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Archive for December, 2009

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

phpOk8lr6Are you wondering what the New Year might bring? Try getting a grip on the future with some of the methods Norwegian peasants used, as described by Kathleen Stokker in Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land. Quick—check the chimney smoke!

And a very Happy New Year to you all!

Thailand Deporting Hmong to Laos

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Peoples History of the HmongThis morning the government of Thailand began forcibly deporting thousands of Hmong asylum seekers to Laos from a refugee camp in the Phetchebun province. Many in the international community, including the United States, have asked for the repatriation to cease as it is feared that the Hmong people would face persecution in Laos due to their support for the U.S. during the Vietnam War.

After the Vietnam War, approximately 150,000 Hmong immigrated to the U.S., with many settling in Minnesota.

For more info on the current repatriation of the Hmong to Laos, you can check out the New York Times. If you would like to learn more about the Hmong people, see Paul Hillmer’s new book A People’s History of the Hmong.

10 to 20 Inches?

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

phpDv0udhBefore all of us at the press go to our respective homes and hunker down for a snowy holiday, we share with you a little Minnesota weather history from our book Minnesota Weather Almanac by University of Minnesota climatologist and MPR commentator Mark Seeley.

Happy Holidays all, stay warm, be careful driving, and shovel safely!

The Development of Downtown Minneapolis

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Minneapolis in the 20th Century book coverIric Nathanson, author of Minneapolis in the Twentieth Century, comments on the longstanding public-private partnerships in downtown Minneapolis in his recent piece for the Downtown Journal. He notes that these unique partnerships support projects such as the  Shubert Theater, which is being renovated into a center for dance that will open in 2011, and they continue to strengthen the “strong urban core that continues to serve as the economic anchor for this entire region.”

The People Speak

Friday, December 18th, 2009

phpbXTyFIIf you missed the airing last week of the documentary film based on the groundbreaking books A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States by author, activist, and celebrated historian Dr. Howard Zinn, it’s not too late to order the DVD in time for Christmas! Inspired by Zinn’s books, The People Speak chronicles the lives and experiences of ordinary Americans who, through their words and actions, changed the course of our history.

The philosophy espoused is that change doesn’t come from the top but rather from the bottom and that without those everyday citizens pushing for betterment, there would be no America. This film takes us on a journey from the founding of our country to the civil rights movement, all the way up through today. Order YouTube. To learn more about The People Speak project, click here.

Somali Diaspora Project

Monday, December 14th, 2009

The Somali DiasporaThe Twin Cities Daily Planet reports that  photographer Abdi Roble and author Doug Rutledge of The Somali Diaspora have returned to the Twin Cities to further document the Somali refugee experience in words and photos. Roble and Rutledge also founded a non-profit organization, The Somali Documentary Project, to tell more stories of Somali immigrants and refugees. The TC Planet article notes that the organization formed a partnership with the Twin Cities International School, “through which Somali students are trained in photography and writing to document their own communities in Minnesota. The Twin Cities is one final destination in a long and harrowing journey through multiple countries that exploit and disregard these people along the way.”

For a slideshow of Roble’s beautiful photos with his thoughtful commentary, check out Marianne Combs’s State of the Arts blog at MPR.

Saint Lucia’s Day

Friday, December 11th, 2009

phpLldDk4Sunday, December 13, is Saint Lucia’s Day, the day that oldest daughters in Swedish and Swedish American homes don a crown of burning candles and deliver saffron buns known as lussekatter to the family while singing the beautiful Santa Lucia.

Phebe Hanson remembers her family’s Minnesota celebration in the 1930s in a lovely poem published in Where One Voice Ends Another Begins, edited by Robert Hedin.

The original Lucia, patron saint of the blind whose name means “light,” was martyred in Sicily in AD 304 when she refused to marry a pagan. Medieval accounts hold that her eyes were gouged out with a fork before she was burned at the stake, and she is often depicted holding her eyes on a golden plate. The day is the longest night of the year on the old Julian calendar.

Battery-powered electric crowns are now available.

St Lucia Day

A More Constructive Use for a Tomato

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Potluck Paradise Book CoverMake a meal hearty enough to get you through all of the snow shoveling you will probably be doing for the next 24 hours–Chicken Paprikosh with Dumplings. The recipe comes to you courtesy of Rae Eighmey and Debbie Miller and their book Potluck Paradise.

Enjoy! And happy shoveling!

Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log

Monday, December 7th, 2009

phph2YMx4Can’t get enough of Kevin Kling’s holiday tales? You can see him perform his celebrated Tales from the Charred Underbelly of the Yule Log at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis tonight.

Also, watch Kevin talk with with Cathy Wurzer and Eric Eskola on TPT’s Almanac about his book, Kevin Kling’s Holiday Inn and find out why his family had to eat TV dinners for Thanksgiving one year!

Healing the People: Winter Remedies

Friday, December 4th, 2009

 Remedies and Rituals

 To keep with the theme of “there’s a chill in the air,” we turn to the MHS Press book by Kathleen Stokker, Remedies and Rituals: Folk Medicine in Norway and the New Land, which is filled with fascinating folk-healing rituals and natural home remedies remembered fondly by midwestern Norwegian Americans.  Which cure for winter’s common cold and sore throat would you choose?

 “For a chest cold Mom rubbed my chest with goose grease and would place wool or flannel over it.” (Ester Hegg, born 1913)


“A home remedy for a cough or sore throat was to rub your neck with camphor oil and fasten a man’s woolen sock around your neck.” (Ella Grunewald, born 1916)


“I remember the standard remedy for a serious chest cold or chills and fever. Two extra quilts were added to your bed. Then the potion was mixed: the juice of a half lemon, a generous amount of brandy; then the mug was filled with boiling water. A little sugar and a sprinkling of nutmeg smoothed out the flavor. It was best drunk when already dressed in flannel pajamas. The warm coziness set in almost immediately, and the sweat began to ooze out of your pores. Invariably you felt much better in the morning.” (Judeen Johnson, born 1925)


Beret Hagebak outside her sod house Beret Hagebak outside her sod house in western Minnesota. MHS Collections, photo by Hugh J. Chalmers, from Remedies and Rituals by Kathleen Stokker.