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Live it! Speaking Out Helped save her life

DIY holiday ideas

Christmas Tradition dates to medieval Europe


Happy Holidays… The holiday season is upon us, and while it should be a season of joy, for many it causes much stress. Watching the carefree abundance of excitement the little ones share during the holidays makes me wonder – why do we, as adults, put so much pressure on ourselves? All this does is make our stress and anxiety levels soar. I know I’ve been stressing over when we will celebrate our family Christmas this year. I’ve always told myself having our children and their families home for the holidays – for quality time spent together – would be more important than when that actual time would be, if not on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Well, the time has come, with work schedules complicating matters, it would be nearly impossible to get everyone together on Christmas this year. But when then? I think we have come up with a solution, but it hasn’t been without a great deal of stress on my part. I’ve been insistent it be an amount of time not “smashed” between other events. For those traveling with young ones, however, it is important they try to limit the amount of time spent on winter roads, as well. Which I totally understand. I finally came to the conclusion that a great deal of the stress I’ve been putting on myself (and others) was due to my underlying feeling that everything is changing. Since my parents are no longer with us, I’ve been struggling to find a new normal. That is especially true during the holidays. I want things to be perfect, to build new traditions. I’ve realized I can’t force it, and making it stressful means it isn’t going to be enjoyable. I’m trying to let go and go with the flow. Whatever happens will happen. I used to be more that way, but sometimes I forget. Managing stress in our lives is easier said than done. For some, just the thought of spending time with family or extended family is stressful. Political discussions at the dinner table can spiral out of control, or other differences simmer just below the surface. Cloey (Life Happens) gives some advice for keeping the family conversations on the light side, and Amy (Health & Fitness) addresses ways to manage holiday stress levels. Finding an outlet for her stress, anxiety and fears, Helen Grothe shares her story of picking up the pieces of her life and moving on, as written by Carolyn Lange. Hopefully, as we move through the season we may all find joy and excitement in the holidays, and share the love of family and life with our loved ones! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all. If you have a topic you’d like to see in Live it!, send your story ideas to We love to hear from our readers. You can also “like” us on Facebook or send us a tweet @Liveitmag. Life in west central Minnesota…it really is a beautiful thing…

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Misc. comments we receive about Live it!: The articles are of interest to me with the personal one-on-one touch. It’s interesting, has variety and spotlights local stuff that isn’t printed elsewhere. I love reading (it). The articles are very interesting and I love that it is about local people. Great local magazine! Very well designed and put together.

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Live it! Magazine 3


Can’t Live without it!

A publication of the West Central Tribune


Sharon Bomstad

Magazine Editor To contact Live it! call 320-235-1150 or email

Writing & Photography Anne Polta Lu Fransen Carolyn Lange Erica Dischino

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2208 W. Trott Ave., Willmar MN 56201 Volume 6, Issue 6

Copyright Š 2017 West Central Tribune Live it! magazine All rights reserved. Although some parts of this publication may be reproduced and reprinted, we require that prior permission be obtained.

Cover Story

Finding an outlet to get past the pain


December 2017 - January 2018, Volume 6, Issue 6


Communication key in life


Everyone has a story to tell


Words are very powerful


Get creative with holiday wrap




READER’S MAILBAG What we hear LIFE HAPPENS Tips to deal with holiday



SYTLE IT! Bundle up with a warm sweater


DO-IT-YOURSELF Holiday wrap ideas


HEALTH & FITNESS You choose your




READ IT! Gift ideas for booklovers


SAMPLE IT! A bit of Christmas cookie



SPIRITS We all need one another






By Carolyn Lange

6 Live it! Magazine


After living with an abusive husband and becoming a widow at 30, Helen Grothe found the courage to attend a Toastmasters meeting that changed her life.

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elen Grothe rises from her chair, smiles, and with eyes focused on her audience of three, delivers a short, but thoughtful, icebreaker speech during a recent weekly Toastmasters meeting at the Willmar Public Library. She had just come from a different Toastmasters meeting in St. Cloud and is a member of two other Toastmasters clubs, where her words are like magnets drawing listeners in close for an insightful message or reeling back in laughter with a humorous tale. She has trophies and stacks of Toastmasters awards for delivering the spoken word – for telling her story. For speaking from the heart.


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Helen’s comfortable confidence is a testament to the power that public speaking – of having a voice – has had on a woman who for 11 long years constantly heard: “you’re dumb, you’re stupid, nobody likes you” from her husband. She prayed to God it would stop. Even after her husband was killed in a 1984 car crash that also nearly killed her and left her a 30-year-old widow with four young children, Helen, now 65, can still hear the abusive words “like a tape recorder” being played in her head when something goes wrong. Toastmasters, she said, gave her the tools and confidence to pull herself up and put her life on a positive course of leadership, networking and learning. “I can’t imagine where I’d be without it,” Helen said.


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“I prayed that God would kill him. It doesn’t mean that I really wanted it to happen. I just wanted the pain to stop.” CRAWLING TO SAFETY

Helen’s father died when she was a senior in high school. She graduated in 1971, was married at 19 and had her first child at 20, followed by three more babies. The physical and emotional abuse and verbal tirades from her husband left her “afraid to talk to people.” Even if nobody else sees abuse, it lives “inside you,” she said. Fearing continued abuse and not knowing where to turn for help, Helen said she started praying a very dark prayer. “I prayed that God would kill him,” she said, as tears rimmed her eyes. “It doesn’t mean that I really wanted it to happen. I just wanted the pain to stop.”

They were living near Starbuck at the time, and on Dec. 7, 1984, they had gone out to eat. On the drive home, at around midnight, the car hit black ice and rolled. Her husband was killed instantly and Helen was thrown from the vehicle. The open driver’s door jammed into the earth, preventing the teetering car from crushing her. When she looked down at her body, she saw one straight leg and the other pointing out, like an “L” from her torso. “I screamed and yelled, and all I heard was the closest neighbor’s dog barking,” she said. The next quarter of a mile was one of the longest journeys of Helen’s life.

