Readers share special memories in ‘Home for the Holidays’ | Chanhassen Opinion


Welcome to our special Home for the Holidays edition.

We invited readers to submit holiday memories, recipes, poetry and photos — and you delivered! Thanks for sharing what the season means to you.

This year has given us challenges unlike any other in recent memory. However, we take solace during this special season by reflecting on the friendship and goodwill that we witness every day in our community.

We hope that the holidays bring you peace and happiness.

Thank you and happy holidays!

— The employees of Southwest News Media

Memories of grandma and my bright gingham apron

Barbara Walter

Barbara Walter feeds granddaughter Laurie Hartmann as a baby, with Laurie’s sister Debbie standing nearby.

My early childhood years were spent growing up on the Creek Road in Chaska, right next to my maternal grandparents, Harry and Barbara Walter.

My sisters and I spent many hours with them, and to this day I can visualize grandma, tall and thin, always in a dress and nylons, and wearing “grandma” shoes — black leather lace-ups with a chunky heel. She was kind, patient and authoritative, all at the same time. She never sat still.

I was the youngest of the Hartmann clan for more than six years before my baby sister arrived. Too young to attend school, and while the older siblings were in school, I was a frequent visitor at grandma and grandpa’s house, usually multiple times in a day.

At age 5 and the holidays approaching, I grew weary of my older siblings talking with excitement about Christmas vacation being right around the corner. I remember whining frequently about how unfair it was that I did not get “vacation.” My mom and grandma had heard enough. They planned “Laurie’s vacation day,” in the days preceding the official start of the school holiday. Mom was probably just as excited as me to have a day to herself to finish shopping, wrap gifts and getting final decorating projects done. I would spend the entire day with grandma (just me!) baking Christmas cookies and other holiday goodies.

The day had finally arrived. I made the short walk next door right after breakfast. Grandma was ready for me when she answered the door, dressed in a dress, grandma shoes and a colorful apron. All of the baking ingredients, cookie cutters and cookie sheets were lined up on the kitchen table. Coat and hat came off. One of grandma’s aprons was soon wrapped twice around me, with the hem touching the tips of my shoes.

Making cookies is a lot of work. Grandma was methodical in mixing the dough, rolling it out, insisting that I throw away anything that fell on the floor, and monitoring how many candies, sprinkles and finished product I popped in my mouth. The morning rushed by, we had a quick lunch, and this youngster really needed a nap. It didn’t take long after crawling into grandma and grandpa’s bed before I was out.

Upon waking up, I found grandma’s apron neatly folded next to me on the pillow — or so I thought. During my short slumber, grandma went to her stash of fabric, found a piece that was identical to what her apron was made of, and whipped up a pint-sized version for me. It fit perfectly, only went to my knees and did not require a second wrap-around.

Grandma and I both were beaming as she tied the strings in the back. I remember her exclaiming that we were now “twins.” We proceeded in baking many more cookies that afternoon, which were proudly carried back to my house at the end of day and enjoyed by all throughout the holidays.

More than five decades have passed since that wonderful “vacation day” spent with grandma. Over the years my sisters and other cousins have shared good memories about her. Any time a see a bright gingham apron (or black leather grandma shoes), it brings back warm thoughts of a very great lady.

Laurie Hartmann, of Prior Lake, is general manager of Southwest News Media.

 A few lessons, courtesy of an Easy Bake Oven


Jessica Lamker, pictured at about 3 years old near the door, spent a memorable Christmas in this Airstream.

I was not more than 5 years old when I received the Christmas gift of my dreams — an Easy Bake Oven.

The night before that Christmas we returned home late from grandmother’s house, to a smoke-filled farmhouse. The December winds had changed and pushed the smoke back down the chimney and into our home.

I was the youngest of five children in the mid-1960s, dad and mom’s back-up plan for that smoky, old farmhouse late that Christmas Eve was the Airstream travel trailer parked in the backyard. So that’s where our Christmas Eve ended, each child wrapped-up in lots of blankets, hoping Santa would find us there.

