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Cupcake

Cupcake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love cooking and baking, but I think that I fall more on the side of cooking than baking. To me, baking is a science, or at least for me, it’s a science. There are precise measurements and instructions that need to be followed to ensure success. For me, cooking is a form of art. Recipes can easily be tweaked, ingredients swapped out easily. Recipes can be interpreted by the person doing the cooking, adding or subtracting a pinch of this or a touch of that and the result is a new dish, a new piece of art. I know that there are those that view baking the same way, but I am not one of them.

If you are one of them, if your passion lies amid pies, strudels and cupcakes then here is an opportunity for you, particularly if you don’t live here, but have always wanted to come and live in Vermont. There is a bakery in Waitsfield, Vermont that has a unique opportunity

for the baker (or baker wanna be) at heart. For $75, a 100 word letter and a cupcake recipe, you may be the next owner of a bakery nestled in one of the quaintest towns in the state.

Mix Cupcakerie and Kitchen is for sale and the owner is hoping through this unique contest of sorts, to find the perfect person to take over her dream. Kind of like a little Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory action, don’t you think?

Years ago, Tom and I became smitten with the Waitsfield area and dreamed of moving there. Alas, time and fate brought us to the mountain we call home in our little corner of Vermont. We are very happy, Vermont is wonderful, we have our dream. Perhaps, you can have yours. Here is the information to enter the contest. The owner is offering to mentor the new owner for 80 hours and give the lucky person all of her recipes to entice her regular customers to keep walking through the door. Also, I understand there is two months of rent and expenses paid for so you have the opportunity to get on your feet.

If baking is your passion good luck!

“Produced with Genetic Engineering”
This is one of the new labels that you will most likely see if Vermont’s GMO labeling law successfully avoids legal challenge and goes into effect as planned just about one year from now on July 1, 2016. The Vermont Attorney General’s office last week released the rules regarding the labeling of foods produced with genetic engineering that will guide manufacturers and producers of genetically engineering products for sale in this state.

What is covered:

1. Unpackaged food required to be labeled such as fresh fruits and vegetables

2. Packaged foods with genetic engineering offered for sale in Vermont including packaged raw agricultural commodities as well as processed foods.

What is exempt:

1. Animal products and foods bearing USDA approved labels

2. Foods certified as not produced with genetic engineering

3. Processing aids

4. Alcoholic beverages

5. Foods containing genetically engineered materials where the weight of the genetically materials is less than .9 percent of the total weight of the food

6. Foods verified by a qualifying organization – such as food certified as “organic” in accordance with USDA National Organic Program accreditations.

7. Food for immediate consumption such as unpackaged foods served in restaurants.

8. Medical food as defined by federal law.

The entire set of rules adopted by the Attorney General can be found here.

On Monday, the Federal Court denied the Grocery Manufacturing Association’s request for a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the law beginning on July 1, 2016. This was a positive result for Vermont, the “david” in this david versus goliath battle. Vermont is the first state in the nation to pass and put into effect a GMO labeling law and opponents of the law were quick to file a complaint in federal court seeking to have the new law invalidated. This request for an injunction was the first step for the opponents to see if they would be able to have the court order that the law could not go into effect until the litigation was finalized.

While this was rather important and justifiably was splashed across the news around the country, not many reported that there was a second part to that ruling. While the opponents were seeking to have the court grant injunctive relief, the state of Vermont filed its own application seeking to dismiss, at least in part, the opponent’s claim. Vermont was predominantly unsuccessful on it application to dismiss various claims. For example, in response to the opponent’s claim that the labeling violates First Amendment rights, the court ruled: The court believes that Act 120’s affirmative labeling requirement is not barred by the First Amendment, but denies Vermont’s motion to dismiss the First Amendment challenge because the court recognizes that this is a serious question of law as to which courts might disagree; but the court finds that Act 120’s ban on the term “natural” does violate the First Amendment.

The court did dismiss the opponent’s claim that the labeling law violated the Commerce clause stating that the Act’s affirmative labeling law did not violate the Commerce clause since the labeling requirement only applied to products sold in Vermont. The court in its ruling was skeptical of some of the plaintiff opponent’s claims of a constitutional nature, but since this was a preliminary application, the court was reluctant to outright dismiss the plaintiff’s claims as a whole.

