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IzTUdKHgTwe%GhBf%w%o4wrZ54chYuQRKsKJQLfEOCYwTried my hand at making homemade hot Italian sausage without the casings. It was a surprisingly easy project. Took my 3 1/2 pound pork butt and cut it up into smaller chunks that could fit through my grinder. Put them in a ziploc bag and froze them for about an hour which amazingly makes the grinding all that easier. Ground the pork on a course grind and then laid it out on cookie sheets and added the spices and seasonings. Kneaded it all together and put it in the fridge for a day to meld all the flavors together. Tonight we tried it, cooking up a couple tablespoons to test for flavor. Delicious. This will be bagged into individual portions that I can use in sauce, stir fries or on pizza.

 

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Local is awesome. It’s so neat to be able to have your neighbor plow your driveway, get your eggs and produce from someone down the road and know your firewood came from local trees. It’s such a good feeling to know that your decisions are helping local folks and supporting local businesses. It is also amazing when you see local businesses supporting local people.

Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington is an amazing outdoor store, locally owned and operated (if you have never been, get yourself there!) and I just read that they have combined efforts with the Vermont State Parks to offer brand new camping equipment for rental at designated Vermont state parks this season for free (yes, I said free – F.R.E.E.) The program is part of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative‘s work. The hope is that by offering essential camping equipment for rental for free at the designated five state parks, it will foster more folks and particularly families to get outside and enjoy all that Vermont has to offer in the great outdoors. The program will make stoves, lanterns, tents and sleeping pads available for loan to folks camping in the parks. Since the only missing item would be sleeping bags, which don’t really lend themselves well to being loaned out repeatedly – Outdoor Gear Exchange is working on getting low cost sleeping bags manufactured so they can be made available for purchase for campers to buy at a very reasonable price.  The idea is that your only “equipment” expense might be sleeping bags allowing you to borrow all the other necessary equipment from the park.

Mark Sherman, the owner of Outdoor Gear Exchange was the person responsible for this amazing brainstorm idea and has already gotten the support of several well known manufacturers, OGE deals with, like Kelty, Black Diamond, Mountainsmith and Jetboil to volunteer their goods to the cause. How amazing is that?

I totally understand that putting together all the necessary equipment to even get away for a weekend of camping can be financially daunting to a lot of families especially if it’s your first time out or your first experience bringing along the little ones. This is the best of both worlds, getting the family outside and getting to borrow new working equipment without having to beg and borrow from family and friends, who may not even be in the same state.

This is just another reason that if you are in need of some outdoor equipment, perhaps you should just bypass the big box outdoor folks and support local businesses like Outdoor Gear Exchange. They are trying to give back to the community with programs such as this, helping to make the outdoors more accessible for everyone.

Kudos to you, Mr. Sherman and your business, you will continue to have my support! You can read more about the program here.

Vermont’s school funding is in the state and local news of late and we will all be asked to vote on school budgets soon. The Vermont School Boards Association produced a video to help explain how the process works. It does a good job of explaining a fairly complex process, making it a little easier to understand.

DSCN3991Tomorrow is Town Meeting Day across Vermont. Tonight was Town Meeting in Wallingford. Democracy at its finest. If you’re not from New England and have never been to town meeting, I strongly suggest that it be a reason for visiting during the midmost of mud season. Tom really wanted to bring popcorn but he held back. Honestly, depending on your town, it can be that good. 🙂

The first Tuesday in March is a state holiday, Town Meeting Day. While some towns in Vermont vote all or a part of their town meetings through Australian ballot, there is no legal requirement to do so and in fact, there are still some towns that do all their voting from the “floor” a town meeting. For instance, tonight herein Wallingford, there was actually a motion from the floor to increase our town’s budget and therefore the town’s taxes from the floor by a fellow citizen. Where else does one person just raise their hand, stand up, state their name and make a motion to increase the town’s taxes? Not in New Jersey, that’s for sure. The vote because it passed, required the moderator to do some math on the fly to revise the following article to reflect the new budget amount when the same group of town residents voted on the town budget.

