afternoon in the window seat just sliding those stitches from one needle to the other. I never knitted anything, of course, but each time I came back, there’d be a couple more rows on the needle. Of course, she was doing it, but she’d congratulate me and pat me on the back, and it kept me fired up to keep going.”


Winter 2011-12 /

it all encouraged me to get better. Quick. Also, my mother was a perfectionist, and I can’t tell you how many seams I had to take out to get them just right. I guess that’s where I got a lot of my sense of what’s ‘good enough’ to call finished.” At Blue Heron, owned and managed by returned Decorah-ian Sarah Iversen, Bakkum indulges her multitasking by assisting others who are working at different rates on various sweaters, afghans, or other patterns. “Regulars” of hese days, Bakkum Blue Heron’s drop-in tries some of the knitting sessions groan most complicated patterns and roll their eyes when she can find, most recently Bakkum’s tailoring including a square in the experience comes up. Great American Aran “Beware: she’ll make Afghan pattern that had you do a swatch,” Shelly 64 threads (or start/stop says. “And if it doesn’t points) within just one of the come out right, she’ll 4-inch-by-4-inch cable-knit make you do it again – sections. “The fun part is all with littler needles.” the skills and techniques,” “Or larger needles,” she says. “You either knit Bakkum interjects. “A [v-shaped stitches] or you swatch is a small sample of a garment purl [bead-like stitches], but there are Blue Heron Knittery, pattern that allows you to test the hundreds of variations to learn, and 300 West Water Street, Decorah weight of your yarn and size of your you’re never so advanced that there’s Winter classes are listed at: stitches. Then you can mathematically nothing left to learn.” recalibrate the pattern to your target Another of Bakkum’s major talents size for the finished sweater. If you’re is tailoring. In fact, she ran her own Knitters of all levels of experience are welcome going to spend 300 to 500 hours and business, Sew Nuts, out of her rural to drop in for company or assistance anytime buy maybe 900 to 1600 yards of yarn Waukon home while raising her nine the store is open, with scheduled gatherings on for a project, you darn well want it to fit!” children, alternating cutting and fitting Mondays 6-8 pm and Wednesdays 7-9 pm. The “The trouble is, she’ll make you do a with cooking and bathtime and bedtime store offers two areas for work and conversation: swatch every time you start a project, book reading. one with tables and one arranged like a living room. even if you just finished one like it!” “The sewing started when I was “And there are comfortable chairs for spouses another member, Theresa, says. 10,” she says, “and my mother gave who must wait for their shopper,” Bakkum adds. “And that’s because as you get me a sewing machine and a stack better at knitting, the tension of your of fabric and told me ‘I’m not buying stitches changes,” Bakkum soothes. “You won’t even notice the any more clothes, you’re going to make your own.’ Well, let me tell improvement until you’re another several hours in. I’m telling you, you, I wore a lot of ugly clothes, and the sheer embarrassment of


Knitting Classes!

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Save the Date! March 23 & 24, 2012

Edible Alien Theatre

In support of Driftless Art Collective! More details to come... stay tuned at \ Winter 2011-12


Visit Vesterheim in Decorah! Shop Norwegian Style for all your winter gifts!

the swatch is absolutely necessary.” In addition to her natural proclivity to task-mastering, Bakkum helps other members unravel small mistakes and interpret cryptic pattern instructions. “There’s no standard for knitting as there is for lace crochet, for example,” Bakkum says. “I can pick up a book in Korean or German and accomplish that lace just by reading the charts, but with knitting, there’s no established instruction. And some writers are better teachers than others.” When she gets fed up with a pattern’s gibberish – or sees ways to improve the design – Bakkum simply writes her own and prints copies for class members. That’s where this year’s Christmas stocking pattern came from. “It’s a big stocking – eight inches

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523 W. Water St., Decorah, Iowa • 563-382-9681 •

across at the top,” she says, laughing, “because we want it to actually hold those stuffers, not just look pretty on the mantel.” The pattern is simple and encourages flourishes of frilly yarns, trinkets stitched onto the Christmas tree design, and bold contrast of color on the heel and toe. Throughout each class, Bakkum offers tidbits from her own leftover yarn bag and reminds the others to just have fun with the project. “Yeah, don’t let her fool you,” Shelly mutters with a smirk, ribbing Bakkum without looking up from her stocking. “The reason she’s got so many great remnants in her leftover bag is that she always buys up the coolest new yarns.” “That’s true,” says another member, Kris, whom the others say can’t turn down anything sparkly or fluorescent. “You don’t want Bev here the day they open a new shipment of yarn.” “I can’t help it!” Bakkum retorts. “When I was kid, my only choice was Red Heart acrylic. Now, anything you can imagine, there’s a beautiful yarn made from it – soy, bamboo, corn silk, angora, cashmere, alpaca, hand-dyed wools, etc... There are so many

When she was little, Kristine Kopperud Jepsen made lots and lots of hideous clothes from old curtains. She has since sworn off polyester and prefers to buy more naturally occurring couture from talents like Bev Bakkum.