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She dug her fists “deep into the snow” and drug her body backward along on the edge of the tar road – forcing shards of windshield glass into her skin – as she inched her way to the nearest house. Despite pounding on the door and screaming for help, no one came. She then took three small rocks she had gathered from the road and, one by one, tried to hit a window. The first stone missed. The second stone missed.

The third caught a corner of the window, which broke, and got the attention of the homeowner. Helen spent nearly a month in the hospital – without insurance – and in physical and emotional pain. “I was told they didn’t expect me to live,” she said. She went home on Christmas Eve. While in the hospital, she missed her husband’s funeral and struggled with a mixture of guilt and relief – and a torrent of anger. “I felt I was the problem,” Helen said. “I had such an ugly attitude after the accident.”

It’s Storytime

New London Story Show makes connection between storytellers and the audience By Carolyn Lange


or the last three years Heather Westberg King has invited people to tell their personal stories on stage in New London in front of a paying audience. Right from the start, a bit of magic happened. People showed up. “I thought I’d get nothing. I thought people would be too scared,” Heather said. “But they showed up and they continue to,” she said. “It’s created this little community of storytellers that I love so much.” The blogger and owner of the recently opened Flyleaf Book Shop located in the Lake Affect Coffee shop in New London, she had produced live story shows in Minneapolis and Austin, Texas. When she moved back to her hometown of New London, she decided to launch local story shows here. Prior to the shows, which are held every three months, Heather decides a theme for people to frame their stories around. The theme for the last show was “dirty tricks.” People submit original written scripts for consideration, and after she selects seven to nine stories, Heather meets with the writers to help edit their stories. She listens to them read their pieces out loud. Some of the past storytellers have included teachers, nurses, farmers, people who are retired and young students. “You don’t have to be a writer,” she said. “You can be a guy at the coffee shop.” The stories presented at the shows are not fiction. They are true stories as remembered by the storyteller. Some of the stories are funny, quirky or thoughtprovoking. Some are incredibly heart-wrenching.

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Heather realizes that sharing personal stories in front of a crowd – especially one that’s paid for a ticket to attend – can be terrifying. But she works with writers prior to each show and assures them that their stories matter. They are able to leave their insecurities behind and create a connection with the audience, she said. Telling stories and listening to stories can be a powerful experience. “It’s just really transformative for the audience and the storytellers,” she said. Quietly listening to stories and “bearing witness” to what people have to say is as important as telling a story,” Heather said. “We’re in great need of better listening and this is one way to practice that.” The next New London Story Show will be held in January at the Little Theatre in New London. Heather said she is open to hosting story shows in other communities as well. Watch for information about the time, date and theme of story shows on the Flyleaf Book Shop Facebook page.


Helen took her four children and broken life and moved back to her hometown of Eden Valley. She went to college and went back to work. In 1999, while working at Creative Memories in St. Cloud, Helen was invited to a Toastmasters meeting. The thought of standing up in front of people and talking terrified her. “I had a fear of public speaking. What do I have to say? Who will believe me? Who will listen to me?” she said. But she went and gave her first speech. As she walked back to her chair, she was elated and said to herself, “I didn’t die. I didn’t die. I didn’t die.” The experience was “unbelievable,” she said She received positive, non-judgmental feedback and was told “you’re the expert on your life,” and was encouraged to speak about her experiences and thoughts with confidence.

The structure of Toastmasters meetings – whether impromptu responses to table topics or presenting researched speeches – and the roles of fellow members, including “ah counters” who keep track of crutch words like “ah” and “like,” helped sharpen her speaking skills, Helen said. She also learned tips about body language and facial expressions that help convey a message. Having good communication skills honed through regular practice at Toastmasters can improve job interviewing skills, leadership qualities and personal relationships, she said. “And it’s so much fun.” Toastmasters can be transformative for first-time speakers who may be “timid and fearful” as she was. After 19 years of standing up and speaking at Toastmasters, Helen said she has seen herself transition from being “this abused woman” to the “person I wanted to be.”

Live it! Magazine 11

Awards, including being named the Outstanding Toastmaster of the Year for District 6 that includes nearly 300 clubs in Minnesota and Ontario, Canada, continue to give her “atta girl” boosts, she said. Belonging to multiple Toastmasters clubs gives her a “weekly fix” that helps her continue to move away from the past. Even though the abusive marriage and accident was “a lifetime ago,” she said it doesn’t mean the nightmares and questions stop.

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“Oh my gosh. The pain is always there. Even when I talk about it now, I can feel it,” she said. “It takes a long time to heal,” said Helen, who encourages people living in abuse to seek help. Attending regular Toastmasters meetings fuels her growth and transition, expands her network of people who enhance her professionally and personally, and gives her more opportunities to speak, she said. “Every meeting I go to is my addiction. It’s a good addiction.”


Helen has not only learned to be an accomplished public speaker, but she has also learned to be a better listener. “There are so many people out there that want to be heard,” she said. “There are so many stories that need to be told.” Knowing how much she values her story being heard, Helen said she “truly enjoys listening to people.” There are people who “don’t have somebody to listen to them,” she said, such as senior citizens who have valuable experiences and stories to share, and young adults searching for direction in their personal and professional worlds. “They need to be heard,” she said.

By giving people a format for speaking and listening, Toastmasters has “changed a lot of people’s lives,” Helen said, including hers, and she sees the potential it has to change others. “I wish more people would join Toastmasters to see the benefit of it,” she said. The West Central Toastmasters Club 5064 meets at 5 p.m. every Tuesday in the genealogy room at the Pioneerland Public Library in Willmar. For more information about Toastmasters go to: Carolyn Lange is a features writer for Live it! Magazine, and a reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar.



