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Archive for November, 2012

One Frozen Lake

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

One Frozen Lake Deborah Jo Larson From One Frozen Lake by Deborah Jo Larson, Paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

[Update--One Frozen Lake received a starred review in Publishers Weekly!]

Today’s post is by Deborah Jo Larson, author of the new children’s book One Frozen Lake, with paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.

“I grew up in an ice-fishing family. Just about every Saturday in the winter, my dad would load up this light blue Chevy with an ice shack (which he built himself), jig sticks, tackle, bait, propane heater, thermos of hot cocoa, and most importantly, a wide assortment of candy and snacks. Since ice shacks are tiny, my sisters and I took turns going with him. I felt lucky when it was my turn. I vividly remember what it felt like to be inside the shadowy and surprisingly warm ice shack. I remember card games, peering into the mysterious ice holes, playing with the minnows, and eating a LOT of Snickers bars. What I don’t remember is catching fish. . . .

“When my son was eight years old, my dad took him ice fishing for the first time. He returned home pink-cheeked and jabbering about how much fun he had with Grandpa. The fact that they did not catch one fish clearly did not matter.  My son could not wait to venture out again.

“I knew then I wanted to write a picture book about the unique, quirky sport of ice fishing and, specifically, how waiting for the fish to bite in a minuscule shack brings generations together and creates lasting memories.”

We’re glad she did!

Please click on the book title link, above, for upcoming signings with Deb.

Tasteful Taxidermy

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

“DIY Death Rituals,” “Sing Like a Voyageur,” “Field Dress a Deer,” “Crop Art 101,” “Detasseling Corn: The Hows and Whys,” and “Tasteful Taxidermy” are just a few of the chapter titles in The Minnesota Books of Skills: Your Guide to Smoking Whitefish, Sauna Etiquette, Tick Extraction, and More by Chris Niskanen.

Chris is no stranger to the art of taxidermy. In his book he profiles Marv and Betty Gaston of Taxidermy Unlimited, but for today’s blog post he wrote up the story of Francis, below:

I was driving home from Best Buy in Woodbury when I saw a badger lying on the shoulder of a two-lane highway. It appeared to be perfectly intact after getting hit by a car. It was August.

Another SUV had stopped in front of me, and a woman with several older children were inside. About the time I pulled over to investigate, a teenage boy jumped out of the SUV, and soon the two of us were standing over the dead badger. He couldn’t believe what he was looking at. I was surprised, too, to find a badger in Woodbury. We discussed the matter with his mother, and while she was intrigued by the idea of bringing it home (they had stopped first, so had dibs), she understood that on such a warm day she needed to get it either in a freezer quickly or to the taxidermist. I volunteered to take it because I knew a taxidermist who could do the job immediately. When I brought it home, my five-year-old daughter was fascinated by the story and the face of this young badger, struck down in the prime of its life.

The taxidermist did a marvelous job, and later that winter (taxidermy takes a while to complete) the entire family went to pick it up. My daughter was now in love with the adorable young male badger mounted tastefully on a board, looking like he was peering through grass. She insisted on putting it in her room, and ever since, Francis (named after the children’s book character, also a badger) has been adorned in pearls, earrings, and doll clothes. Up close, Francis is an amazing animal, with his flat head, powerful shoulders, and long, sharp claws, but he doesn’t appear menacing.

He’s been a great way to talk about wildlife and science with our kids, plus he’s a swell conversation piece. My wife, bless her heart, has always embraced the idea of having Francis in the house, which is key if you ever plan to do something like this (warning to any spouses who see roadkill and fancy having it mounted for display in the home). The other lesson learned here is that taxidermy isn’t what is used to be. Francis is like a museum piece, and because we enjoy nature so much and have designed our home around the nature that surrounds us, he fits pretty well into our decor.


For a glimpse at more of the Niskanen taxidermy decor, watch Fox 9’s M.A. Rosko as she sharpens her Minnesota skills with Chris in his home.

Chris will be on KARE 11 Sunrise tomorrow (11/28/12) around 6 a.m., and listen for him on Minnesota Public Radio soon too. (We’ll update links here.) Please click on the book title link, above, for upcoming signings with Chris.

“Little War on the Prairie” episode of This American Life

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Mni Sota Makoce Gwen Westerman, photo by John RatzloffThis year marks 150 years since the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, a war that changed Minnesota forever. The chain of events leading up to the war, and its terrible aftermath, are central to the story of Minnesota, producing historical traumas that still echo in those living today.

On Friday, November 23, This American Life, the popular radio program hosted by Ira Glass and distributed by Public Radio International, will broadcast an episode examining the war that resulted in the forced exile of the Dakota people and the hanging of thirty-eight Dakota men.

The program’s website notes:

“Growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, John Biewen says, nobody ever talked about the most important historical event ever to happen there: in 1862, it was the site of the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged after a war with white settlers. John went back to Minnesota to figure out what really happened 150 years ago, and why Minnesotans didn’t talk about it much after.”

Gwen Westerman, a Dakota scholar and artist, is one of the people interviewed for this episode. She is the co-author of the book Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota with Bruce White. The book examines the history of the Dakota people and their deep cultural connection to the land that is Minnesota — and is a celebration of the Dakota in the past, present, and future.

Mankato Free Press article about the episode.

“Paddle! Paddle! The rocks!”