The issues run the gamut as stated by the Burlington Free Press from whether or not to purchase a new truck in the town to impeaching the president. I remember our first town meeting, we showed up wide eyed and amazed at this wonderful New England tradition. Here in Vermont, the farmer down the road, the local elementary school teacher or the 18-year-old college student can stand up, raise his or her voice and change the whole budget for the town or persuade the town to support a cause or convince them to pull support for a cause or a budget item. Amazing, still after ten years.

 

Plastic shopping bags. You can accumulate them like mad if you have a family and do any amount of shopping. While you can recycle them at the store for re-use or reuse them yourself for trash can liners on wastebaskets or such, they do accumulate quickly, don’t they?

I always used to smirk at the sign planted just outside the automatic doors at Hannafords – “Did you remember your reusable bags?” I have joked with the cashiers that the sign, while loaded with good intentions, didn’t help walking into the store at all since if I forgot my bags, they were a good 12 miles away at home. That sign, I have said more than once, needs to be in my driveway.

I try to use my resusable shopping bags every time I go grocery shopping. In fact, I often say that I feel like a tourist if I forget them because it becomes very apparent to me, in the store that everyone else who isn’t from away on vacation, has their bags.

Pretty soon, here in Vermont we may join California, Florida, Arizona and many hundreds of other towns and cities across the country in banning the plastic disposable shopping bag from our stores. H.105 is a bill that has been introduced here in Vermont to ban plastic disposable shopping bags. The bill would protect small businesses and not apply to compostable bags or recycled plastic bags.

I remember the first reusable grocery bags I found years and years ago when I still lived in New Jersey. Chico Bags. They were very nice bags that could fold up and be put right in your purse or glove compartment or pocket. They could even attach to your car key ring. They came in a variety of colors, but all the same shape. osrd-3

Now, Chico Bags have bags on their site in every style, size and color. In fact, most every store you walk into, be it grocery, clothing or hardware, has its own type of reusable bag for sale. Bags are made from varying materials for strength and durability.

Do you use reusable shopping bags? Do you need that Hannafords’ reminder sign in your yard? What’s your favorite bag?

Friends and family often comment that we are lucky to live here. We absolutely are. We are blessed with beautiful views, good friends, wonderful neighbors, good cross country skiing and great fresh air. But we are also stuck with nights like tonight. We decided to head out to a local place for a quick bite. It was not late, but it also wasn’t early. We got to the spot and it was packed. Of course what did we expect? Friday night during ski season in the land of skiing, right in the path of those coming from out of state. It was disappointing to both of us and reminded us that there is a downside that is not always readily apparent to those that come to visit.

Enough of the whining. Now, the upside. We headed home grabbed some frozen beer battered haddock from the Wallingford Locker, made some rice pilaf from scratch with lots of garlic and parsley and had a delicious but quiet dinner at home. When you are in the mood to go out and socialize, as my husband who doesn’t get out all week with work, was – it was disappointing. But we made the best of the situation. And the other upside, was the delicious blueberry turnovers for dessert. Ssshhhh.  Those are the same turnovers I am bringing in the morning for my school board retreat. 🙂fullsizeoutput_6ad4fullsizeoutput_6ad5

Last night was Christmas, all over again. We got tickets from our son for a concert at ArtsRiot in Burlington. It was a lovely evening. We had dinner with some of our favorite young adults, walked over to the concert venue on Pine Street and settled in for a nice musical evening. We were not disappointed. The entire concert was an acoustic event. The opening act was a Burlington singer/songwriter named Henry Jamison. He was wonderful. If you have not heard of him or his music, take a listen here. If you have the opportunity to see him near you, I would recommend it highly.

The main act was a Maine singer/songwriter called Lady Lamb. Another acoustic performance. While we were not all that familiar with her music beforehand, by the size of the crowd and the sold out show, Burlington was definitely familiar with her. A great performance. It was a very nice night of lots of great music, evidence that a gift of experiences trumps a gift of things.

It was also evidence of the small world we live in. Another couple asked to share our large half moon booth, to which we gladly agreed. Turns out, she was a Mill River graduate who was very familiar with our little corner of Vermont. The four of us had a great conversation waiting on the concert to start. It was a lovely evening on many fronts.

 

Kerplunk – To fall with a sound like that of a heavy object falling into water.