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Value of the spoken word

By Carolyn Lange


torytellers were the original keepers of history and traditions, and the spoken word has the power to enlighten and frighten listeners. Technology, including Twitter and Facebook, has changed how some people communicate. But technology has also brought about the rise of popular podcasts that celebrate the spoken word. But perhaps nothing is more intimate and soulsearching than the act of sharing thoughts, opinions or personal anecdotes in front of an audience – whether it’s one or two people or 100 or 200. Bev Knudsen, an instructor of communication studies and history at Ridgewater College who has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Notre Dame and was recently awarded the Adjunct Teacher of the Year award by the Communications and Theater Association of Minnesota, shares her views on the values of oral communication.

14 Live it! Magazine

Live it!: Is it still important to cultivate public speaking skills? Why or why not? Bev: The “soft skill” of communication makes a significant difference in every aspect of our lives – in our relationships, in the workplace, and in our local and global communities. We speak to inform, persuade, motivate, console and so much more. Successful relationships with others depend on ethical and appropriate communication. At the heart of good citizenship, for example, is the ability to speak up and represent our concerns and interests at a city or county council meeting. In our jobs we need to be able to communicate well with clients and colleagues alike. Live it!: What makes the spoken word such a powerful tool for the speaker? Bev: Words have the power to wound self-esteem or uplift the spirit. Look at the difference between hearing the words “You are such a disappointment” versus “You did an amazing job on this project!”

I think we can all recall words that moved us emotionally, either positively or negatively. Consider (and watch them if you have not seen them) the public presentations by Steve Jobs in his Stanford commencement address, Maya Angelou’s reading of her poem “A brave and startling proof,” or the words you may hear during a eulogy of someone you loved. Powerful messages are made up of everyday words but may carry extraordinary meaning to someone in the audience. I have been moved to tears by speeches. Most recently I heard Patty Wetterling speak in St. Cloud. Referring to herself as “just Patty,” she had the audience laughing, then crying, and then laughing again. She is not a highly trained public speaker, yet she was thrust into the public spotlight nearly three decades ago

every afternoon, or the violinist who diligently practices in order to be better at their craft, the same is true for public speaking (or communicating with others in general). When I was a kid, I was shy and reserved. In middle school I decided to join the speech team. It felt awkward and I am pretty sure I looked nervous. I was not perfect in competition, but I got up in front of people and performed my piece. The joy was in the trying. Last month I spoke in front of a crowd of over 300 speech and theater instructors. Was I nervous? Sure. Was it perfect? No. Did I have something important to say? Absolutely! The point is the more we consciously build our skills in communicating, the better we are able to do it

“Powerful messages are made up of everyday words but may carry extraordinary meaning to someone in the audience. I have been moved to tears by speeches.” when her son Jacob was kidnapped. She became a good public speaker because she had an important message of hope to share with multiple audiences who wanted to listen. Live it!: What does it mean to “find your voice?” Bev: Each of us is unique in how we communicate and what we choose to say. We have to be able to speak on our own behalf, and be able to articulate assertively what we need and want in our lives. Think about asking for a raise or promotion at work; we have to find our voice in order to advocate for ourselves. I think, too often, people may be aware of their unique voice (and by that I do not mean how a person speaks) but choose to ignore or downplay it. People who find, use and develop their voice speak with passion and confidence, and are not afraid to use their life experience and what is often referred to as their authentic self in sharing an important message to others. Live it!: How can public speaking affect a speaker’s self-esteem? Bev: Public speaking, like any other craft, requires three things: motivation, skills and knowledge. First, a person must be motivated to be a better speaker and appreciate the value of public speaking. Next, they must gain the knowledge (through taking a public speaking course, reading a book or perhaps simply joining a speaking group like Toastmasters) of what public speaking is, and what it is not. And finally, skill-building is a must. Practice makes better. Notice I did not say “Practice makes perfect”? Just like an athlete who goes on the field to practice

well. It takes time and practice (and do not forget that motivation bit). Live it!: What words of advice do you have for people who are hesitant to speak in front of people? Bev: If a speaker is passionate about the topic they want to share, an audience is generally willing to listen. Many people who shy away from public speaking may not realize they have something interesting to say. We tend to get so caught up in performing a speech and believing everyone is judging us on our delivery, we forget they are also interested in what we have to say. The anxiety we feel when we speak in public is natural. A little adrenaline before and during a speech is perfectly normal. Being prepared is a great way to keep the anxiety at a reasonable level, and of course practicing several times is very important. When the students in my communications classes prepare and practice, they build confidence throughout the semester. When I see motivated people blossoming in their communication skills, who then apply those new skills to their personal and professional lives, it is a very exciting, and rewarding, thing to witness. Bev Knudsen holds a bachelor of arts in history and communication studies, a master of arts in history, and a master of science in communication studies. She is co-author of a new, free open-source communication studies text written under Minnesota State’s Educational Innovations Campus Open Textbook Project Grant.

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No politics allowed at holiday gatherings By Claudette Larson, LICSW


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that’s not something you’re going to solve over a holiday dinner. Lastly and most important, this is for the host; Do not be afraid to announce at the hint of political discourse that your home and table is not the place for challenging one another’s feelings on the issues of our nation. You went to a lot of trouble to create a welcoming and inclusive event for everyone to enjoy – and you want everyone to do just that. If said firmly and with grace, your loved ones should respect your wishes. If an individual isn’t happy with that, they are free to find a frozen TV dinner at the grocery store and sit in front of cable news at home. Take care. Claudette Larson, LICSW, RPT is owner of Willow Creek Counseling in New London and has enjoyed working with children, teens and adults for the past 16 years.