The winds had still not changed by Christmas morning, and dad was still trying to get the old wood stove to work.

Santa must have found his way through the cold wind, as presents were brought out to the trailer to open. When it was my turn, I could not believe how big my present was! It barely fit through the small door of the camper.

Later that morning, as mom prepared a Christmas meal on the three gas burners, I first learned how-to power-up and plug-in my brand-new, Easy Bake Oven. I remember the cake mix, the frosting and … the wait. I had never waited so long for a cake to bake. It might have been easy to mix up the cake and load it into the oven. But being a 5-year-old waiting for a cake to bake with the heat of 100-watt light bulbs? That, was hard.

Thinking back to that Christmas morning, I’m reminded of what that experience and the gift of the Easy Bake Oven taught me.

  • Patience: Waiting for the cake to bake was easy when you consider what many find themselves waiting for in 2020. Whether you are waiting for a test result, waiting for a vaccine, waiting to see family, waiting to go back to work, or waiting for a baby to arrive, patience is a quality we can all use, no matter where we are in life.
  • Sharing and gratitude: My Easy Bake Oven produced a tiny little cake that I thought was just big enough for me, and yet, I still had to share with my four other siblings. I am grateful I was taught to share. 2020 has been a tough year. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have needs right now. My hope is to continue to share with others as I am able.
  • Resilience: Being displaced into the cold on Christmas Eve wasn’t a parent-planned activity, but it also wasn’t a giant catastrophe that we could not overcome. When I look back over my lifetime, it was those unplanned experiences that taught me resiliency and cooperation. Everybody I know has made sacrifices during 2020 due to the unplanned coronavirus. “Business” is not “as usual.” I pray that the resilience of the people in our community lifts each neighbor up as they struggle with fear of a deadly virus, as well as a change of health, school or employment.

While many uncertainties remain for 2020, it’s calming to know that the celebration for Jesus’ birth still happens across the world.

Despite limited contact with people, I expect to enjoy the anticipation of Christmas. I want to be thoughtful about how uncomfortable and cold Mary and Joseph felt that dark night when there was no room at the inn.

I also want to express gratitude for Joseph making the best of an unplanned situation and surrounding Mary with love as she gave birth to Jesus in that cold stable. May the spirit and joy of Christmas surround you, as you celebrate Jesus’ birth in 2020.

Jessica Lamker is a 23-year resident of Savage and a Community Voices columnist.

A COVID Christmas

Here it is Christmas and we can’t even hug,

It’s all because of that crazy old bug,

I hope by next Christmas we can reconvene,

So please hurry up with that darn vaccine.

Katie Wick is a Shakopee resident.

Mason Deppe

Mason Deppe hones his lefse-making skills.

Passing down an old tradition

Every year, my family gathers (pre-COVID) to make lefse.

My grandma has always made loads of lefse every year for as long as I can remember for all my family members to enjoy for the holidays. Her health started declining about five years ago and she is no longer able to do many of the things she loves — including making lefse.


Every year the Deppe family gathers to make lefse, a tradition traced back to Ingeborg Larsdottir, who arrived in Minnesota in 1882.

Since then, we have turned her lefse making into a group event and have an open invitation to all our relatives to make (and learn) this tradition that can be traced back to my great-great-great grandmother Ingeborg Larsdottir, who emigrated from Norway to Minnesota in 1882.

So, every year, we spend an entire day with relatives (from near and far) under the expert eye of my grandma making stacks of this wonderful flatbread.

Sarah Deppe is a Prior Lake resident.

Lauren Deppe

Lauren Deppe helps make lefse, a long family tradition.

Holiday Hibernation

snow falls in plump silence and

A homemade orchestra of paw nails on tile,

and the kettle, ever brewing

There was once a day when

I longed for this solitary music: a symphony

“Brava,” I whisper to Time,

Brianna Liestman is a Chaska resident.