Wednesday was not a good day. Didn’t start off so terribly, I woke up and that’s a positive right there. No, the problems started when I put my phone in my back pant pocket in order to carry my basket of laundry downstairs first thing in the morning. Since I never put my phone in my back pocket, I forgot that it was there and went about my business. Until a short time later when I walked into the bathroom and heard that sound – kerplunk. As the definition states, it is sound of a heavy object falling into water — or in my case, the sound that your Iphone makes when it falls into the toilet and sinks immediately to the bottom of the toilet bowl. At first, the sound did not register, what could have fallen into the toilet? Then with horror I realized it was my phone. There was cussing and screaming and crying because you see, my phone is not up for a new phone until much later this year and a wet phone is not a good thing. Not at all.

I immediately grabbed the phone out of the toilet and now the flash was on and the phone wouldn’t shut off and …did I mention I was crying?… gave it to my husband who thought I must have been suffering some medical emergency when I came screaming and crying out of the bathroom. Into the bag of rice it went, I grabbed my computer and texted my eldest son, who deals with these sort of phone emergencies in his daily work. In compliance with his instructions out of the bag of rice it came. It was taken apart and the battery was disconnected so no further damage could occur. It was left open to dry for 4-6 hours as directed by the kid into whose mouth I put spoonful upon spoonful of rice cereal 21 years ago.

And we waited. And I also decided, after I ripped the molding off the door trying to bring the wood cart in with firewood later that morning, that I should refrain from doing anything further to endanger myself or those around me. So, I waited some more, not doing much of anything, except maybe still crying and chastising myself for being utterly stupid.

Hours later, with eldest son on call as the phone was reconnected, we learned it wasn’t completely dead, but sadly wounded. I then contacted his work, Wires Computing‘s website and opened a ticket for a repair since he was in Burlington and I was here and my phone desperately needed his expertise two hours away. With an interesting role reversal, he calmly assured me that he sees more of this type of thing than I knew and I was evidently one of the eleven or twelve other people (mostly women) who have their phones fall out of their pockets and into toilets on a weekly basis – and who also seek his help.

My phone was mailed the next day as directed, received the following day and repaired that same day by my dear, sweet, very talented son. It was shipped out to me this morning and if all goes well, I should have it by Monday.

While I am always proud of the boys, I am particularly proud of the guy who was able to save his mom (and her phone). He is going to school for engineering and graduating this May, but he works doing micro soldering (which is soldering done under a microscope on electronics) repairing phones, computers and other electronic devices that are mailed to them from all over the world not working, with water damage, with cracked screens, etc. If you are in need of this service, as I was, I would encourage you to check out their website. The service was quick, can be done from anywhere (in the world, evidently as he said he has phone from Europe, South America and the Middle East right now he is working on) and there is little hassle. You receive emailed updates of the status of your repair and an email when it is finished, your invoice is ready to be paid and your phone is on its way back to you. The final email was my particular favorite and I’m sure you can figure out why.  🙂

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We still haven’t figured out if that was just because it was my phone or whether that message accompanies every repair he does.

 

Today, we were on our way into Ludlow to run an errand and came upon the Mount Holly Moose once again.  We have seen her many times in the past months, sometimes with an out of town guest which really made their day. This time, she was laying down in someone’s yard just relaxing. So, with good camera in hand, here are some of the pictures. She looks totally unfazed by the humans on the side of the road that were gawking at her and taking pictures. After all, not many moose posing for cameras. A few years ago, we had a couple young moose that would wander through our neighborhood, but we haven’t seen any that close around our house in years.

There is concern that the moose is ill and that is the reason for her lack of concern for cars and people. There is talk that the moose may ultimately have to be euthanized. Hopefully, that is not the case.

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img_5953Years ago, my grandmother gave me her Belleek tea set. The set was packaged up very carefully by my mom more than 25 years ago so that it would be safe since at the time I wasn’t married and didn’t have a place for it. It has been packed away safely like that up until last year, when I finally worked up the courage to unpack that box. It required a complete rearrangement of the cabinet that would host it in order to clear a special shelf for the delicate Irish bone china set that was cherished by my grandmother.

