Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chalk Poems

 Audrey Kletscher Helbling  is a writer, poet and blogger at http://mnprairieroots.com/
She lives in SE MN. Her work has been published in poetry anthologies, devotionals, two books, magazines, newspapers, on billboards and in greeting cards. Besides being passionate about blogging she also enjoys photography. She uses the art of photography to tell the stories of people and places in small towns highlighting their everyday life on her blog.

Audrey found a creative way to celebrate April poetry month. She chalked her Roadside Poetry poem on a sidewalk near her house. She lives along a busy street and thought this was a fun way to get a poem out to the public.  
This poem has no title as it was posted on four billboards as part of the Roadside Poetry Project (now defunct) in Fergus Falls. Lines were limited to four and number of characters per line was also limited. Audrey won the spring 2011 competition. Here's a link to see what the Roadside Poetry looked like
Audrey's poem can be found in Roadside Poetry Archives 2011
Cold earth warmed
by budding sun
sprouts the seeds
of vernal equinox
Here's a link to a blog post Audrey wrote about Roadside Poetry. It shows her by the billboard poem.
Mankato, MN currently has a similar, but smaller, poetry project along its bike and walking trail system. Here's a link to info about that contest open to poets living within a 45-mile radius of Mankato:
This poem is from Poetic Strokes, A Regional Anthology of Poetry From Southeastern Minnesota, 2012, published by Southeastern Libraries Cooperating.
Writing Poetry as the Sun Rises
by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My fingertips linger within a mere whisper of the keyboard
as I pause, half-thought, words interrupted mid-phrase,
to tilt my head toward the window and the sunrise
spreading gold and pink across the sky like jam on toast.

In that morning moment, I desire nothing more
than to dip my fingers into the jar of dawn,
to sample her sweetness, to taste of her earthy goodness,
to delight in sunshine and rain and succulent fruit plucked from vines.

But language beckons me back to the keyboard,
to dip my fingers into the jar of words,
to choose and shape and share the poetry that rises within me,
in rhythm and verse upon the breaking day.

And so ends my poetry blitz for April. Perhaps with reading so many poems you are now inspired to try writing a poem of your own :)
Baked Potato Soup
  • 4 baking potatoes
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 6 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheese,divided
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 1 cup lite sour cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions
  • optional 6 slices of bacon cooked and crumbled 
  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Pierce potatoes with fork and bake 1 hour or until tender-cool 
  • Peel potatoes coarsely mash and discard skins  
  • Lightly spoon flour into a measuring cup and level off with a knife 
  • Place flour in a dutch oven and gradually add milk stirring with a whisk until blended
  • Cook over medium heat till thick about 8 minutes and add in mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup of cheese, spices, salt and pepper 
  • Stir till cheese melts
  • Remove from heat and add in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions cook on low heat 10 minutes 
  • Ladle into 8 bowls and sprinkle each with 1-1/2 tsp cheese, 1/2 tsp. onions and 1 TB. bacon 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Poetry On And Off The Wall

Poetry On And Off The Wall 2013 is an exhibit sponsored by Five Wings Arts Council that features the work of poets living in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. Five Wings Arts Council encourages and promotes arts creation, appreciation and education through grant programs and technical assistance to enhance the quality of life for Minnesota residents in Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties. 
This year I participated in the event along with 19 other poets. It was a privilege to celebrate the written and spoken word with all of them. I enjoyed hearing the poet's stories that led up to the creation of their poems. Each participant could submit up to three poems. There was a wide range of ages for the participants with the youngest being eight. At the end of the event guests were encouraged to vote for their favorite poem of the day. Samantha's Dish Towel Poem was the winner.

Permission was given by Samantha Mrazek and Laura Hansen to have their poems published on Ever Ready blog.
My friend, Rita Stone, wanted me to write a poem to go with her hand stitched dishtowels she was giving as gifts to her grandchildren.  So, here is the result!


I hope you use these towels a lot,
To dry your dishes and your pots.

This towel is sewn with love,
With prayers and thoughts from heaven above.

The stitches were made with care and good wishes,
And loads of Grandma Rita’s hugs and kisses.

But remember, do not use this to scrub the biffy,
Or, to dry your very fat kitty.

Each thread was sewn with love and hope,
For you to have blessings (and plenty of soap).

This is not meant to scrub pots or pans,
Or to wash empty garbage cans.

Scrubbing the floor is a definite no-no,
If this should happen, I’d feel very low-low.

I want you to use them, yes, use them a lot!
However, if you cut yourself, please don’t use them to blot.

