Rochester native and Mayo Clinic employee Sarah Gifford started out playing piano. She came to enjoy playing accompaniments with other musicians, rather than doing solo pieces. “My journey with the clarinet was a little more thorny,” she says. While not her first choice of instrument, she stuck with playing and found she enjoyed it. “I love music and playing with a group,” she explains. She also plays clarinet in local ensembles and teaches private lessons. 

Susan Oftedahl’s music journey began with her father, a former music college professor. It was his job at Minnesota State University in Mankato that moved her family to Minnesota. He took Oftedahl and her brothers to see a variety of student and professional musical performances. She plays cello in the Rochester Symphony with a cello that was a gift from her father and was made by David Folland, a luthier (a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars) in Northfield. “The enriched sounds deepen my enjoyment of playing,” she says.



Sisters Forever: Linked by Heart and Spirit

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Written by Trish Amundson

MANY SISTERS HAVE A SPECIAL BOND THAT GROWS STRONGER OVER TIME. Tami Berg and Lisa Thorson have an incredible and ever-growing connection with their sister, Meg Hawks, even though they just met her last year. Now united, the three women are connected not only by paternal roots, but by similar characteristics, interests and love of family. They are sisters by blood—and sisters by heart.  

Dream Come True
Tami, a professor and director of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Winona State University, grew up with her biological sister, Lisa. “I had no idea I had another sister until I did an DNA test,” says Tami. She had questions about her ethnic background. “It came back with a ‘first order relative’ match, so a little detective work began.” 

The genealogy website linked Tami to Meg in Nebraska. She also had tested her DNA. “I remember getting the message from Tami asking if I knew how we could be related,” says Meg, who also works in education as a school secretary. Adopted at birth, she had limited information but knew her birth dad was a salesman and her birth mother had relatives in Italy. “I just wanted to know my ethnicity. I figured I would never find out about my father.”  


THANKSGIVING IS A TIME FOR REFLECTION, GRATITUDE AND GIVING. This is especially true for Jean Voxland, her husband, Andrew, and her birth parents, Dennis “Denny” and Karen Vinar. With a new and profound appreciation for each other, they continue to get to know one another.  

The couples are inspiring others through recounted experiences in their recent book, “How Did You Find Me…After All These Years? A Family Memoir.” Jean explains, “We documented our story for future generations. We felt it was important to write down how we felt at this point in our lives and how far we have all come in getting together.”

Young Love
Denny and Karen began dating when he was 15 and she was 13. They fell in love, but when Karen became pregnant at the age of 15, she went to a home for unwed mothers. Baby Denise (later named Jean) was born in August 1961 and placed for adoption. 


MN ADULT & TEEN CHALLENGE ROCHESTER–WOMEN’S CENTER IS A PLACE OF HOPE AND HEALING. While laughter echoes through the hallways and children enjoy visits with their mothers, profound life-altering changes take place in a safe environment. A cocoon of love and respect envelops these women, sheltering them from the storms of daily life while they face down their demons and do the hard work of freeing themselves from addiction. 

Faith-based Mn Adult & Teen Challenge, headquartered in the Twin Cities, has been helping adults and teens break free from drug and alcohol addictions since 1983. A few years ago, Mn Adult & Teen Challenge recognized a need in southeast Minnesota and opened a men’s facility in Rochester in January 2014. The men’s facility is located in the old Samaritan Bethany nursing home near Assisi Heights. Nearly from the beginning, there was a vision for a women’s center in Rochester. Center Director Tom Truszinski, who oversees both the men’s and women’s campuses, says having the opportunity to build the women’s facility is a prayer answered.



CHUTNEY: Spice up the holidays

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Written by Jorrie Johnson Photography by tiffany Hansen

I WAS RAISED IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA EATING A BASIC, BLAND DIET. When I moved to Rochester about 20 years ago, a doctor’s wife told me about using chutney to flavor meat. Not knowing what chutney was, I simply nodded, smiled and agreed with her exotic palate.  

A few years ago, after hearing about chutney again and again, I decided to learn more about it and discovered chutney is made of spices, vegetables and fruits. Commonly, chutney is a spiced relish or condiment used in Indian cooking. The holidays are apropos to bring on the spices, so let’s get started.



