Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Hymns With a Message: In The Sweet By And By

August 31st, 2016

Besides composing lyrics, Sanford Bennett also worked as a druggist, superintendent of schools, editor of a weekly newspaper and second lieutenant in the Fortieth Wisconsin Volunteers during the Civil War. Joseph P. Webster, the composer of the lyrics of “In the Sweet By and By,” was the composer of the classic Civil War song, “Lorena” and also the music to the popular old-time song, “Wildwood Flower.”

As told by Mr. Bennett: Mr. Joseph Webster, like many musicians, was of an exceeding nervous and sensitive nature, and subject to periods of depression.  I found that I could rouse him by giving him a new song on which to work.

He came into my drug store, walked down to the stove, and turned his back on me without speaking.  I was at my desk writing.  Turning to him I said, “Webster, what is the matter now?”  “It’s no matter,” he replied, “it will be all right by and by.” 

The idea came to me like a flash of sunlight and I replied, “The Sweet By and By! Why would not that make a good hymn?” “Maybe it would,” said he indifferently.  Turning to my desk, I penned the words as fast as I could write.  I handed the words to Webster.  As he read, his eyes kindled, and stepping to the desk, he began writing the notes. Taking his violin, he played the melody and then jotted down the notes of the chorus.  It was not over thirty minutes from the time I took my pen to write the words before two friends with Webster and myself were singing the hymn. Thankfully, so can we: https://youtu.be/tvagoD8T0u4

Sunday in Minnesota

August 28th, 2016

“The Great Minnesota Get-together”, or Minnesota State Fair, is the largest state fair in the U.S. by average daily attendance. * Residents of the state come to the fair to be entertained, exhibit their best livestock, show off their art and cooking, learn about new products and enjoy a wide variety of food … often on a stick. In 2015 the 12-day Minnesota State Fair was named the best state fair in the United States by readers of USA Today. And I’m excited to be attending again. I think this is my third or fourth time.

Americas Best State Fair

Since its inception, the fair has been held every year with only five exceptions: in 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 due to war-time fuel shortages, and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic.

The character of early fairs was dominated by agricultural exhibits and competitions, reflecting its original purpose of encouraging farming in the state. While agriculture is still the primary focus, the scope of activities has broadened to include large-scale entertainment features, technological and industrial exhibits, and scores of education and government institutions.

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A whimsical addition to the fair were the Peanuts statues. Charles Schulz was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Saint Paul. In honor of the man who created such joy The Peanuts Character Project was created in 2000. To date there are more than 500 Peanuts statues created by artists located around Minnesota.

Peanuts 2 Peanuts 3 Peanuts 1

As integral to the Minnesota State Fair as the tractor, seed displays, and the baking competitions is the seemingly endless list of food vendors. This year the fair introduced 32 new foods – mostly containing bacon. My friend Carol and I had our share of samples: cereal, Kemps popsicle, tea, maple syrup, pretzels in dip, etc. Once we were full of appetizers it was time to burn through my cash to taste and rate the new foods. Happily, I enjoyed my Rustic Beef Pastry: Moroccan-spiced, grass-fed beef and spinach topped with creamy goat cheese nestled in a flaky crust. I washed it down with a fizzy, gently fermented watermelon kombucha. My taste buds weren’t satisfied until I found desert in the form of the delightfully unique honey sunflower custard ice cream. I especially liked that it’s made at the University of Minnesota using only Minnesota honey. http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-state-fair-food-finds-and-flops-ranked/391413971/#1

Watermelon Kombucha Tea tasting Maple syrup tasting Malt O Meal tasting French Cafe IMG_20160828_132851715 Drink Minnesota Milk CUNPIC_20160828_164352 Campfire Grill

Besides eating, the event I had my heart (and vocal cords) set on was the Giant Sing Along. This participatory public art experience was created by Montreal-based artists Daily tous les jours. The extensive song list is chosen by fair fans and plays continuously from 9am – 9pm. We sang our hearts and lungs out! https://youtu.be/eS1GRofHPhs

Giant Sing Along 1 Giant Sing Along 2

I could go on and on about my day. There’s even a Minnesota State Fair app to help visitors navigate to events and food! Honestly, there’s too much see and too much to tell to do it justice. Check out everything this award winning fair has to offer at: http://www.mnstatefair.org/

Bailey House Flowers 1 Flowers 2 Flowers 3 Flowers 4 Flowers 5 Flowers 6 IMG_20160828_104316281 IMG_20160828_111143809 IMG_20160828_111758267_HDR Jazz band Kemps Cow Photo Bomb Mascot Quilt 1 Quilt 2 Tie Dying

*Daily attendance on opening day this year was 111,902 and last Friday a new record 141, 023 people eating food on a stick! I am interested in finding out what the attendance total I contributed to today. It was a sea of people in every direction.

