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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.

Photo: 7 Days Caleb Kenna

Photo: 7 Days Caleb Kenna

Gotta love Vermont. Today there was a story in the news about a business that uses two draft horses (who are brothers) to pick up trash in the horse drawn trash container owned by a company called Draft Trash. Where else but around here would you find a horse drawn trash trailer coming to your house to pick up your trash. Evidently folks are thrilled with the idea, the service, the horses and the lack of a fuel surcharge!

The horses wait on line at the trash center alongside the much larger and much noisier trash hauling trucks and seem absolutely unfazed by the whole process. Read the entire article here.

_DSC0009 _DSC0019When I got home yesterday, our dog crate was sitting outside the back door. I learned that the game warden had returned it with an update on the little bear that was rescued. The bear that we thought was a cub, was actually a yearling. It has been relocated to the black bear sanctuary in Lyme, New Hampshire. He (or she) will join 22 other bears who live at that sanctuary. The warden advised that he weighed in at 18 pounds which is substantially less than the 80 lbs he should have been for a 1 year old. Poor thing was not only cold and shivering when he was crated but evidently also starving.

At his new home, he will be fed a high calorie mixture that will help put the weight back on and get the little one ready to be reintroduced into the woods of Vermont. The sanctuary is situated on several acres in Lyme, New Hampshire and the bears roam free, much like their natural habitats, except with access to food and medical care.

Here are some links to the sanctuary and articles about the bear biologist, if you are interested. The sanctuary is evidently the only facility of its kind in New England. Ben Kilham is the gentleman who has taken on this wonderful task. According to his website and related articles, he doesn’t get paid to do this and relies on donations and his own monies to fund this project. Should you find it in your heart and your wallet to make a donation of some type to help offset the $1,500 per bear cub that Kilham incurs to get these animals back where they belong, I am sure it would be appreciated.

Here’s a video about some bear cubs from last year.

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

While Oregon got a great deal of media attention when a young woman, Brittany Maynard, decided to use its law to end her life when she was dying of cancer last year; Vermont was actually the first state to have its legislature pass an aid in dying law. Vermont’s law permits a capable terminally ill adult to request and obtain lethal drugs which the person can self administer in an effort to hasten the patient’s imminent death.  Vermont’s law is a stepped version which has a series of patient protections in place that must be complied with that will cease to exist in 2016. Those protections put in place in the bill in an effort to garner the legislative support necessary to pass the measure provides:

— A requirement for a psychiatric evaluation if there is any indication that a patient requesting lethal medication has impaired judgment

— A 15-day waiting period between a patient’s first and second request for the medication

— A waiting period after the last request before the doctor actually writes a prescription for the lethal drug.

Upon the expiration of these so-called patient protections, the discussion regarding the end-of-life decision of a terminally ill patient becomes a private conversation between a patient and his or her doctor. There are those who are concerned that government should still be involved in the discussion, not really trusting that the patient-physician relationship would sufficiently address concerns.

According to articles written on the issue following the passage of Vermont’s law, “after July 1, 2016, the law will protect physicians from civil or criminal liability, and from professional misconduct charges.” Despite the changes that are set to occur in 2016, there still needs to be informed consent on the part of the patient so doctors are required to inform a terminally ill patient of all the options including hospice and palliative care. Ultimately, though, the issue is still a decision to be made by the patient in conjunction with his or her doctor.

The issue of whether or not the patient “protections” that are presently in place should be continued past 2016 is a discussion that is currently taking place in Vermont. If this issue touches you or someone in your family, perhaps now is the time to voice your opinion.

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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IMG_4095Well, it certainly was breathtakingly beautiful this morning. The snow blanketed trees and turned things into a winter wonderland. The downside is that to look that good, the snow is very wet and heavy. The trees were bowing graciously under the weight of the snow, but some succumbed to the heaviness and there are many branches and whole trees that are down. This has caused the inevitable, power outages. We were more fortunate that some, our power went out around 3:45 this morning. Others have been without power since Tuesday when the storm first hit. There are, last I heard about 38,000 people without power and there are lots of folks working hard to get us all back online.

Nothing to do but look to the bright side. We have oil lamps, candles, our headlamps and a warm woodstove. We are luckier than a lot of people.

P1080896The Nor’easter that is paying us a visit for a while longer (snow is forecast through Thursday) has already dropped well over a foot of snow. It is the heavy, wet snow, perfect for building snowmen and snow forts. Last night it was falling in giant clumps of snow, and while I type this there is a lull, although we are forecast to get another 2-5 inches today and another 1-3 inches this evening.

There are a lot of people without power because, the snow is wet and heavy. Last night we had several blips of power but so far, we are still connected.

I love a good snowstorm, there is something magical about snow, particularly when you wake up to it. I know there are a lot of folks out there that would disagree, but give me this, okay? Put aside your grumblings and just take a good look at how beautiful Mother Nature can make everything when she puts on her winter coat.

Happy Snow Day!

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Today, with all its beautiful sunshine, makes the colors that are emerging on the trees even more beautiful. It seems that each day the colored foliage is more and more prevalent. Now, the mountains are clearly dotted with yellows, reds and oranges.

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The colors are coming on fast and furious. Every day it seems that there is more and more color in the mountains.  There is serious doubt around our house that there will be any leaves really left on the trees for the leaf peepers that arrive on Columbus Day weekend. In fact, taking a look of the wind blowing around today any of those leaves that have already turned are dropping at a high rate of speed from the trees.

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