As has happened many times in the past, all eyes will continue to be on Vermont as this law and the legal challenge to it unfolds.

usSiblings. A lot of us have them. They are our link to our parents and the only ones that know what it was really like growing up in our house. They are our biggest fans and can be our worst enemies since they know everything about us, they know our kryptonite and sometimes aren’t afraid to use it, especially when we are young and gullible. Siblings-you gotta love them, you’re bound by blood.

I am the oldest in my family and I have one of each type of sibling, a brother and a sister. The years that separate us in age diminished as we grew into adulthood as spouses and parents. I love my siblings and cannot imagine life without them. When things go bad or are really good, it is my siblings that I want to share it with. We’ve laughed together more than I can recall and cried and held each other when that was what one of us needed.

We have instilled in our boys the idea that they are all they’ve got. They will have each other long after my husband and I have been reabsorbed by the world around us (sounds a lot nicer doesn’t it than saying when we’re wormfood). We are lucky because our boys never really had those knock-down, drag out fights that we’ve heard about from some of our friends. (Oh don’t get me wrong, there was the infamous Tonka truck episode when the older two ticked the youngest off). They were each other’s first friends and probably best friends for a number of years before their worlds expanded. Today, I am proud that they revel in each other’s accomplishments and empathize in each other’s disappointments. It is with a proud mama heart that I watch this and know that I had something to do with it. I hope that as with my own siblings, these bonds grow deeper and stronger as the years pile on.

To those of you with siblings, enjoy them. Laugh, cry, joke and tease – it is what we know and what makes our sibling relationships so very special.

To my own siblings, Happy Sibling Day, I cannot imagine a world without you in it.

Love,

Me, your older (and wiser) sister :)

Here are some pictures of the other siblings in my life and my siblings’ lives — a great group don’t you agree?_DSC0037 _DSC0079 girls

Here is a link to Tim’s solo. It was truly wonderful. I hope that wherever life leads him in the next years, that music remains a big part of his life.

Every once in a while, you get a whole lot of good all at one time. This weekend was one of those times. We were very fortunate to share a very special weekend with our families and our very dear friends. It really doesn’t get any better than that. Every year the high school’s music department puts forth a Bistro evening where the honors ensembles perform during a three course dinner and then perform an evening concert. It is a wonderful night, filled with lots of good food and great music. This was Tim’s last year to perform in Bistro and I was privileged to share it with those folks that I hold close to my heart. Then, we all were able to celebrate Easter together on Sunday. I know I have said it before, but I am very lucky to have such wonderful people in my life and I am so very, very proud of my son, Tim and his wonderful performance.

Here are some pictures from the weekend and the show.

My handsome nephews

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My handsome boys

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My dearest friends who came quite the distance to share the weekend with us._DSC0029 _DSC0103_DSC0092 IMG_4255

My in-laws and my mom with the grandsons

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 Our family picture

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tjTwenty years ago today, I became a mom. It was the scariest and simultaneously, the happiest day of my life up to that point. I could not believe that the little one twisting and turning inside for so many months had, rather reluctantly, made his way into this world. There were weeks after he was born that literally, I just stared at him in wonder and awe. Through the years, I have watched him grow from that tiny baby  into the smart, funny, kind and handsome young man he is today. It is hard to imagine that two decades have gone by since he came into my life. When folks say it all passes in the blink of an eye, you can only understand how true that is when you are looking at it from the other side. I cannot believe that today he is embarking on a whole new decade in his life.

I hope that this new decade brings many wonderful experiences and opportunities and I am sure, knowing what a hardworking and dedicated guy he is, that he will have just that. I couldn’t be prouder of the man he has become and very much honored to have him call me mom.

Happy Birthday TJ! I love you!