When I unpacked the box, I realized that while I had the tea cups, saucers, dessert plates, creamer and sugar bowl, I did not have the tea pot. Somewhere in my mind, the tea pot was supposed to be there, but sadly it must have got damaged all those years ago and never made it into the box so carefully packed. For Christmas one year ago, my husband bought me a Belleek tea pot with the same pattern as the tea cups.  I now had a complete set, but still not enough courage to actually use it.

Today, more than a quarter century later, it was finally used and enjoyed. Four of us carefully took down the pot, cups and saucers, brewed some delicious tea (Monkey Picked Oolong) and enjoyed that beautiful china Nanny gave to me all those years ago. Somewhere, I am certain she was smiling, watching her great grandson, his girlfriend, Tom and I enjoy a few cups of tea and the warm, delightful memories of family on a cold winter afternoon.

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Voting Clipart

Voting Clipart

Yesterday, the First Circuit Court of Appeals said that the New Hampshire law banning a person from displaying a marked ballot reflecting how he or she voted including posting of those images on social media sites violates First Amendment rights of voters. The law carried up to a $1,000 fine. The appellate court determined that the law violates free speech rights protected by the First Amendment. The law was enacted to avoid vote buying and voter intimidation, what it did was spark a controversy in this social media age over the “ballot selfie”. The law, which originated in one form in 1891 was intended to combat voter intimidation and vote buying. It was amended in 1911 to forbid any voter from “allowing his ballot to be seen by any person, with the intention of letting it be known how he is about to vote.” In 2014 New Hampshire amended that statute to read:

No voter shall allow his or her ballot to be seen by any person with the intention of letting it be known how he or she is about to vote or how he or she has voted except as provided in R.S.A. 659:20. This prohibition shall include taking a digital image or photograph of his or her marked ballot and distributing or sharing the image via social media or by any other means. 

The appellate court determined that just applying intermediate scrutiny the statute is unconstitutional. Intermediate scrutiny basically means that the statute has to at least be narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest. There is no proof that vote buying or voter intimidation is an actual problem in New Hampshire and there was definitely no proof that posting how you voted on Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat was going to cause any voter intimidation or vote buying and most definitely none sufficient to outweigh the First Amendment free speech rights that were being affected by the statute.

The appellate court in upholding the district court’s ruling completed its opinion with the simple adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”. You can read more about this here.

In Vermont there is no law against photographing your ballot, but since there is a law still on the books about publishing how you are going to vote before you cast your ballot, wait to post that selfie until you have already submitted your ballot. But probably the most important take on all of this is that, ballot selfie or not, we all should get out there and vote.

Sounds like a great mystery book or a movie title, but it’s not. This week in Vermont is Open Farm Week. It gives those of us who love to wander through farmers’ markets and eat fresh from the farm produce a chance to see what actually goes on at your favorite farm and learn more about agriculture and farming in our lovely state. This opportunity gives a whole new meaning to “learning where your food came from” as you have the opportunity to not only see where it came from, but meet the folks behind your favorite fare in their own environment — and even lend a hand and see what it’s like to be a farmer for a few hours. A great opportunity to gain even greater appreciation for the men and women who are behind the farmers’ market tables each and every week.

There are farms all over the state of Vermont that are opening their barn doors for you! Of course, Vermont farmers are so friendly and welcoming that you don’t need a special week to visit your favorite farmer. But, I digress.

Here is a sampling of some of the things you can do this week at a farm near you. You could even schedule a whole week of farm fun and take a tour of Vermont farms, taking in their uniqueness as each of these places puts their own special twist on farming and for that, we are very grateful.

Merck Forest and Farmland Center will teach you all about draft horses and maybe even get the opportunity to help drive them around the farm.

Health Hero Farm is having cooking classes demonstrating how to cook their fresh beef.

Have a Farm to Table Dinner by the gardens at Boyd Family Farm in Wilmington. The proceeds for this dinner go to charity.

Take a nature photography course at the Smokey House in Danby.

You can also visit an alpaca farm, visit a vineyard or visit a mushroom farm. There are lots of choices and really something for everyone. Take advantage of really learning where your food comes from this week. You’ll be glad that you did.

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