Fair crowd 1


Friday Funnies

August 26th, 2016

And on my eighth day I attended a poetry reading at the Curiousi-Tea House. This is where I met Kathleen. A prolific poet, she asked me to read one of her poems. I agreed. But only with the stipulation that she write a poem for me in return. This is the poem:

At the Tea House, I asked a young woman to read a poem I wrote. I agreed to pen her “eight days” adventures, and then she cleared her throat. Tamara is a traveling physical therapist in seven states, licensed in each one. Here in the land of “Minnesota Nice”, her adventures are both bazaar and full of … fun???

Tired and hungry, it was dark when she arrived, upon hearing the “voice” of the car, she revived. The navigation system said “motel, next left on this street”, however, the little voice inside her head said, “Don’t stay. RETREAT!” She had been in many motels but never one built to resemble a storage lot!” She conceded, but tomorrow she’d find relief from this pepper pot!

Checked in, she slowly opened the door to the rented “shed” for a room. It had a bed, a closet, and a bath but still smelled of cheap perfume. Two doors down she saw a man sitting on a cooler. One could tell instantly he wasn’t a lawyer, a banker or even a jeweler.

On day two, on the Internet she started to search. Today she’d find a nice room to rent or maybe that small house next to a church. A few rent-a-room ads with names and numbers popped up on the screen. Hunger became a priority, she googled a restaurant with a five-star rating for great cuisine. She was getter ready to go when the tapping AND then a wrapping began on her door. Through the peephole, saw the man from two doors down, “Oh CRAP!” she quietly swore.

He came over and invited her to share his dinner. She declines, like lottery odds; she knew she wouldn’t come out the winner. Offered her his fork and juice in a stained and dirty cup, then pulled a pocket knife from his coat but there was nothing to cut up. He’d stare at the cooler, as if it helps the Holy Grail. Her search of public records showed he was a sex offender recently released from jail.

“Oh no, ‘female’ company was his greatest current need.” If he came closer, she would use her fist to split his lip and make him bleed. He finally got the message, backed off and went away. Or who knows, our morning paper might have read, “Unknown female – a victim of foul play.”

On this day she was determined to find a house or room to rent. All day called landlords and looked; yet nothing…that’s exactly how it went. About to give up, an own of a local hotel said he could rent her a room at his place. Furthermore, every other workweek, the whole house, not just a room, could be used as her space.

She thought she would follow him, but he didn’t have a car. Looking back on her last few days this didn’t surprise her, it was just par! His accent made his directions hard to follow or understand. Made out the street and number, programmed the navigation system, take a quick look and hurry back was the plan.

She got excited as they drove up to a beautiful home situated on the lake. He opened the door revealing rooms without furniture. “Really? For Pete’s sake!” He explained he only had enough money to secure a home loan. Blah, bah, blah … an epiphany! She was smack dab in the Twilight zone. These last eight days were surreal, absolutely bizarre. If this is “Minnesota Nice” it was past time to say ‘au revoir’.

This is the poem I penned to tell your story word for word. Maybe it is embellished just a bit, but I thought it was what I heard. Tamara, I wish you well in all your adventures that lay ahead. May have been better to forego your request, but glad my poem was read.

Author: Kathleen Schuetz August 23, 2016

Thanks for penning these memories Kathleen. I will always remember our meeting over tea.


Hymns With a Message: Keep on The Sunny Side

August 24th, 2016

Keep on The Sunny Side was written in 1899 by Ada Blenkhorn. She was inspired by her nephew, who was disabled, and always wanted his wheelchair pushed down “the sunny side” of the street.