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Just before Tyler was born, I was wondering how mothers could say that they love all their children equally. Our oldest was our world and I couldn’t imagine loving another little baby as much I loved him and it scared me. How could I do this?. Then along came Tyler. He was very different in a lot of ways from his brother. He was a different build, he had the most beautiful blue eyes that you could lose yourself in and he was nothing like his older brother. My heart melted and expanded many times over just like that and suddenly, within hours of bringing this (not so) little guy into the world, I couldn’t imagine my world without him in it. He has the best smile, he’s thoughtful, caring and wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s grown into a wonderful man that I am very proud to call my son. He is handsome, smart, witty and reminds me a lot of his dad. Although I won’t ever get used to this “not always seeing them on their birthday” thing, there will be plenty of birthday pictures when he comes home in a few weeks for Easter. We did get a chance to spend some pre-birthday one-on-one time in the past few days and it made my heart melt all over again.

So…. until those pictures, here are some other pictures from birthdays past that are just going to have to do.

Happy Birthday Tyler – I love you!

IMG_2590  IMG_1111 My beautiful picture

Circling Friday the 13th date on calendar with...

Circling Friday the 13th date on calendar with marker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Friday the 13th! This is the second one we’ve had so far this year. Here’s some Friday the 13th facts for you.

1. 13 guests were at the last supper and Jesus was put to death the following day, Friday and Judas was the 13th guest.

2. FDR refused to have 13 guests for dinner or to have a dinner on the 13th.

3. The longest period that can occur without a Friday the 13th is 14 months.

4. Hotels and Hospitals skip the 13th floor generally.

5. No one can track the exact reason that Friday the 13th is considered unlucky. In fact, in Hispanic cultures, Tuesday the 13th is considered unlucky. This is also true for folks of Greek descent.

6. Italians, now they have their own issues. Italians believe that Friday the 17th is unlucky and they generally believe that the number 13 is unlucky.

7. Factually, there is no correlation between Friday the 13th and general runs of bad luck.

The sun is getting a little higher in the sky and temperatures in the teens (without a wind) are starting to feel downright balmy. This morning’s temperature at 6:30 was -13 and later in the morning it was 13 degrees on the positive side of zero. Today we were surprised by a baby black bear cub while checking on a friend’s house. It climbed up into the tree, with no signs of a mom anywhere and curled up into a ball. Feeling sorry for the little thing, and it is pretty small, I went back to check up and see if it had moved on. It was still in the tree, curled up in a ball and only raised its head when a car went by. There are no tracks other than its own in the snow around and I fear it has been abandoned or wandered away. We’ve put a call into the game warden to see what could be done and are waiting to hear.

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ACDA National HS Honors Choir

ACDA National HS Honors Choir

This week, our youngest son is out in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is performing in the National High School Honors Choir. To say that I am proud of Tim and his accomplishment is an understatement. Right now, I am wishing that I were there to hear the concert and marvel at the achievement. That was just not in the cards. He has had, best as I can tell from messages and quick phone calls, an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I absolutely CANNOT wait until he comes home so I can hear all about it in person.

He was selected from approximately 4,000 high school choral students to be a part of the 300 person national high school honors choir for the American Choral Director’s Association (ACDA). The group is performing this afternoon as a group and then will perform this evening in a mass choir with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He is one of three students from his high school and one of the five from the state of Vermont chosen following the auditioning process.  It is quite an honor. We are very proud of him.

We at our high school are blessed to have an amazing, dedicated choral teacher who goes above and beyond with our children. She sees their potential and helps them achieve things that they would never have even attempted without her guidance. We are grateful for all her time and effort, particularly since this week, she spent her birthday away from her own children to be with ours.

Here is the article that appeared in the local newspaper about the students and their experience.

