Read, Drink, Listen

The monthly must-haves.


What better time than March, when cabin fever can set in with a vengeance, to start dreaming about what you’re going to do—when the snow melts, the days get warmer, springtime finally comes? Here are two books to help you on your way.

The Minnesota Book of Skills
by former St. Paul Pioneer Press outdoor reporter Chris Niskanen is a dreamer’s delight, with how-tos for everything from extracting ticks to smoking whitefish. The basics of field-dressing a deer, landing a muskie, creating crop art and building a birch-bark canoe are part of an impressive array of skills—with which Niskanen whets our appetite for getting our hands dirty as we create, cook, build and plant.

Speaking of planting, March is also the perfect time for gardeners, young and old, to dream big. Plant a Pocket of Prairie by prolific children’s author Phyllis Root spins a lovely vision of a native prairie reborn that will enchant even the youngest reader. But the book offers much more through background on this endangered ecosystem, descriptions of animals, birds and insects that an “upside-down forest” will attract and directions on how to plant a pocket of prairie right where you are. If we all get started, encourages the author, eventually we might see “the prairie coming home.”  —Phyllis Alsdurf

A long-time Minnetonka resident, Phyllis Alsdurf is a journalism professor at Bethel University in St. Paul. She is the author the children’s book It’s Milking Time (Random House, 2012).

Excelsior Bay Books

36 Water St., Excelsior


When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. Wear green, have a pint and sing a song. To help celebrate, try one of my signature cocktails.

  • The Johnny jump-up: A shot of Irish whiskey poured over ice with an Irish cider topper.
  • An old favorite from our family’s bar in Excelsior, the melon ball: A shot of melon Schnapps, a shot of Haskell’s vodka and orange juice. Shake and pour over a tall glass filled with ice.

–John Farrell III

12900 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka

John Farrell III is the vice president of sales and merchandising for Haskell’s. From bagging ice to planning weddings, John may not be able to make the dinner for you, but he can make it more interesting with a great choice in wine! His family business has been locally owned and operated since 1934.


Sonic Highways from the Foo Fighters sees Dave Grohl and Co. traveling to eight music capitals across the country, recording a song in a mecca of a studio at each stop and, oh yeah, documenting the entire process for an HBO mini-series along the way. While the entire project is more than the sum of its parts (especially the often-fascinating interviews with some of American music’s most revered patriarchs and matriarchs), the music here is mostly well-trod Foo territory: airtight songwriting sprinkled with Grohl’s sometimes too-sentimental barks. Context is key with Sonic Highways, and luckily for these tunes, the series delivers. Ambition, thy name is Foo.  –Alex Skjong

Find the album at:
Barnes & Noble
13131 Ridgedale Dr.

Alex Skjong has written for a number of publications in the Twin Cities, Chicago and Atlanta. He is a music lover first and an unreasonably tall human being second.