The song was popularized in a 1928 recording by the Carter family, who learned of the song from Alvin P. Carter’s uncle, who was a music teacher. The Carters recorded the song in 1928. It became their theme song on the radio in later years. Alvin Carter’s tombstone in the Mount Vernon Methodist Church Cemetery in Virginia has a gold record of the song embedded in it.

Keep on The Sunny Side is sung around many campfires and found new life when a recording of the song with The Whites was featured in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Feel free to express your sunny side by singing along:

Sunday in Minnesota

August 21st, 2016

Join me at the Steele County Fair where Minnesotan’s grow it, sew and show it! The Steele County Free Fair is much more than a county fair, it was chosen by the U.S. Special Events Directory and Events Business News as one of the top 200 events in North America. http://www.scff.org/

Since 1919, this fair has featured fun for the entire family including children’s activities, international day seminar spotlight, acts, auto races, horse races, music, rides, lumberjacks and a wide variety of food and attractions. This weekend the FREE Steele County fair featured fun and poutine for me and my roommate Alex!

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Friday Funnies

August 19th, 2016

A thunderstorm ripped through Lake Crystal Thursday afternoon causing power outages, downed trees, flooding and multiple car wrecks. Thankfully I was only affected by the power and internet outage until now. Which gave me time to think of the following scenario:

A thunderstorm floods your whole neighborhood and your electricity goes out. You must leave your house. So you have to go into another house near you. Would you go to the green house, blue house or purple house??? (Just pick any color house)

Now you are in the ________ house. You can’t leave and must enter a room in the house. In this house there are 3 rooms. In the first room you will get murdered. In the second room you will get kidnapped for life but still live. In the third room you will get electrocuted. Which room will you go into???????

ANSWER: If you go into the third room where you get electrocuted, you will live because there is no electricity in the whole neighborhood LOL! Didn’t see that coming, or did you?

Q What do electricians chant when they meditate? A: Ohm.

Have an electric weekend fellow dreamers!





Florence Foster Jenkins

August 17th, 2016

The story of Florence Foster Jenkins is a real life classic re-telling of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, but instead of a king the lead is a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice. The journey ultimately takes the viewer to a packed concert at the Carnegie Hall.

It’s impossible to describe a film as “delightful… just delightful” without hearing the velvety tones of Hugh Grant saying those words. But that’s what it is. A treat of moving and at times wildly funny storytelling that just works … from beginning to end in a tragic-comedy sort of way.

Meryl Streep is just glorious in the role, oozing charm as she does. Meryl watchers know (from the likes of “Mamma Mia”) that Streep knows how to belt out a good tune, so it requires some considerable skill to deliver Florence’s songs as badly as she does. Each word she smoothly speaks, or screechingly screams, feels like her own as she embodies “the world’s worst singer.” Bravo Ms Streep, Bravo!

And Hugh Grant gives a sterling performance. What drives Mayfield’s character is never totally clear, but in the end the motivating factor becomes crystal clear, and Grant has never been better.

To round off the accolades for the lead performances, Simon Helberg’s piano playing that stole the show. Not only that, but Simon Helberg turns in a genius comic performance as the goggle-eyed pianist, who lights up every scene he’s in and delivers his lines with perfect comic timing.

The film came together into something delightful. The story is slowly and subtly unwoven, only progressively revealing the plot points in an intelligent manner. The cinematography along with Production Design, Costuming and Special effects crew brought vibrant 1940’s New York to life with outrageous outfits and elegant décor.

While the film’s leisurely pace might make the younger set fidgety, this is a treat particularly for older viewers looking for a great night out at the cinema. You’ll leave feeling “Delightful… just delightful”. Go see it.

Sunday in Minnesota

August 14th, 2016

This morning I saddled up for a scenic and leisurely horseback ride through the trees along the banks of the Minnesota River, led by an expert trail guide. The hour-long horseback ride was filled with sounds of birds singing in the treetops and just what I needed after a long week.

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Being a kid at heard, after my trail ride I stopped at the World’s Largest Candy Store. Once Jim’s Apple Farm, it’s impossible to miss the candy store for two reasons: 1) It sits directly on Hwy 169 and 2) Yellow painted picket fencing lines a full mile of highway leading up to the also brightly painted big ol’ yellow barn.