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t’s that time of year again. The holidays are here and before you can say “Jingle Bells,” you’ll be sitting around a table passing the ham and praying nobody gets into any heated political discussions. If there’s one thing that ruins the survivability of a holiday get-together, it’s that one relative who must start ranting about the state of the union from their perspective, and isn’t satisfied until half the room is arguing against them. You only need to look on Facebook these days to see the state of political discussions goes nowhere fast, and the only outcome for your festivities is indigestion and Grandpa’s veins popping out of his forehead. What to do? First and foremost, do not take the bait. That isn’t to say you don’t have an opinion. Wait until you get home and rant to your delight if need be, but it’s a matter of time and place and holiday get-togethers are neither. If you need to shove the world’s largest pile of mashed potatoes in your mouth, be the hero and do it. Second move is to change the subject by asking the offending party a question pertaining to another subject. The truth is, they are likely wanting to get some attention, so give it to them. Make the question open-ended. For example, “What do you think about ’90s sitcoms coming back on TV?” Be sure to take things completely away from anything remotely political because it won’t take much to get them back to their original thought process. The more positive the discussion, the better, as most rants stem from an overall issue of dissatisfaction and

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Style it! Hello sweater weather!

By Alexandra Floersch


t’s the holiday season, and it’s not only a time for spiced apple cider, pine scents and Christmas carols – it’s also sweater weather. Fall and winter open “up a whole new level to get creative with fashion and your outfits,” says boutique owner Kelly Falk. “This is the biggest season we’ve seen with new trends in sweaters.” While fashion trends turn as quickly as the autumn leaves, sweater fashion isn’t usually all that innovative. After all, what more can you do with knits? “I wouldn’t say it’s a dramatic change (this year), but there are slight changes in fabric and material types,” says Abby Krusemark, a boutique store manager. Here are five new sweater trends help you have the coziest autumn possible.


“Chenille fabric is super popular. It has kind of that metallic tone to it and it’s a little thicker,” Krusemark says. “That’s kind of the up-and-coming newest thing.” Aside from various patterns of thin and wide ribbing, a popcorn texture – which has a fuzzy, plush look like a stuffed animal – has also infiltrated the market. “We can’t even keep it in stock because people have been so crazy about it,” Falk says. “I think (softness) is a part of it, too. People touch things as they’re looking, and they just have to have it. They know it’s going to be incredibly soft and comfortable.” More dramatic texture, such as loose loop piles and fringe have also made an appearance in sweaters this year.

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While many textures have been present in past years, Falk says the distressed look is brand new this year and very popular in stores. “I’ve seen distressing everywhere from the hemline or trim on the bottom to the sleeves to the neckline of the sweater or even all over where you would definitely need to wear something under it like a bodysuit,” she says. Distressing gives the sweater a tattered, ripped or torn appearance, but sometimes holes are visible. “Designers have gotten really creative with it,” Falk says. “It’s kind of playing off that ‘90s grunge style which is coming back.” Though distressing creates a more casual look, Falk says there are ways to style for different occasions. “If you have rules for work and what you can wear, I would go a little more on the lighter distressing side and maybe layer it with some other pieces so you still get that trend but it’s not so glaring,” she says. “If you’re in college or have a job that gives you more freedom in terms of wardrobe, then I would go all for it. Try a pullover sweater with distressing all over it and wear a bodysuit under it.”


Trending sweater lengths run from one end of the spectrum to the other. “I would say (sweaters) are a little shorter than last year,” Krusemark says. “I think the bottom line has shortened up a little bit.” Falk says cropped sweaters are also trickling in amongst long, open front floor-length cardigans.

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When it comes to sweater flare, you can find it on the sleeve. “If there’s any special detail – whether it’s embroidery or lace-up, texture or some sort of pretty detail – it’s always on the sleeve this season,” Falk says. Crossing over from last year, lace-up sleeves have been popular. “Almost every designer has some sort of lace-up sleeve whether it was that traditional lace-up look or larger grommets with different types of lace patterns,” Falk says. Sleeve shapes must also be noted. “There’s definitely a ton of bell sleeves carrying over from a summer trend of chiffon tops,” Falk says. Ruffles have also given simple sweaters more body and flare. “Some will attach all the way across the chest. Some are just on the sleeve to add a little extra detail,” Falk says. While it’s not exclusive to sweaters, floral embroidery has exploded since spring and summer. “Now it’s everywhere,” Falk says. “It’s on our sweaters, our denim, T-shirts, leather jackets. To see that on sweaters now is really fun, too.”


Surprisingly enough – when looking to trending colors – the most powerful is lacking just that. “Neutrals are really in right now – moreso even than last year,” Krusemark says. “Creams, grays, beige, even a champagne color.” Krusemark says neutrals are popular because they look good on everyone. “You can dress them up or can dress them down. You can layer with them. They’re just great colors for pairing with anything in your closet.” For those who appreciate more vibrant hues, Falk says there are plenty. “In terms of a color wave, definitely the forest and olive greens, mustards, maroons are in. I’ve actually been really surprised, but the color of mauve has really carried over from spring and summer into fall.”

Alexandra Floersch writes for Forum News Service, she can be reached at at (701) 451-5730.


With the latest trends in mind, Falk and Krusemark offer tips for styling outfits centered around sweaters. • Layer the look. “I always recommend throwing on a denim or leather jacket,” Krusemark says. “You could even do a scarf.” Layering short and long necklaces over a sweater add some interest as well. For the distressed-style sweaters, Falk says bodysuits and high-neck bralettes are a good way to cover bare skin underneath. • Mix feminine with edgy. “I like to have some contrast and a mix of textures – kind of the hard and soft example,” Krusemark says. “Do something more frilly and feminine with something a little more edgy.” Falk says it’s a fun look to create. “It’s cool because everyone feels like they can wear it,” she says. “It’s not too edgy or too feminine so it works for a lot of people.” • Knot your sweater. “The knotted sweater trend is huge,” Falk says. “A lot of people are putting dresses on, throwing a (pullover) sweater over and knotting it to the side. It’s pretty cute.” Pairing a knotted sweater with leggings and a longer tunic top is another option, Falk says.