From the Herald – NORTH CLARENDON — When the lights go up, the silence of anticipation will be broken by the thundering sound of 300 voices filling the air with song.
And three of those 300 voices will belong to Mill River Union High School seniors.
The students — Tim Heffernan, Katherine Bullock and Christian Brand — make up a tiny fraction of the nearly 4,000 students who auditioned for the 2015 National American Choral Directors’ Association Honor Choirs in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This weekend, the trio will spend several days rehearsing with the most talented vocal artists in the nation, and finish off the weekend with three performances. Roughly 6,000 people will be in attendance at those performances.
“It’s amazing and completely overwhelming to think of that many people listening to us sing,” said Brand.
Kristin Cimonetti, vocal teacher at the school, said this event is the highest honor of its kind that a high school student can achieve.
“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “It’s very competitive and there is no other choral event of this caliber in the country.”
Each student who auditioned had to use the same piece of music and record it electronically.
Each recording was then put under the audio microscope by a panel of judges who made decisions of elimination, whittling the 4,000 audition recordings down to a mere 300.
The blip of music was only about 40 seconds long, but the students rerecorded for hours, trying to get the perfect clip.
“We didn’t even listen to the final result,” said Bullock. “It’s too nerve-wracking, and you’ll never be completely satisfied with how you sound.”
Cimonetti was the one who listened with great detail to each of their recordings and ultimately made the final decision on which one to send to the judges.
“I listened for little glitches, like a breath that lasted slightly longer than it should,” she said. “But in the end, it all worked out.”
The recordings were sent in November, but the students didn’t learn the results until a couple of months later.
“It was like waiting to hear from college applications, but worse,” said Heffernan, laughing.
Each said that when they did get their results back, the feeling was unreal.
“I saw the email on my phone and I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know if I trusted such good news,” said Brand, who read the email while walking down the street. The shock of it all caused him to abruptly stop walking, causing what he called a backup of foot traffic behind him.
“I was certain it was a trick,” he said.
But as the initial shock wore off, the students realized they had some serious work ahead of them.
They were each mailed a series of songs they needed to learn for the performances.
And they needed to learn them by heart.
Just because they had gotten into the choir didn’t mean they were out of the hot seat.
At the first rehearsal in Salt Lake, judges will walk through the rows of students, listening intently as they sing, eliminating anyone who doesn’t sound up to par.
“It may seem harsh, but it ensures quality performance,” Cimonetti said. “It holds everyone accountable.”
But each of the Mill River students have been dedicated to practicing in preparation for the event.
“We’ll absolutely be practicing on the plane ride, too,” said Bullock. “I actually feel bad for the people sitting next to us. We’ll be singing the whole time.”
While the three students said they feel a sense of pride, they all know they could not haven accomplished any of this without the help of Cimonetti.
But Cimonetti modestly shook off the compliment, saying the students were the ones bursting with talent.
“I really do think we will all be changed after this performance,” said Heffernan.
bryanna.allen

Photo: Rutland Herald

Photo: Rutland Herald

Today was a beautiful sunny day. We hear that there is a winter storm, with blizzard warnings headed our way. So, tomorrow we might need to hunker down, but today was a great day to be outside enjoying all that sunshine.

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cq5dam.thumbnail.319.319Too often, we hear blog posts and FB posts about horrific customer service. I need to share this story because I recently experienced some wonderful customer service and folks need to hear about when things go right, not just when they go wrong.

We have a lock on our door manufactured by a company called Schlage. It is a keyless lock that uses a numerical pad instead of a key. We love it and couldn’t imagine going back to the “carrying your house key days” ever again. There was just one problem. One of the number buttons used to enter the access code to unlock the door became loose and fell off. The first time this happened, we found it in our mudroom on the floor and pushed it back into the empty slot. The second time, we weren’t so lucky and we lost the number (we assume) in the newly fallen snow outside of our door. White button, white snow – there was no way despite our best efforts that this was going to be found until at least spring. The loss of the number itself wouldn’t even had been that big of a deal because the lock still worked, except it was one of the numbers in our access code to unlock the door and in the master code to program the door. So, without that number, we couldn’t get into our house and we couldn’t reprogram the lock to change to the access code to another number that didn’t require the missing digit.

I called the customer support number for Schlage and the woman who spoke to me was wonderful. I asked her if there was a way to get a replacement digit. She told me that unfortunately there was not. However, after a few short minutes on the phone with her, I was assured there was another of the exact same lockset on its way with her sincere profound apologies that we were inconvenienced by having to use the actual (gasp) key to access the door in the 7-10 days that it would take for the replacement to arrive.

The replacement lock came exactly one week later and I am happy to report that we are back to using our keyless entry. If anyone is looking for a lock (keyless or not) I highly recommend Schlage. Their customer service and their keyless entry locks are both wonderful.

 

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