Just walking into this building should make diabetics cower in the fetal position! Thankfully I packed my will power and was just there for a peek. They sell more than 3000 varieties of candies from all over the world, and soda bottles in unique varieties. Gumballs, licorice and candies you used to see at dime stores. I can’t stress enough that this place was impossible to miss. It’s on the highway, it’s huge and its BRIGHT yellow.

Candy Store 1 Candy Store 2 Candy Store 3 Candy Store 4 Candy Store 6

Also along Hwy 169 in the Minnesota River Valley is the Jolly Green Giant. Well, I had to drive a short distance off the highway, but his Green likeness is on a billboard on Hwy 169. The Green Giant company started in the Minnesota River Valley in 1903 and was later bought out by General Mills. The 55-foot tall Jolly Green Giant statue draws 10,000 visitors a year. There’s also a shorter version of “Sprout,” the Giant’s sidekick, at the Green Giant Museum if you’re really into your green vegetables.

Green Giant 2

Interestingly, Le Sueur was home to Dr. William W. Mayo, founder of the “Mayo Clinic.” Dr. Mayo hand built his Gothic-style home in 1859 with his medical practice upstairs. In 1864 Dr. Mayo moved his family to Rochester, where he served as a surgeon for the Minnesota Civil War draft board.

Carl Cosgrove then moved into Dr. Mayo’s Le Sueur home in 1874. By coincidence, his wife was also named Louise and he would make the area famous as head of the Minnesota Valley Canning Co. Green Giant. Seven children from the second and third generations of the family were born in the home including two Green Giant Company presidents.

Mayo House 1 Mayo House 2

It’s so easy to get inspired by the history and terrain in Minnesota. I will be busy every weekend with family-friendly attractions and events while I’m here. If you can’t visit Minnesota, look for something jolly good in your area to inspire you this season. And live like someone left the gate open!

River Valley Ranch 3


Friday Funnies

August 12th, 2016

This week I participated in my first poetry reading. There was a variety of very entertaining poetry that had us in stitches. Here are a few poetry jokes I might try out at the next open mic night. A couple are even funny!

Q: Why didn’t the angry farmer divorce his wife when she traded their prize milking cow for a book of poetry? A: Because he vowed to love her for butter or verse.

Q: How does a poet sneeze? A: Haiku!!!

Q: Why are poets always so poor? A: Because rhyme doesn’t pay.

Q: Where do poems come from? A: Poe-trees.

Q: Why did the traffic cop give the poet a ticket? A: For driving without a poetic license.

If you have the opportunity, enjoy a poetry reading at your local tea or coffee house. You might even laugh out loud.

Hymns With a Message: Will The Circle be Unbroken

August 10th, 2016

England-born Ada Ruth Habershon (1861-1918) devoted her entire life to serving God. She was a woman of passion, drive and considerable intelligence. In 1884, she met Dwight Moody and Ira Stankey when they came to London. They were so impressed that they invited her to America to speak. Her lecture tour in the United States gained her some fame, and her teachings on the Old Testament were soon after published.

In 1905, Charles Alexander of the New Zealand Torry-Alexander Mission asked Habershon to write some songs. Within a year’s time, the prolific poet supplied Alexander with 200 hymns.

One of Habershon’s hymns, Will the Circle be Unbroken has more than stood the test of time. Her words, united with a lively tune composed by Charles H. Gabriel, have intrigued and delighted audiences and singers for more than 100 years. It has been recorded by several artists including Joan Baez and the Carter Family.

In 1998 a version sung by Johnny Cash and June Carter was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, making it one of America’s most recognized Gospel songs.


Sunday in Minnesota

August 7th, 2016

What started out 32 years ago as an idea to recognize Lanesboro’s historical connection with a colorful part of Americana has evolved into one of the larger community events in southeast Minnesota. Celebrated in time for my birthday weekend, Buffalo Bill Days is named after one of Lanesboro’s most famous visitors: Mr. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. This has turned into the Summer of Buffalo Bill.