Home-sewn Christmas

Home-sewn Christmas

Sandy Kaul, of Prior Lake, submitted this photo, taken on Christmas Eve in 1960, of her siblings Steve Buchholtz, Kaul, Vickie Duncan and Rita Malone. Kaul notes that they are “Showing off our home-sewn dresses by our mom and anxiously waiting to open our gifts from Grandma and Grandpa Buchholtz as Grandma happily watches.”

Make pickled turkey gizzards for the holidays


Don’t forget about the turkey gizzard this holiday.

This seem to be the only time of year you can purchase turkey gizzards. They are normally sent to foreign countries where they are considered an aphrodisiac.

So my holiday favorite is to make pickled turkey gizzards”:

  • Clean gizzards and cut an incision into the inside tendon. This will help the marinade penetrate the inside quicker.
  • Place in cold water and bring to a simmer.
  • Simmer for about one to one and one half hours, or until tender.
  • Drain and cool. (You can save the broth for soups or gravy.)
  • Slice fresh raw onion and separate slices to rings. You may need 2-3 large onions. Set to the side.
  • Boil together equal parts vinegar and sugar, making enough to cover all the gizzards you cooked.
  • Cool. (Portions may be changed to your desired taste.)
  • In a glass container, layer gizzards and onions, gizzards and onions etc. until all are used.
  • Pour cooled marinade mixture over the gizzard/onion mix.
  • Cover with tight lid and refrigerate 7-10 days.

Gary Kelm is a Minnetonka resident.

10 years of friendship

10 years of friendship

“We’re a bunch of goofballs,” reports Tami Paul, who submitted this photo. “There’s never a dull moment with us.” To celebrate 10 years of friendship, these four pals posed for a Christmas card photo. Paul noted that the four friends started the year with a cruise and ended it with a Christmas card. “It’s a year where friends become family,” said Paul, who’s already mailed out 150 cards. Dogs from left: Chip, Goober and PaiLei; front row: Tami Paul, of Shakopee; Amy Braun, of Belle Plaine; back row: Heather Sundboom, of Prior Lake; and Adam Paul (Tami’s husband), of Shakopee.

Christmas trees and valuable lessons

Christmas trees are so much a part of this season’s traditions. Memories of trees from my past stick vividly in my mind.

I remember the tree my father sprayed with pink flocking that we decorated with gold-colored ornaments, garlands and an angel he had cut out of tin for the top. The tree lights flickered reflectively off the fluted edges of the angels wings.

The tree which was the most fun, and also the most work, was the one we cut down ourselves. We struggled to carry it home through the woods that was deep with snow. It was perfectly shaped and the freshest, most aromatic pine we ever had. I don’t remember the kind of pine, but it was special.

Probably the funniest and yet the saddest tree we had, was the Christmas dad was away from home, working in Alaska. My mom, sister and I had to put the tree up ourselves and couldn’t get it in the stand just right. It fell over three times, and by Christmas Eve many of the branches were bent and broken and only a few of the ornaments survived. The last time it fell we cried, but I don’t think the tears were as much about the tree as they were about missing dad.

Firemen's Park Christmas tree

The Firemen’s Park Christmas tree shines brightly in Chaska.

For a few of my early married years, due to lack of space, our trees stood on the top of the grand piano my husband had inherited from his parents. The piano fit perfectly in a windowed alcove of our apartment. We placed a cherished Nativity set under the tree. The stable housed a music box, which when wound, played “Silent Night.” When he was young, our oldest son called it the wind-up Jesus, referring to the baby in the manger.

The most disastrous tree was a long-needled one we had in our first house. After the holidays, when we took it down and carried it outside, the needles fell off and embedded in our deep shag carpet. The vacuum cleaner became plugged when I tried to pick them up. At Easter I was still finding needles. After that experience, we opted for an artificial tree for many years.

Finally, we gave in and opted to try a real tree once more. We trimmed it with red, plastic apples, cranberry ropes and red and green plaid bows. My husband and I decorated it by ourselves because we had become empty-nesters. It, too, was a significant tree.