 By Samantha Mrazek
Samantha is an 11 year old poet/writer from Motley, MN. She wrote her first book when she was 5-years old. At age 9 she was the 2011first place winner in the Staples/Motley Area Arts Council Poetry Slam. She is in the process of co-publishing an animal magazine. 

A Clubhouse For The Book Club
By Laura Hansen
There would be trees growing up through the floor
and birds chattering like in a glass roofed arboretum.

There would be the smell of fresh crushed grapes
and sliced melon, peach.

Friends would bring violins, violas, and serenade us.
For winter meetings there would be trombones

gleaming in the light of a thousand candles
each finger placement honed soft as flannel.

In our book club hideout we would start out
by saying the title aloud like an opening mantra.

Centered thus, we would blow out the candles,
set soft smoke spirals rising to the open roof.

In darkness we would discuss the main character’s
red sneakers, the animal that prowls the forest,

the foreshadowing of grief. The men will leave early
and the women stay late, chewing the bones

of the night’s discussion, passing story upon story
around the circle to be examined.

Our legs stiffen under the weight of our bodies,
the mossy ground gives off a dank chill,

but we are loathe to return to our brightly-
lit lives, our TVs and children and cell phones.

We are still lounging in the soft belly of the novel,
held by its prickly desire. The stars

that swirl in its sky may be our sky, its dark night
our night. We are held here among the trees

our legs twisted together like vines, hands
in our laps like well-schooled children.
by Laura Hansen

Laura is a writer and a poet. She the author of two self-published poetry chapbooks: Why I Keep Rabbits and Diving the Drop-Off. She has had articles and poems published in several regional literary journals and magazines. Laura owns Bookin’ It, an independent bookstore, in Little Falls, MN. http://www.bookinitnow.com/
She will be starting a new chapter in her life with the bookstore's closing in late summer after 20 some years in the business. Laura finds inspiration for writing poems from living her life in a pink house along the Mississippi River with her books and two dogs.  

Cabin Poet
The allure of the lake
way up north 
entices me to leave
the cities far behind.

Searching for solitude
to renew a weary spirit 
and refresh a thirsty soul.

Paddling tranquil waters
wailing loons meander through the rushes
tall pines whisper among the breezes
birds chatter between the trees
a humming engine passes by
breaking the silence
of an early morning ride.

Cabin choices abound
with many things to do.
Diving into a favorite book
penning a quirky verse
hiking the Woodtick Trail
and jig-sawing a Minnesota map.

Savoring the rich aroma of morning coffee
as hours pass quickly into days.
Too soon I need to say good-bye
heading back to that daily maze.
by Sue Ready

Poetry tip: Celebrate April Poetry Month with a decadent dessert and enjoy a book of poems
 Chocolate and Cointreau Mousse
Mousse in French literally means froth or foam. This melt in your mouth mousse marries the flavors of chocolate and orange. It makes a grand finale to a meal. The dessert can be served in a large bowl or individual glasses. For something different use individual martini glasses to serve the mousse in.
Recipe serves 10
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate and 1 square bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 6 TB. butter
  •  1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 TB. cocoa powder
  • 5 large eggs separated 
  • 3 -4 TB. Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • 3/4 of a pint of whipping cream
  • 4 TB. sugar
  • Separate egg yolks from whites (room temperature)
  • Break the chocolate into squares and place the chocolate, butter and orange juice in the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water
  • When the chocolate starts to melt whisk the mixture to blend it (tip place bowl in sink each time you whisk the mixture)
  • After the chocolate and butter have melted remove from heat, stir in the cocoa powder
  • Whisk in egg yolks and Cointreau or Grand Marnier  and simmer all of this over water for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally do not let boil
  • Remove from heat to cool
  • Beat egg whites with sugar
  • Beat whip cream
  • Fold whip cream that has been whipped and beaten egg whites together
  • Fold this mixture into cooled chocolate mixture
  • Refrigerate till serving if more than a few hours cover with wax paper

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Have you tried Kale? It is gaining in popularity because this amazing vegetable is being recognized for its exceptional nutrient richness, health benefits, and delicious flavor.

Eating a variety of natural, unprocessed vegetables can do wonders for your health, but choosing super-nutritious kale on a regular basis may provide significant health benefits, including cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.
What makes kale such a superstar vegetable? It is a nutritional powerhouse for you diet because  one cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.
Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K -- and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.
Now that you have been enlightened on the the healthy benefits of kale enjoy the soup!  