To Brine, or Not to Brine: That is the question

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Written by Jorrie Johnson Photography by tiffany Hansen

I first heard about brining last year and upon being introduced, I searched and found that brine is a salt and water solution and learned that soaking in brine before roasting makes turkey juicer and tastier.

BASIC BRINE says, “Brining is a technique that submerges food in a salt solution to prevent moisture loss during cooking, creating succulent, juicy bites.” A basic brine can be used for fish, shrimp or white meats such as chicken, turkey or pork. says when you place a turkey in a brine, the proteins in the turkey rearrange to incorporate the sodium and chloride ions from the salt. This reconfiguration of the protein makes the meat more tender.

Frozen turkeys found in the grocery stores are pre-brined, containing turkey broth, salt, sodium phosphate, sugar and “natural flavorings for tenderness and juiciness.” Brining a store-bought turkey is unnecessary. Untreated turkeys, from the wild or raised on a turkey farm, such as Ferndale Market, are best treated with a brine solution. 


Part I was published in Rochester Women magazine September/October 2018 issue.

WE MADE SOME DAY TRIPS WHEN WE STAYED AT THE AGRITOURISMO FARM WITH OUR HOSTS, SYLVIA AND MICHELANGELO. We visited Loro Ciuffenna, an old town with fewer tourists than the main Tuscany towns, which was a blessing. The architecture and landscape were mesmerizing.  

Hair flying in the wind with the top down on a cute little convertible red Fiat 500 was the way to travel. Except for a few moments of terror with my friend at the wheel, we took the backroads and enjoyed the beautiful sights. Going through grittier parts of Italy, we passed several factories for designers like Prada, and got lost a few times. It was worth it to end up in the spa town of Saturnia and soak in the Cascate del Mulino hot springs.


AS WE MOVE INTO THE WINTER MONTHS, IT IS ESSENTIAL TO ENSURE YOUR HOME IS IN PEAK FORM TO HANDLE THE COLD WEATHER. In addition to having your furnace tuned up and removing the screens from your windows, there are several other chores you may want tackle before the full brunt of winter is upon us.  

Snowblowers need a tune-up before the beginning of the winter. If you didn’t have your snowblower tuned up this past spring, call today to schedule your tune-up. You may wait several weeks for an appointment, so don’t delay this critical step. If you prefer, you can tune up your snowblower yourself. Simply check and replace oil, ensure the fuel filter is clean, add fuel stabilizer to fresh fuel, check tires, lubricate bearings and inspect parts for wear.

Either way, you don’t want to discover you have problems with your snowblower after a foot of snow is dumped on us overnight. Your snowblower needs to perform on-demand, and a well-running snowblower is something you’ll be glad you have after each significant snowfall.



Talking About Death and Dying: November is Hospice and Palliative Care Month

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Written by Cindy Mennenga Photography by Fagan Studios

DEATH WILL COME FOR US ALL ONE DAY. It’s a fact, yet we fear talking about death with our loved ones, as if merely mentioning it will conjure up the Grim Reaper. What if we could reframe death and embrace it as a natural part of life and living? 


November is Hospice and Palliative Care Month. There are many events and activities in the Rochester area designed to spark a conversation within the community about death and dying.

Kylie Osterhus works at Mayo Clinic in the Office of Decedent Affairs and is touched by death every day. In an effort to get the conversation started and move death from a taboo topic into the mainstream, Osterhus and several other women working in various aspects of the death and dying field have organized numerous community events designed to normalize death.



Anxiety: Recognizing and reducing symptoms in children

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Written by Tiffany Hansen

“ANXIETY” IS AN INCREASINGLY POPULAR CONCERN IN CONVERSATION IN THE DEVELOPED WORLD. Only one word in English serves for both the normal sense of anxiety and the psychiatric sense. In spite of growing attempts, the true definition, causes, types, expressions and treatments of anxiety disorders remains blurred.  


The explosion in recent findings regarding anxiety causes and treatment delays, points to a clear need for earlier recognition. The results of a recent study published by the National Institutes of Health reports that the average amount of time between onset of mental illness and seeking treatment is 10 years. Why is there such a delay? Delay in seeking treatment is complex. Depending on many structures of our society, simply identifying anxiety in younger populations, has the potential to make a great difference.  


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