Of all my Christmas tree memories, one stays foremost in my thoughts. The year was 1943. I was 8 years old and my sister was 4. Karen, a young girl who sometimes baby-sat us, asked our mom if she could take us to her house to see her tree. Mom encouraged us to go.

We bundled up and trudged along with Karen, our footsteps crunching in the snow, testifying to the bitter cold. On the way Karen revealed that for the past few years her family couldn’t afford a tree, but this year she had bought one with her babysitting money.

We arrived at Karen’s house, which was badly in need of paint. Following her across its sagging porch, she led us through the front door and down a cold, dimly lit hallway. After climbing up a worn wooden stairway, we reached Karen’s bedroom and walked in. The bare-floored room consisted of an old twin bed and a makeshift dresser someone had attempted to put together. Two curtain-less windows were frosted over. There seemed to be no heat in the room. We could see our breath.

The stark surroundings momentarily distracted me from the reason for being there. But then I caught sight of the tree stuck in a pail of sand in a corner of the room. Karen walked over to it and lovingly touched it, almost embraced it. The light-less tree was about three feet tall, crooked with large gaps between its branches. It was trimmed with a faded red paper-chain, a solitary string of popcorn and a few paper cut-outs.

“I get to have it in my room because I bought it. Sometimes I wake up at night and look at the tree and I feel so blessed. I’m going to make more decorations for it. Just smell the pine,” Karen said, leaning into the tree and inhaling the scent with a long, deep breath. Her voice full of excitement, she turned to the two of us and asked. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

My sister and I exchanged glances and a small miracle occurred. At that moment the portion of our brains responsible for the blunt honesty of children, thankfully, short-circuited. “Yes,” we lied. “It is pretty.”

Looking back, I think that was the day I learned what ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ meant.

For many years I hated the memory of that tree. It intruded on my child’s eye view of the world. It was a constant reminder that bone-cold, empty-stomach poverty existed.

As I grew older, I began to realize Karen and her tree were not symbols of privation, but represented the richness of being able to appreciate and be grateful for what we do have.

Judy Koshoshek is a Chaska resident.

‘Of a place so far away’

Editor’s note: The following is a poem that first ran in the Chaska Herald on Dec. 30, 1943, submitted by Cpl. Joe Marschall, of Chanhassen, during WWII. It’s a poignant message that transcends time, and reminds us of all those serving in the U.S. military, protecting our freedoms, who can’t be home for the holidays. “Yes, it’s a fine compliment to the little village of Chanhassen and its fine citizens. Cpl. Marschall sends season’s greetings to all his friends, and wishes to thank many of them for sending him Christmas packages that arrived at his destination a short time ago,” reported the Herald. 

I’m sitting here and thinking

The place I’m coming back to,

It’s where I plan to stay.

It’s not a town or city

It’s really not so big.

But what’s an oak before it grows –

The place that I am thinking of

Is a village small and fair;

Everything I held so dear,

It’s not the town where I was born,

But it’s where I spent my youth.

Where I realized my first ambition,

To wear a three-piece long pants suit.

It’s where I spent my school days,

Where I first learned of puppy love,

Where I listened to the pastor

Tell of Him who’s up above!

It will always bring back memories,

Of vacations from our school,

Of the times we swam together

In that big Lake Susan pool.

Of the hunting and the fishing

Near this earthly paradise,

The coolness of the water

And the blueness of the skies.

In my Dreams again I see it,

Even Albert Pauly’s Store

On the corner where it now stands,

And the place it was before.

I can hear the ringing church bells,

Calling all good folks together.

Coming from the farms and village,

Regardless of the weather.

This village is Chanhassen

It’s had its joys, and sorrows too.

Of it I’ll keep on thinking,

Also of you and you and you!