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Do-it!-yourself By Lu Fransen

Ugly sweater made easy S

o you’ve been invited to an Ugly Sweater Party and have nothing to wear. No problem! Whip up this poncho in about an hour.

A quick trip to the store for a felt tree skirt, some trim or ribbon, and some “baubles” are all you need, along with a needle, thread, scissors, stick pins and a hot glue gun. I bought everything on post-Christmas clearance last year. You can buy other types of tree skirts, but make sure the fabric will be comfortable on your skin, will drape nice and not be too warm on you. When it comes to what you will use for decorating it, choose lightweight items and nothing too bulky. Small plastic ornaments, pine cones, small battery-operated strings of lights and tinsel garland are other fun items.

Above: FRONT Right: BACK

Make sure if you use ribbon that it’s non-wired so the poncho flows freely. I tried wired ribbon. It was too stiff and the poncho stuck out funny. Just experiment with a variety of items, especially things you already have at home. First step is to attach the seam so the circle is closed. I hand sewed it. You can also machine sew or hot glue it. Next, you need to cut a hole for your head to go through. I laid a plate down and traced it. Start out small, then try it on. If it’s too tight around the neck, cut it a little larger. Don’t cut too large to start because you can’t make it smaller again. Now for the fun part – decorating it. How you attach your items depends on what you’re using. You can hand-stitch, machine sew or hot glue. I cut small slits in the tree skirt and wove the netting through. This was kind of putzy. Hot glue would have been quicker. I hot glued the ribbons. I used an upholstery needle and wrapping ribbon to attach the cookie cutters. This worked very well. I didn’t put anything bulky in the back because I didn’t want to lean against it when I sat. The finished product is simple and unique. Wear it over a plain-colored top and you are ready to party! To adapt to a child’s size just cut off of the bottom of the skirt so it’s shorter in length, make the neck hole smaller and use smaller decorations. If you have fabric at home you can also cut your own circle and go from there!

20 Live it! Magazine

Enjoy the party and the holidays!

Holiday Fun Creative gift wrapping W

ith a few strokes on your keyboard, some colored paper, double-sided tape, a plastic sandwich bag, cash, ribbon and a stapler, you can create this Bag of Cash. Wrapping the money around a pencil, tying it, then sliding it off the pencil makes easy work of it.

This “container of dough” is a fun idea for kids who might be saving their money to buy a more expensive gift.

For some people a gift card to a grocery store or restaurant is the perfect gift, especially college students and retired people. Using one of the establishment’s bags, food wrapper, sales flyer or sheet of coupons from the newspaper to wrap the card adds to the fun of giving it!

To make this roll of cash start with a toilet paper roll and the cash taped together end-to-end. Cut a slit in the roll, roll up the cash, insert it in the roll, feed an end through the slit, and then wrap it all up like a Chinese firecracker!

A combination of candy and gift card will make anyone smile! Use a cut out from a Christmas card to decorate the top.

That’s it! Lu follows in her mother’s footsteps of unwinding and relaxing by crafting and creating Creativity is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it becomes!

Live it! Magazine 21


Choose joy over stress


By Amy Erickson

hhh, the holidays … it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Right?! Or is it really the most stressful time of the year? The answer to that question is 100 percent up to you – and how you allow the holidays to make you feel. If you’re wanting to consciously choose joy instead of stress this holiday season – pour a cup of hot cocoa, take a deep breath, and read below to learn how to avoid potentially stressful situations.


Food is arguably the most stressful part of the holidays. You’re trying to host a get-together at your house and plan a delicious meal for everyone, but Aunt Clara is on a ketogenic diet, your niece is vegan, and your grandkids don’t eat gluten or dairy. Ah! Stressful, right? I can assure you they have zero intentions to stress you out or offend you. Let’s say you have a family member who avoids gluten. They will very likely bring

22 Live it! Magazine

their own food to eat (or eat ahead of time), and maybe even offer a dish to share with everyone. There really is no need to feel like you have to cater to all of the dietary guidelines of family members. If they feel strongly in eating a certain way, they will come prepared. But – you also need to relax and choose to not feel offended if they pass on a dish that you spent a lot of time on, or a “family favorite” dessert. Of course you want everyone to enjoy the meal you labored over, but they probably already feel a bit awkward for passing on certain things. Do not call them out because of it. Another tip – don’t feed food/drinks to other people’s babies. I know it might be cute to feed babies something “yummy” and see their adorable reactions … but it may cause a lot of stress and tension if you do so without asking. Food. It’s yummy. It brings people together. Don’t let it have power over you or stress you out. Instead, let it bring you and your family members together.


It may stress some families out to try and come up with a list of things their child (or themselves) want for Christmas. Honestly, gift cards are always a great idea. Find out which stores they prefer. Some families prefer presence over presents. If they choose this, respect it. If they have any other guidelines (toy limit, no electronics, budget limit), please respect those too. Some parents already have a house full of toys and would prefer their child just spend time with family, or even better – give the gift of an experience. A trip to the Mall of America, a skiing experience, zoo membership, road trip, etc. These are ideas that won’t clutter the house, but will allow you to share presence with family members and get to know them better.


I remember the first Christmas while my husband and I were dating. We attended five Christmases in one day … it was miserable. We were not able to spend quality time at any of them. We had to drive all over the place. Family members were upset that we weren’t staying as long as they had hoped. We weren’t eating food because we were stuffed from previous meals. And to top it all off, my husband and I ended the day with a huge argument. After that year, we vowed to not try to “do it all” ever again.