Nestled in the bluffs of the Root River Valley (in Southeastern Minnesota) is the hidden gem of Lanesboro. Visitors travel here to experience the quiet, peaceful, inspiring atmosphere found in this charming little town. Buffalo Bill Cody was no different. He brought his circus to Lanesboro during the down time.

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Cody traveled to Lanesboro in 1881 to visit Dr. David Franklin Powell, his old friend and fellow scout for the U. S. Army. Powell had moved to Lanesboro in 1875 and established a medical practice in the Root River valley. Even back then, Lanesboro and a travelers hot spot.

While in Lanesboro, Powell became acquainted with the local Winneshiek Native American tribe. Buffalo Bill and Powell began scheming (as men will do) about ways to improve their financial situations and came up with the wild west circus idea. After a number of rehearsals in an open field near Lanesboro Cody took his circus far and wide. The first Minnesota Buffalo Bill Wild West Show was presented at Nelson Hall in Lanesboro in 1900 with 6 Indians (2 Indian Maidens), 2 White men (including Buffalo Bill and Doc Powell under the stage name “White Beaver”) and a Mr. Man. Powell traveled with the wild west show for a short time and then returned to his practice in Lanesboro, while Buffalo Bill continued on to worldwide fame.

Like the previous 31 celebrations, this year’s event had something for all ages. There were gunslingers, fireworks, duck races and even a “Buffalo Roam” 5K. Also, in keeping with Buffalo Bill’s theatrical roots, there were various re-enactments and high stakes bingo around town and much, much more!

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But let me share these fun facts I’ve learned over the summer:

-Cody’s nickname came from the fact that he killed over 4,000 Buffalo personally in his time out west.

-Cody served in the Union Army as a scout during the Civil War, and his continuing work as chief of scouts following the war earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872.

-Cody took part in some of the first “media events” in American history, gaining publicity for the Army of the West by taking people like the Grand Duke of Russia on a buffalo hunt.

-Buffalo Bill successfully blurred the lines between fact and fiction in his shows, bringing in real Wild West legends like “Wild Bill” Hickok and Texas Jack Omohundro alongside his performers. It was the first reality show!

-At the height of his popularity, Cody was known the world over and was consulted by Presidents from Ulysses S. Grant to Woodrow Wilson about matters concerning the American West.

-Because of his shows, the term “cow-boy” went from being an insult (meaning a coarse and callous person) to a term to be admired. The shows featured skilled riding, roping, and trick shots from famous sharp shooters like Annie Oakley.

-In 1887, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show was invited to England to perform for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Hard to believe that only a hundred years before, we had just got done fighting for our independence from England!

-Buffalo Bill gave out many free passes to orphanages when the Wild West show came to town. He argued for equal pay and voting rights for women, and the show’s women received pay comparable to the men in the show.

Here’s to the man behind the summer – Buffalo Bill Cody. What a celebration!  

Buffalo Bill Days 21

Whatever you decide to do this week, get out and enjoy everything your town has to offer. You’ll be glad you did!




Friday Funnies

August 5th, 2016

I started an assignment in Minnesota this week and it feels a lot like da UP, eh. Consider these observations:

Minnesotan’s consider it a sport to gather their food by drilling through 18” of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by.

If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don’t work there, you’re in Minnesota.

In Minnesota the local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March.

Minnesotans think that ketchup is a little too spicy, and so do I. LOL

Minnesotans know several people who have hit a deer more than once and don’t think about it. Some take it home for dinner.

Minnesotans can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching.

And you know you are in Minnesota when your landlord installed security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.

Minnesotans think “down south” means Iowa. A brat is something they eat, and if everybody goes out to a fish fry every Friday.

I need to pinch myself. Am I back in da UP?


Hymns With a Message: The Good Old Way

August 3rd, 2016

This song was first collected in 1867 in a book titled Slave Songs of the United States. Although the lyrics were apparently from slave sources, the title was written and published in 1835 by the famed composer William Walker.

“Singin Billy” as he was known, was the compiler of man hymns books, including Southern Harmony. By the time of his death in 1875, Walker had sold more than 750,000 books.

This song is often referred to by its first line, “As I Went Down in the Valley to Pray,” it gained fame in the 2000 Coen brothers’ film, “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” where the lyrics were changed to “As I went down to the river to pray.”

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.