Good clothes take you great places

Conrad C


gorgeous yarns to choose from.” Blue Heron’s core group of 10 or so knitters gathers each Monday night (a time designated for drop-ins) and/or Wednesday night (social knitting time) and Saturdays sometimes, too, depending on class scheduling. The group united a year ago when they all tackled a pattern now referred to as the “Lucy Shawl.” At the time, the group included a Monona, Iowa, resident of Cuban descent named Lucy, who would drop in after her work as a translator at Decorah’s hospital. It quickly became Lucy’s joke to complain about counting the pattern’s 1095 starting stitches in English. “She’d say, ‘Can’t I just stop at 1,000? What do I need those others for?’” Bakkum recounts with a chuckle. Eventually, though, Lucy mastered the shawl and went on to make nine others from memory. When Lucy was killed in a car accident in March 2011, the other members of Blue Heron’s knitting classes made variations on the shawl in her memory. They are displayed on Blue Heron’s west wall, an undulating tribute to creativity, knitting as meditation, and, of course, the unapologetic honesty and humor in their camaraderie. To illustrate for others why they spend their odd hours together, members are considering custom printing t-shirts that feature shorthand familiar to knitters: (across the front) “K2tog Do you know the code?” and (across the back) “Knit 2 together” “We talk about all kinds of things,” Theresa says. “World politics, husbands [or wives], yoga stretches that are good during our breaks, YouTube videos we found to explain some stitch we didn’t understand, whatever is irking us that know, the usual. This place is like a general store with an old-fashioned pot-bellied stove. You just want to be near the warmth of it.”

211 West Water Street Decorah, Iowa M.T.W.Fr.Sat 9-5 Thurs. 9-8 563.382.8940 \ Winter 2011-12


Holy Hot Dish!

Cacciatore by Benji Nichols / Photo by Aryn Henning Nichols By Jim McCaffrey

Sometimes the stars seem to align at just the right time. So it was this fall when Aryn and I talked topics for the winter Mississippi Mirth. It was unanimous: With the holidays fast approaching and leftovers awaiting, the ultimate comfort food – the casserole – would be perfect! And, as a matter of fact, I happen to have a bit of knowledge on casseroles. In my cookbook, “Midwest Cornfusion,” (published in 2006) I devoted an entire chapter to these delectable baked dishes, and the following is the introduction: “The State Dish of Minnesota Never let it be said that the good citizens of Minnesota are a few peas short of a full casserole. They just think it adds too much color to the tuna dish. All over Minnesota, at hundreds of church gatherings, potlucks are as entrenched in the tradition and culture as blond hair and Paul Bunyan and “Babe” the Blue Ox. The casserole divas come out in droves to fill up church basements with their favorite concoctions. These are shared communally with 46

Winter 2011-12 /

other members of their congregations. In Minnesota (actually the only Scandinavian country located within the continental United States) these creations are widely known as “Hot Dish”. And up to a couple years ago, these hot dish happenings were “above the law”. It seems that holding these public gatherings with food brought in from nonstate inspected kitchens was in violation of food safety ordinances. Mostly, the food police turned a blind eye to these “illegal” activities. However, not always. Al Juhnke,

You may be relieved to know that last session the Minnesota legislature passed “The Church Lady Bill” which exempted faith based groups from routine state health inspections at events where food is being served to large masses of people. (However, it stipulated that at least one person involved in these large food functions must have completed a state-approved training seminar in large crowd food preparation.) Not coincidentally, large crowds are a casserole specialty: one can feed a lot of people for very little expense. Casseroles were extremely popular during the Great Depression for that very reason. It also helped that Campbell’s rolled out condensed mushroom soup in 1934. Although casseroles are commonly known in Minnesota as the “Lutheran Binder” because it is found en mass in church cookbooks, Lutherans aren’t the only group with bragging rights. The Catholics are in on it as well. My mother, God bless her soul, was an extremely devout Catholic. Which meant that on Fridays we didn’t eat meat. Which also meant that for 20 years on almost every Friday we had tuna casserole. Noodles, tuna, and mushroom soup with some saltine crackers broken up on top just to pizzazz it up a little. Man,