We generally rotate each year whose house we go to. This means we don’t get to see everyone every single year, but it also means when we do get to see them, we get to spend quality time with them. Each family handles the holidays a bit differently. Some families may have multiple places to go in one day, so try your best to enjoy the time you have with them, and do not make them feel guilty for not staying long enough, or not being able to attend your gettogether on an off year. Know that they love you, and love spending time with you, but also have a family of their own and other family gatherings to go to. And by all means – if things start to get stressful, or even if they don’t, get some fresh air. Head outside. Go for a walk. Breathe deeply. Keep your body moving and your mind clear. Are you still with me? Do you think you can handle this? I encourage you to try these guidelines even if only for one family get-together. See if it makes a difference. Will your family members notice you are joyful instead of stressed out? Will you learn more about a family member you’ve maybe been avoiding? You won’t know until you try. Happy holidays to all. More happiness, less stress, and maybe a glass or two of wine just in case. :) Amy Erickson is owner/trainer at Amy Erickson Fitness;



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Give the gift of reading this holiday season ‘Reading is Snow Much Fun’


By Syrena Maranell his holiday season give the gift of books. To get you started, here are a few suggestions:

For the music lovers “Gold Dust Woman: A Biography of Stevie Nicks” by Stephen Davis – Filled with vibrant stories this is perfect for readers interested in Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, or the rock-and-roll lifestyle. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen – More than just a legendary rock star’s memoir, this book is unique. Rarely has a performer told his own story with such force and sweep. For the teens “Genuine Fraud” by E. Lockhart – A perfectly plotted book with a surprise ending. For fans of “We Were Liars.” “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas – A fearlessly honest look at racism through a fictionalized account of a shooting. A heartbreakingly topical story. For history fans “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders – A different take on Lincoln with characters that are full of life (even those who are no longer living). Winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize. “News of the World” by Paulette Giles – In 1870, an aging news reader agrees to deliver a young orphan to her relatives. Historical fiction that explores family, honor, and trust.

24 Live it! Magazine

For the kiddos “Nothing Rhymes with Orange” by Adam Rex – We all know that nothing rhymes with orange. But how does that make orange feel? Goofy, unpredictable and good for a whole lot of laughs. “A Different Pond” by Bao Phi – Father and son go on a pre-dawn fishing excursion in Minnesota. Not for fun, but for food. A quietly affecting story of family and memories.

Winter reading Winter is here and so is winter reading. Our theme this year is “Reading is Snow Much Fun.” This program rewards you for what you love doing – reading. Participants will receive up to two prizes for every five books they read or listen to. You can choose from a mug, tote bag, flash drive or can holder. It’s easy to participate since all you have to do is write down the titles of the books you read. Audiobooks, eBooks and regular books all count towards the total. At the end of the program, all the reading records will be entered in the grand prize drawing. Adults 18 and over, stop at the Information Desk between Jan. 2 and March 30 to participate or print a reading record from www. Syrena Maranell is the Adult Services Librarian at the Willmar Public Library. For more information on these audiobooks, swing by the Willmar Public Library. The librarians are there to help you find your new favorite author. Check out the library’s blog at turningpages. areavoices.

Sample it! A world of cookies By Anne Polta


ew holiday gatherings would be complete without a plate of homemade cookies, so it comes as no surprise that this familiar Christmas tradition has a history extending back to medieval Europe. The Middle Ages ushered in an exciting era in the pastry world. Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg had recently arrived on the scene. Exotic dried fruits were appearing on dessert trays. In most households, these luxuries could rarely be afforded except for the most important feast day of the year, when cooks would invest in the finest ingredients to turn out batch after batch of cookies. The finished products were shared as gifts with friends and neighbors. The cookie itself has been traced even farther back: to seventh-century Persia, one of the first places in the world where sugar was grown and used. Bakers would set aside small amounts of cake batter to test the temperature of their oven, a practice that eventually spread to Europe with the spice trade. The Dutch may have had this history in mind when they named these bite-sized sweets “koekje,” or “little cake.” It’s also the Dutch who are credited with bringing the cookie to North America in the 17th century. These days, cookies have gone global. They can be found in every shape, texture and flavor imaginable, often adapted with local ingredients and reflecting a rich meld of traditions as recipes are passed from one baker to the next. When it comes to cookies, it’s a large world after all.

Live it! Magazine 25


Among the Swedes, these are known as rosenmunnar, or “red mouth,� a reference to the red jam that traditionally fills the thumbprint indentations. A generous use of butter is one of the hallmarks of Scandinavian baking. 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 large egg, separated 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup finely chopped walnuts Raspberry jam or jelly Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, butter, vanilla and egg yolk (reserve the white). Blend well. Add flour and salt and mix until combined. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Slightly beat egg white in a shallow dish. Dip cookies into egg white, then roll in chopped nuts. Place on ungreased baking sheet 1 inch apart. Using your thumb, press a deep indentation in the center of each cookie. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately remove from cookie sheet; cool. Using a small spoon, fill centers with jam or jelly.


Variously known as Russian tea cakes, Polish tea cakes or Mexican wedding cookies, these sugar-dusted treats are a staple on the holiday cookie platter. But how did they get their name? And which name is right? Culinary historians have found no connection to Russia, prompting speculation that “Russian” may have been inspired not by the cookie’s origins but by its snowy appearance and its affinity with tea. Ditto for Poland. The cookie’s claim to a Mexican pedigree does little to clear up the mystery. The recipe may have traveled to Mexico via Spanish convent baking traditions, but again, no one knows for sure. To complicate it further, the cookie goes by other names as well: snowball, butterball, pecan ball, Italian wedding cookies, Danish wedding cookies. But no matter what you call them, they’re essentially the same thing and always delicious. 1/2 cup powdered sugar 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 2 teaspoons vanilla 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup finely chopped or ground pecans or almonds 1/4 teaspoon salt Heat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter and vanilla; blend well. Stir in remaining ingredients until dough holds together. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until cookies are set but not brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly; roll in powdered sugar. Cool completely; roll again in powdered sugar.