Italian Sausage and Bean Soup
Cook’s note:  Serve this hearty soup with bread sticks and a light salad or fresh fruit. Serves 6
Recipe by Cindy K.
  • ¾ lb. Italian sausage or ground turkey
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (garlic, basil and oregano)
  • 1-cup barley
  • 1-1/2 cups diced carrots
  • 3 stalks of diced celery
  • 1TB. Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp. Rosemary
  • 4-6 cups kale
  • In a soup pot brown sausage or turkey-set aside
  • Sauté onions, garlic in 2 TB. olive oil-add in rest of ingredients and simmer on low for about 45 minutes or until carrots and celery are tender
The Lesson
by Billy Collins
In the morning when I found History
snoring heavily on the couch,
I took down his overcoat from the rack
and placed its weight over my shoulder blades.

It would protect me on the cold walk
into the village for milk and the paper
and I figured he would not mind,
not after our long conversation the night before.

How unexpected his blustering anger
when I returned covered with icicles,
the way he rummaged through the huge pockets
making sure no major battle or English queen
had fallen out and become lost in the deep snow.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


The Minnesota State Fair boasts more things on a stick than anywhere in the world. Every year at the Fair you can find an abundance of things on a stick ranging from walleye, to corned beef and cabbage, fried fruit, alligator sausage, frozen key lime pie and many more offerings. But nowhere on the list have I seen Poetry on the Stick. This unique non-edible item certainly is noteworthy.

David Bengtson, a MN poet and his wife Marilyn came up with this creative idea to promote poetry. In fact he has made and given away more than 8,300 Poems-on Sticks. Last year I posted his story on my blog during April Poetry month. I wrote him asking permission to post his story and at that time he sent me a dozen poems-on-sticks in the mail. Several months after that I had an opportunity to meet him at a writer's conference. I am one of his biggest fans. He was quite generous and gave me 2 dozen poems-on-sticks. Now I only have these four left in the photo. 
The following is David's story. 
“Poems-on-Sticks” Story by David Bengtson

In 2003, I was one of the seven poets who read poems on the Mississippi River Stage at the Minnesota State Fair. This event was sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service.

Since so many things at the fair are served on a stick, my wife Marilyn suggested that I glue some postcard-sized poem/photo combinations to sticks, sign them, and bring them along to hand out after the reading. I brought 50 and they went quickly.

I still remember one little guy, maybe around 10, who took a poem, stepped away, read it, turned and looked at me. He then walked back, holding the poem as though he wanted me to take it, and said, “Ya gotta another one?” Not easily discouraged, I have, since then, made and given away more than 8,300 “Poems-on-Sticks” at various presentations, readings, workshops, bookstores, and coffee shops.

To view a collection of David's Bengtson's poems and Mike Hazard's photographs follow this link http://poemsonsticks.tumblr.com/

This is one of David's poem 
Japanese Garden
In this garden one tree is weeping
while another's bent branch waits for God to sit 
and the lantern rides a frozen wave.
All winter we waited for these few days.
when plum and apple blossom.
Tomorrow we will walk this path again
and stand here with outstretched hands
as petals fall silent as snow. 


Salmon with Strawberry Salsa
Cook's notes: This recipe can be grilled as well as baked. The good news is I can now reach the grill since the temps reached 75 yesterday!!! 
Using red onion in the salsa would have been my first choice but I did not have it on hand so substituted yellow onion.
  • 1LB. salmon fillet 
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon 
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup diced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • Balsamic vinegar

  • Spray a piece of foil with PAM and place in a baking dish with low sides
  • Mix equal parts of cinnamon and chili powder
  • Squeeze lime juice over the fillet and rub on spices
  • Place covered in refrigerator about 45 minutes
  • Bake at 400 for 20 minutes uncovered (baking time depends on the thickness of the fillet)
  • While salmon bakes mix strawberries, cucumbers, red onion in a small bowl
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar and a little lime juice over this mixture
  • Let salsa sit at room temperature till salmon is done baking 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Floral Masterpieces

"I never for a day gave up listening to the songs of our birds, or watching their peculiar habits, or delineating them in the best way I could. "
John James Audubon April 26, 1785 –January 27, 1851 was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist and hunter. He was well known for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. His major work, entitled The Birds of America is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Audubon identified 25 new species. When the book was published it was 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall with 435 life size colored plates of North American birds.  
This floral piece set on its side was outside the entrance to the Institute
Art in Bloom, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Annual  floral festival and fundraiser, features 157 floral arrangements inspired by the works in the MIA's collection. It runs from April 25-28 in Minneapolis, MN. This year's them is "Global Nature". But don't fret if you can not get there in time as I have a virtual tour of the event.
This festival is such a visual treat with all the creativity and imagination that goes into the design of each floral piece. The designers inspired by a particular work of art set about to match it with line design and color. 