“In my own family, it has been said that a good marriage is like a casserole. Only those involved know what goes into it.” we were living in hot dish heaven. (No offense Mom, just a little Irish humor.) But, I digress. Let’s really get to the meat of this casserole phenomenon. I did a little more research. Casserole comes from the French word, casse, meaning small saucepan. The main difference between casseroles and stews is that stews are cooked with heat coming from the bottom of the dish while casseroles are surrounded by heat in the oven. And I know you will all be devastated (like me) to know your favorite green bean casserole recipe that your mother passed down to you was not your mother’s recipe at all. Truth be told, it came off of the back of a Durkee French Fried Onion container. Geesh, Mom! In my own family, it has been said that a good marriage is like a casserole. Only those involved know what goes into it. My lovely wife, Brenda, and I have been married for almost 32 years. And over that timespan we have made a lot of casseroles. On the weekends it was not unusual to have 10 or 15 kids over visiting our three children. One of Brenda’s favorite casseroles to make was a goulash (recipe to follow). Except it wasn’t the traditional goulash of the Czech Republic. Instead of having big chunks of beef or pork in it, she used ground beef. I asked her if she got the recipe passed down from her Czech mother. She said she couldn’t remember. I suspect it was off the back of a Durkee French Fried Onion container. My favorite casserole to make then, and still now, is Chicken Cacciatore (recipe

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who happened to be a state senator, was turned away at the door of a Democrat/Farmer/Labor (DFL) gathering and told to take his crockpot back to his car. Annoyed, he got a “Hot Dish” bill passed to exempt organization potlucks from state food handling regulations. The Sons of Norway rejoiced. No longer were they outlaws in the North Star State. So have a little fun. Go crazy. Add some green peas to that tuna casserole and maybe even a red pepper or two. You may be the hurrah of the hot dish hullabaloo.”

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to follow). In the early 80s, when we owned The Café Deluxe, we would sometimes make it for our lunch special. We often had 40 servings sell out in just half an hour. Chicken Cacciatore is an Italian dish made “hunter-style”. The story behind it is a hunter came home from the woods empty handed except for a few measly mushrooms. His wife created this dish for him. Lucky guy. And lucky all of us as well. So you see casseroles usually aren’t complicated, but they are fun to make (you can even have your kids help!) and are on the table quicker than you can say “What’s for dinner?” Ah, yes, Comfort Food. Living the dream! And don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Who says your Hot Dish can’t be a “Haute Dish”?

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Chicken Cacciatore 8 oz spaghetti 1/4 cup water 1/4 cup flour 1/4 cup sliced ripe olives 1 tsp salt 1 medium onion, chopped 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 2 cloves garlic, minced 4 lb chicken cut into 8 pieces 1 tsp salt 1/4 cup olive oil 1 tsp crushed dried oregano 16 oz can tomatoes 1/4 tsp pepper 8 oz can tomato sauce 1 bay leaf 1 cup sliced mushrooms Snipped parsley 1/4 cup olive oil


Movement for Health & Well-Being

Jim McCaffrey is a chef, author, and co-owner with his family of McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita restaurant and Twin Springs Bakery just outside Decorah. He is author of a humorous cookbook titled “Midwest Cornfusion.” He has been in the food industry in one way or another for 40 years.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil spaghetti according to package directions. Mix flour,1 tsp salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture. In a 12-inch skillet heat oil until hot. Fry chicken on all sides until brown, about 15 minutes. Remove to a plate and reserve. Put all remaining ingredients back in skillet except parsley, heat to boiling and breakup tomatoes with a fork. Grease an 11x18 Pyrex baking dish with remaining olive oil. Fill bottom with spaghetti noodles. Nest chicken pieces on spaghetti. Ladle tomato mixture over each piece. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until thickest pieces are cooked thoroughly, about thirty minutes (165 degrees on a thermometer). Plate up and garnish with parsley. (Note: This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe found in Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook pg 87, copyright 1980).