This light, melt-in-your-mouth cookies comes from the birthplace of the cookie. Cookies from this part of the world are often made with rice flour, which imparts a more tender texture than wheat flour. They may be flavored with cardamom or rose water, not too sweet and traditionally enjoyed during the day with coffee or tea. 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm 1 cup powdered sugar 1 large egg yolk 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 2 cups brown rice flour Pinch of salt About 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios Combine melted butter and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until combined and smooth. Stir in the egg yolk and cardamom. Add 1½ cups of the flour and the salt and stir to combine. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour and stir and fold until thoroughly mixed. The dough will be stiff. Wrap dough in plastic and chill for 2 hours or up to 24 hours. To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide cookie dough into four pieces; leave two in the refrigerator while you work with the others. Pull off a generous tablespoon of dough and shape into a ball. Place on baking sheet and flatten slightly. Repeat with remaining dough, leaving about 1 inch between the cookies. Sprinkle each cookie with a few pistachios; press down gently, enough to keep the pistachios in place. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to turn golden. Let cookies cool on parchment for 20 minutes.

Live it! Magazine 27

Merry Christmas

& Happy Hew Year


No person is an island; we all have family By Ron Skjong


et me offer an opinion – all of us have the need to socialize. Based on my rather long time of experience, I know there are those of us who will agree with that opinion and those of us who will vehemently disagree with that opinion. And that’s OK because … it gives us a chance to socialize – to communicate with each other. For instance, let’s use our families as a basis for discussion. Don’t we just love everyone in our families? There are never tense moments or inter-family squabbles, right? Within our families, all is perfect, right? We never have fights, arguments or, at times, avoid each other, right? Again, based on my rather long time of experience, families do exactly that – we fight at times, argue with each other at times, and stay away from each other at times. I guess that’s sort of a negative form of communication, but I believe even in those stormy familial moments, we are saying something very important to each other. That something is: despite our negative feelings, we have a need for each other. Let’s use the tradition of Christmas cards to illustrate my thought. For more than a century and as a nation, we’ve been sending Christmas cards to family and friends. For some of us, it’s a pain in our derriere but we do it. Why? Because it’s a form of communication that reminds us of our commonality. For others, it’s a ritual that we anticipate with loving warmness and, again, it reminds us of our togetherness. Through the writing, signing and sending of a Christmas card, we show our need for each other.

28 Live it! Magazine

That same type of need arises time and again when I visit wineries and breweries. When I visit Hinterland Vineyards and ask about their interaction with other vintners, their response is to tell me how much they communicate with other wineries. Glacial Ridge Winery is more than ready to inform me of the many people who are supportive of their winery and how there is continual communication between them. The same theme presents itself when I visit Foxhole Brewhouse and I’m told how important it is for them to talk with other brewers around the area – like the folks at Goat Ridge Brewing Company. Nobody exists for long – or well – in a social vacuum. No man, no woman is an island. We are the sum of those who went before us and, because I like to talk about beverages, allow me to illustrate what I mean by a discussion about wine. The first wines were produced more than 6,000 years ago in eastern Europe and ever since then, vintners have been experimenting with various ingredients and techniques to improve the taste and the life of a wine. Have they succeeded? Oh, yes! They’ve succeeded because they realize that when one succeeds, everyone succeeds. So they talk to each other about various yeasts, aging techniques, blends, terroir, fermentation techniques, and, of course, grapes. By becoming a “family,” everyone succeeds. Is the relationship always smooth? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean they don’t respect each other and have deep feelings for each other. Kind of sounds like your family and mine, doesn’t it?

How do we communicate with each other when times are good or bad? Sometimes we simply talk to each other. Other times, there’s the handshake, maybe other. Other times, there’s the handshake, maybe there’s “the look,” the good old hug or the touch of a hand on yours along with the words “I’m sorry” or “I’m so proud of you.” And, then there’s the monumental moment when we say “I love you” to someone. Well, I can’t help but bring the comic strip character – Charlie Brown – into the conversation. He encounters everything mentioned in this article and is still standing after all these years. Just like us, he bears the winds of challenge, the hurts of failures, the fallout from being a good person, and he does it all by talking with his fellow characters.

So as I’ve said before, perhaps Charlie Brown is all of us. He’s battered, beaten, loved, respected and always relies on his family, friends and dog to get him through the good times and the bad times. No person is an island. I wish all of you a Happy Holiday season – may you make a stranger, a friend. Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon! Cheers! Ron Skjong writes primarily about the wonderful world of wine but likes to explore various spirits and beers, too. He is married and has four grown children. While stationed in Germany, he was introduced to German wines and from that introduction, a lifelong pursuit developed to find that perfect bottle of wine.

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What’s happenin’ ? December 2017 - January 2018

To list your event, email

Glacial Ridge Winery

Kandi Mall bake sales Dec. 2, 9, 16

Dec. 8

Spicer, 5 to 9 p.m., except Dec. 29, Glacial Ridge Winery, state Highway 23 between New London and Spicer; free music concert by different individuals and groups.

Willmar, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Kandi Mall; churches, schools, nonprofit groups and organizations will be selling baked goods.

St. Joseph, 7:30 p.m., Escher Auditorium at the College of Saint Benedict; the contemporary kings of swing and multi-platinum selling artists bring some “joy to your world” with their top-selling holiday show; toes will be tapping, fingers will be snapping and “all will be merry and bright” when they put a bigband spin on holiday favorites; adults $32, students $15, call 320-363-5777 or online at

Every Friday

Festive Forest

Dec. 1, 4-8, 11-15, 18-22, 26-29 Willmar, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays; Kandiyohi County Historical Society museum, 610 Business Highway 71 N.E.; Festive Forest of holiday trees created by local clubs and organizations; admission is free.