Holiday tradition

Holiday tradition

In 2014 Lucy the Elf surprised Hannah Helberg by decorating her family’s tree with toilet paper. “I hope she decorates the same this year, we could use a few rolls,” reports mother Jill Helberg, of Prior Lake.

10 steps to not hate lutefisk

  1. Eat it with your parents and grandparents who tell you about the old days and give you the history about the tradition.
  2. Don’t bake it so it stinks up the whole house.
  3. Prepare it in one of the self-enclosed ways (i.e. boil in a bag).
  4. Serve it with melted butter and a homemade white sauce which you should pour over the fish generously. Then salt and pepper.
  5. Also serve Swedish meatballs with gravy and potatoes (your choice) with it.
  6. Do not recall to mind how it was processed.
  7. Remember fish is good for your brain.
  8. Laugh and enjoy the family time at the Lutefisk dinner.
  9.  Repeat over the years, as it’s an acquired taste …
  10. And be thankful!

Diane Wipf, an advertising account executive with Southwest News Media, is a Shakopee resident.

Decked out for the holidays

Decked out for the holidays

Jane Broberg submitted this photo of her stylish golden retriever Bailey, decked out for the holidays in 2019. Bailey has unfortunately passed away since then. Broberg remembers how she always enjoyed lying by the Christmas tree and was a good sport about wearing holiday costumes.


Flood of warm memories

Ellen Reisdorf

Ellen Reisdorf is the baker’s assistant and quality tester.

One of our favorite holiday recipes and traditions is making and delivering Snickerdoodles.

We use the recipe from “Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book” (my mom’s book, copyright 1963) and just opening the book brings back floods of warm memories.

Once they are out of the oven we wrap them up with a Christmas greeting and my kids (George, Samuel, Ellen) deliver them to our neighbors.

Of course we make enough to enjoy ourselves and my daughter Ellen is usually my assistant and quality tester.


Snickerdoodles, from the 1963 “Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book,” which received the recipe from Patricia Anfinson, of Benson, Minnesota.

  • 1 cup shortening (half cup butter and half cup shortening)
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3/4 cups Gold Medal flour
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees (mod. hot).
  • Mix shortening, 1-1/2 cups sugar, and eggs thoroughly.
  • Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting.
  • Blend flour, cream of tartar, soda, and salt; stir in.
  • Shape dough in 1″ balls.
  • Roll in mixture of 2 tbsp. sugar and cinnamon.
  • Place 2″ apart on ungreased baking sheet.
  • Bake 7 minutes, 50 seconds.
  • These cookies puff up at first, then flatten out. Makes 6 dozen cookies.

Note: If you use Gold Medal Self-Rising Flour, omit cream of tartar, soda and salt.

Erin Reisdorf is a Chanhassen resident.



The Amundson cousins (all with Prior Lake roots) pictured in 2001, including: Hannah, McKenna, Carter and Leah Amundson.

Heading home for the holidays

Here is one of my most cherished memories:

Volunteering with the Peace Corps in Costa Rica in November 1974, I found myself surrounded by unfamiliar vegetation and warm temperatures — nothing like the winter weather of Le Sueur where I called home.

It gave me a strange feeling of homesickness that only worsened as December neared. Being so far from home and family was going to be tough.

Time to organize a surprise visit back to winter cold and family traditions! So I sent a letter to my sister, bought airplane tickets, and arrived in Le Sueur to first surprise my father at the Ford dealership on Main Street.

Dad then called my mother and said there was someone downtown who wanted to have coffee with her, so she came down and we had a second surprise.

It was one of the most cherished Christmas memories of many.

Barbara (Peck) Olson is a Savage resident.

Thanksgiving chef

Thanksgiving chef

With COVID-19, the Sloan family of Belle Plaine wasn’t able to spend Thanksgiving with extended family. So, instead of her mother preparing the meal, Lindsay Sloan started a new tradition with her first Thanksgiving feast, pictured here. “It was awesome. Awesome,” reports husband Douglas Sloan. Pictured are Jacob, Lindsay and Michelle, with Douglas behind the camera.