Winter 2011-12 /

8 oz. macaroni noodles 1 lb. 85 percent ground beef 29 oz. can diced tomatoes 14 1/2 oz. can tomato soup 1 large onion, diced 1 large green pepper, diced 2-3 cloves garlic, minced Salt and fresh ground black to taste ¼ cup olive oil

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles according to directions on the package. Drain. Brown ground beef in a large pot. Drain and add back to the pot. Add noodles and the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Brush an 11”x19” Pyrex baking dish with the olive oil. Empty the pot into the baking dish. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until tomatoes are bubbly.

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563-880-8886 \ Winter 2011-12


Probituary: It’s a notice of life!

Bob Usgaard’s services to the community are anything but standard Interviewed by Dan Bellrichard

Since 1971, Bob’s Standard Services in Decorah has been a landmark – or perhaps more accurately, Bob himself has been a landmark. With a friendly smile, an unforgettable voice, and a true sense of service, Bob has provided much more to the community than just a fill up and auto service over the years. Bob was born in rural Winneshiek County near Hesper on his Grandparent’s farm, and although you won’t find him at the pumps anymore, you may run into him out and about around town. The list of alumni employees at Bob’s reads like a “who’s who” of interesting and colorful professionals, and the man himself (who may have just turned 85!) is as entertaining as ever. Decorah resident and Luther College Sustainability Coordinator (and past Bob’s employee) Dan Bellrichard asks Bob a few questions for this probituary. What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? Do the best you can with what you got when you are doing it. What did you want to be when you grew up and what did you do? Well, when I was still home at the farm in high school I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals and wanted to help those in distress. I went to service in ‘53 and came back in ‘55 and worked for Standard Oil in Independece. I ran the station (leased it from Standard Oil) for 13 years. It was on Highway 20, in really a busy spot. I moved to Decorah in 1971 and bought Phil Johnson’s station (ed.- Which Bob ran for 30+ years!). Norm Smith also worked out of the station fixing bikes and small engines until we opened Usgaard & Smith, and Lester Spilde worked with us full time for many years. Dave (Usgaard) & Jeff (Burke) started working in ‘73 or ‘74 as a part timers (and now run the station). I retired in 2004. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you? A good strong cell phone with good batteries and a solar charger, my wife Pat, and some good food. Try to describe yourself in one sentence. Easy going while trying to let the problems slide off the shoulders. Don’t worry about things, have faith and they will work out. If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Squash soup

Do you know someone you’d love to interview for this page? Let us know!

Name one thing you could not live without. My family and grandchildren. Multiple choice: tell us about: Your first job – My first job was with Standard Oil. In 1952 I ran an 800 gallon fuel tank wagon from Decorah all around the area North and West of town. It was right before I went into the service. It was an old international truck, and I can only recall one major break down a broken axle in the spring from hitting a frost boil. Your favorite memory – Spending time in Decorah with my wife (Pat) and my brother (Curtis) and his wife. We were together a lot at Church dinners, visiting each others homes, volunteering, etc. Decorah has always been a viable, active, community. People are willing to do things. I also used to love to go to the Café Deluxe and miss that, but still make it out to the Cow Palace on Mondays whenever possible. It’s fun now to reminisce about places like the Otto Anderson candy shop (he was blind but people didn’t take advantge of him) or the ET Haugen Tobacco store on the corner of Broadway and Water - where they sold malts and had a soda fountain. Bob’s Standard Services (now a Clark Gas Station) is still run by Dave, Jeff, and a friendly and unique cast of employees. Located in West Decorah on College Drive, full service is still available, complete with a smile and conversation. In addition to auto service, gasoline, and a carwash, fresh squeaky cheese curds can be found most Fridays, and thanks to (author/interviewer) Dan Bellrichard, a full line of disc golf supplies can also be found at the station. Visit for more information, or just stop by and say ‘howdy’.

ALWAYS FRIENDLY, COURTEOUS & ON TIME. Our drivers are happy to take you where you need to go. Call us today for a ride! 563-382-3155 50

Winter 2011-12 /


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Profile for Inspire(d) Media

Inspire(d) Winter 2011-2012  

Chinese New Year’s Eve, Mike McAbee, Madison McMullen, Lanesboro Coffee Street Dance Studio, Spirit of Uganda, Knitter Bev Bakkum, Casserole...

Inspire(d) Winter 2011-2012  

Chinese New Year’s Eve, Mike McAbee, Madison McMullen, Lanesboro Coffee Street Dance Studio, Spirit of Uganda, Knitter Bev Bakkum, Casserole...