Historic Chippewa Village Dec. 2

Montevideo, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Historic Chippewa City, located at the junctions of Highways 7 and 59 in Montevideo; “A Rockin’ 1950s Christmas in the Village” will feature horse-drawn rides, candy and bake sales, crafters, Santa Claus, old-fashioned radio show, lunch line and the decorated village; adults $5, ages 12-17 $2, children 11 and under admitted free.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

West Central Connection Chorus

Dec. 4

Willmar, 7:30 p.m., Willmar Community Center; the West Central Connection Chorus presents a free holiday concert.

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Lucia Day

Dec. 6

Dec. 9

Montevideo, 6:30 p.m., Trinity Lutheran Church, 220 S. 13th St.; Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, followed by an evening tea.

Willmar, 9 a.m. to noon, Bethel Lutheran Church, 411 Becker Ave. S.W., Swedish Candlelight ceremony at 9 a.m. followed by coffee and music; holiday baked goods for sale.

Christmas Cantata

Christmas Star and Laser show

Dec. 7

Pioneer Christmas

Kevin Farley

Forest City, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Forest City Stockade; 22nd annual event, wagon or sleigh rides, visit with Santa, see a winter Native American encampment with teepee, wall tent and A-frame; tour the historic buildings, pioneer crafts and demonstrations, variety of foods available, dress warmly as many of the activities will be outdoors; admission $5, ages 12 and under will be admitted free.

Granite Falls, 7 and 9 p.m., Prairies Edge Casino, comedian Kevin Farley will perform two shows; tickets at www. or the casino box office.

Dec. 2

Run Like Hell

Dec. 2

New London, 7:30 p.m., Little Theatre; America’s premier Pink Floyd Show; $20 online at

Dec. 9, 16, 22-24

Olivia, 7 p.m., St. Aloysius Catholic Church, Christmas Voice of Renville County present “And it Came to Pass … Emmanuel”; freewill donation.

Marshall, 7 p.m., Dec. 12, 16, 22-23; 2 p.m. Dec. 24, Southwest Minnesota State University planetarium, SM 108; “Star of Bethlehem” star show and a Christmas laser show; $5,

Dec. 7

Copper Street Brass Quintet

Dec. 10

Dawson, 4 p.m., Memorial Auditorium; Copper Street Brass Quintet presents “Christmas on Copper Street”; adults $15, students $5. live it ad fall_Layout 1 10/26/2017 3:22 PM Page 1



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30 Live it! Magazine

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Morris, concert 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and 2 p.m. Dec. 3, Recital Hall; pre-concert dinner 6 p.m. and 12:30 p.m., University of Minnesota student center; Holiday Soirée starts with a festive meal with dinner entertainment followed by a concert of seasonal music presented by the college choirs; meal $15, performance only tickets are adults $5, seniors $4, students $3; or 320-589-6077.

Wynonna & The Big Noise


The Reminders

Granite Falls, 7 p.m., Prairies Edge Casino, A Wynonna & The Big Noise Christmas will include a mixture of Christmas songs, Wynonna’s hits, and song from The Judds; doors open 6 p.m., tickets at www. or the casino box office.

Granite Falls, 6 and 8 p.m. Dec. 30, 1 p.m. Dec. 31, Prairies Edge Casino; illusionist Reza is recognized for delivering innovative, engaging and spectacular performances; tickets at or the casino box office.

St. Joseph, 7:30 p.m., Escher Auditorium at the College of Saint Benedict; visionary hiphop is infused with roots, soul and Colorado sunshine, razor-sharp rhymes, soulful vocals and reggae-tinged hip-hop form the backbone of the evening as DJ Man-O-Wax spins funky global-fusion beats and internationally recognized dancer Amirah Sackett redefines hip-hop dance; adults $22, students $15, call 320-363-5777 or online at wow.

Dec. 14

Night of Music

Dec. 30-31

Jan. 26

Willmar Area Symphonic Orchestra

Dec. 14-17

Jan. 7

Willmar, 7 p.m. Dec. 14-16; 2 p.m. Dec. 16-17, Assembly of God Church, 3821 Abbott Drive S.E.; 52nd annual night of music, “Two from Galilee”; free tickets are available at the church, freewill donation.

Willmar, 3 p.m., WEAC; winter concert “Almost All Baroque” featuring Anthony Ross and Madeline Sheard on cello; adults $10, students $5.

An Andy and Bing Christmas

Jan. 12

Dec. 16

Dawson, 7:30 p.m., Memorial Auditorium; Christmas classics of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby; adults $25, students $10.

Brew Ha Ha 3.0 Willmar, 6:30 p.m., The Barn Theatre; a night of beer, comedy and music benefitting United Way’s Imagination Library Program; tickets $35 online at

Velvet Brass Band Jan. 14

Glenwood, 3 to 7 p.m., Lakeside Ballroom; Winter Dance Club open to all, music by Velvet Brass Band; $10 per person, $5 ages 17-30; no jeans or shorts.

Jessica Lang Dance

Feb. 2

St. Joseph, 7:30 p.m., Escher Auditorium at the College of Saint Benedict; Jessica Lang Dance seamlessly incorporates striking design elements and transforms classical ballet into luscious choreography that highlights her gifted dancers. She immerses the audience in her inventive vision and emotionally spellbinding works and her company’s repertoire captivates with stunning movement and dynamic multimedia – interacting innovatively with visual art. There will be a post-performance conversation with Jessica and the dancers; adults $26, students $15, call 320-363-5777 or online at

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December 2017/January 2018 issue of Live it! Magazine  
December 2017/January 2018 issue of Live it! Magazine  

West Central Tribune Lifestyle magazine