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Canoeing with the Cree Collector\'s Edition Canoeing with the Cree Collector\'s Edition

Just in time for the holidays, this limited edition of the classic Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevareid is the perfect gift for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. In 1930, Sevareid and Walter C. Port set out on an ambitious summer-long journey from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay–a 2,500-mile voyage through a vast and remote land. This handsome set includes a newly designed book with the retro, iconic cover packaged in a multipurpose storage tin, with a colorful art-quality map annotated by Ann Raiho–suitable for framing! Raiho and Natalie Warren were the first women to replicate Sevareid and Port’s route, in 2011.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“We headed in a northwesterly direction, mostly out to sea as I endeavored to get beyond the boundary of the rocks, which lay just below the surface. The breakers were nearly six feet high now, and we were taking water over the gunwales steadily. We dared not take our eyes from the kicking spray ahead of us, where, we knew, lay the end of the reef.

“‘I’m out far enough,’ I thought, ‘and here we go north,’ and I swung the nose of the canoe. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the coming waves, which lifted us up and down, each time throwing us farther ahead. Paddling was very hard and trying to steer in that wind and water was tiring on the muscles of my arms and stomach.

“Now we were beside the rocks, I judged. At that moment, a great wall of water lifted the stern high into the air and as it ran along the bottom of the canoe, spray pouring in, Walt yelled, ‘Paddle! Paddle! The rocks!’”

Asian Flavors Profile: Scratch Food Truck

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Chicken Adobo from Asian Flavors Scratch Food Truck

Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota Since 1875 by Phyllis Louise Harris with Raghavan Iyer is a culinary tour of the cuisines of Asia as they have appeared on Minnesota tables over the decades, the distinctive flavors of faraway homes with a midwestern twist.

The book includes interviews with chefs, farmers, and food business owners, and of course treasured recipes. Here’s an excerpt from the book and a recipe from Geoff King of Scratch Food Truck.  King was a sous chef at the short-lived Filipino restaurant Subo, in Minneapolis.

“The sous chef at Subo also had a Filipino background and did not want his favorite food to die with the restaurant. So in August 2011, Geoff King opened Scratch, one of the growing number of food trucks in the Twin Cities offering a variety of street food. Trained in classic cooking at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, Geoff wanted to find a way to offer Minnesotans some of the wonderful food he grew up with—his mom’s home cooking. He and wife Aimee developed a small menu of lunch items drawing on Filipino classics and incorporating some of the ingredients from the islands. Pork egg rolls, tofu lettuce wraps, coconut braised chicken, pork and shrimp sandwiches, and sesame beef sandwiches fill the short menu with foods that celebrate the islands and offer just a taste of Geoff’s favorite cooking. The tofu lettuce wraps won Geoff an award for best Food Truck Food in 2011, even though his was the newest food truck in the competition.”

Chicken Adobo/Adobong Manok

Geoff King

Serves 4–6


1 1/2 cups sugar cane vinegar

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup soy sauce

10 cloves garlic, peeled

3 bay leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons peppercorns or coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 whole star anise


1 (3 1/2-pound) whole chicken, quartered and cut into pieces

cooked rice

1. In a large bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken pieces, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the chicken and marinade over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer on low until the chicken is tender and sauce is reduced by about half, 40 to 45 minutes.

3. Remove the bay leaves and star anise, and serve hot with rice.

Native American Heritage Month 2012

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Michele Martin, NPR's Tell Me More Anton Treuer Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask

In recognition of Native American Heritage Month,  Dr. Anton Treuer, Professor of Ojibwe, talks with Michel Martin, host of the  National Public Radio program Tell Me More, about Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask.

The first two segments in the series are:

Who is Native American, And who decides that? and

A Crash Course In Music From Indian Country (Brule, Little Otter and Pipestone Singers)

For more information on Native American Heritage Month, read  President Obama’s Proclamation on Native American Heritage Month 2012 and, here in Minnesota, check out this list of the best ways to celebrate the month.

The Minnesota Book of Skills

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

The Minnesota Book of Skills Chris Niskanen

Today’s post is by freelance writer and author Chris Niskanen on his new book, The Minnesota Book of Skills: Your Guide to Smoking Whitefish, Sauna Etiquette, Tick Extraction, and More.


When I was in junior high school, I took an aptitude test that showed I had a strong skill set and desire for welding and writing. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by people with unique skills, and my career as an outdoor writer allowed me to write about them and learn from them.

A few years ago, I met a family who spent a year preparing for their Thanksgiving meal — every dish had to be grown, harvested, or foraged by a family member; nothing could be store-bought. What fascinated me was the journey the family took in order to have that unique experience of a Thanksgiving meal prepared truly from scratch. They not only experienced the joy of creating or harvesting food for each other, but they got to share those stories around the dinner table. Minnesota settlers and immigrants needed skills in order to survive; today, we’re seeking out those same skills not because we need them but because we see value in them — activities such as raising our own gardens and chickens, canning our own food, and making our own beer, for example.

The irony is our modern life affords us the luxury and time to learn skills that were life-giving and necessary for our ancestors. My grandmother probably hated canning green beans, but I look forward to a summer weekend doing it now, even though I can afford to go buy fresh green beans virtually year-round. Why is that?


Find out how to can those green beans — and read stories of people who are as interesting as the skills they possess — in The Minnesota Book of Skills.