This arrangement replicates the official Art in Bloom poster hung on the wall.

Claude Monet

Sculptured piece Women in Veil

When I got to this gallery in the contemporary section I thought it was under construction with large blue draping cloths spread out only to find out this is serious work of sculpture called "Posture is Everything."
The artist molded silicone as her medium and landscape was her inspiration. The silicone is draped over wooden stands  to create a ghostly outline of a forest from which trees have been felled to provide material for these processed woods. And instead of leaves, a blue skin is  draped as if the sky had molted and landed here. The effect was a bit disorienting but did make you pause to think and for me I thought truly the sky had fallen!

This was one of my favorites with the graceful lines of the floral piece to mimic the lines of the metal piece behind it.

Bella specially requested this photo of molded plastic dog made by a Japanese artist.

This is the floral piece that goes with the dog photo. The artist was inspired by the fact it was made by a Japanese artist so this piece was titled Dog Likes Sushi. Look carefully in the picture. The dog bowl with floral pieces in it are made to resemble sushi foods. Quite creative!

This arrangement was just plain fun and whimsical. The artist's creation was inspired by the Cardinal in the painting.

I should mention that this year a lot more of the artists were quite imaginative with their vessels or containers used to hold the floral arrangements. One artist used her grandmother's milk pail from Norway and some made their own containers. Truly talent abounded at this festival.

This could be your next DIY craft. Just take books stack them in a pile, cut a deep hole through them and insert a vase. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Cinnamon-Stewed Chicken with Spicy Roasted Coriander Rice

The First Book
by Rita Dove

Open it.

Go ahead, it won't bite.
Well...maybe a little.

More a nip, like. A tingle.
It's pleasurable, really.

You see, it keeps on opening.
You may fall in.

Sure, it's hard to get started;
Remember learning to use

knife and fork? Dig in:
You'll never reach the bottom.

It's not like it's the end of the world-
just the world as you think

you know it.

The recipe posted today called for coriander. It is a spice I have not used before. Of course that led to a bit of research to demystify the ingredient. Some things I learned were surprising as coriander has more uses than just for cooking. 

Coriander also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania. It is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Like other spices coriander is available throughout the year providing a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are the portions used as the dried spice. When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges.
Coriander seeds are available whole or in ground powder form. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander, like many spices, contains antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice.
Coriander is used in lentils, beans, onions, potatoes, hot dogs, chili, sausages, stews and pastries. It is used in North American, Mediterranean, North African, Mexican, Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines, as well as in spice blends including curry powders, chili powders, garam masala, and berbere.
It is a plant and the seed is an active ingredient in medicine. Coriander is used to treat digestion problems. It is also used to treat measles, hemorrhoids, worms, and joint pain well as infections caused by bacteria and fungus. 
Cinnamon-Stewed Chicken with Spicy Roasted Coriander Rice
Cook's notes:This recipe has been adapted from mccormickgoumet.com
A prepared box of basmati rice could be substituted for the Spicy Coriander Rice
Cinnamon-Stewed Chicken
  • 2 tsp, Roasted Saigon Cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse grind pepper
  • 6 bone in chicken thighs or 2 lbs. chicken boneless breast can be substituted
  • 2 TB. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 2 TB. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 small can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 small package dried cherries or dates
  • almonds
  • 1 can chunky tomatoes (garlic,basil,oregano)
  • Mix roasted cinnamon. salt and pepper and sprinkle both sides of the chicken
  • Heat oil in large fry pan add chicken and cook 4 minutes per side or until golden brown
  • Remove chicken from skillet add onions and garlic and saute about 4 minutes
  • Stir in wine and bring to a boil on high and cook about 10 minutes till wine has evaporated, stirr in to loosen brown bits in bottom of skillet. 
  • Stir in tomato paste, broth, chunky tomatoes, dried cherries, allspice and oregano
  • Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 45 minutes and serve over rice-sprinkle with almonds
Spicy Rice
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger 
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup dried basmati rice
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • Heat oil saute onions add in roasted coriander, ginger and crushed red pepper
  • Stir 30 seconds
  • Add water bring to boil and add in rice, peas and salt
  • Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 18-20 minutes

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

GET TO KNOW YOUR APPLES Pink Lady , great balance of sweet and tart. Granny Smith , maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart ...