Friday, February 10, 2017

Mother-Daughter Art Appreciation at UVM's Fleming Museum

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 11:46 AM

A reclining Buddha - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • A reclining Buddha
My 10-year-old daughter, Dillon, and I are the odd couple in our family. I’m a neat freak; she’s, well, a slob. I could barely play "Chopsticks” as a kid, while she’s playing Chopin. And when it comes to our artistic skills, it’s the same story. Dillon can paint like Chagall while my stick figures wouldn’t pass muster in kindergarten.

A Chinese robe - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • A Chinese robe
So it was with some mixed feelings that we jointly ventured to the opening reception of the spring exhibitions at the University of Vermont's Fleming Museum of Art. At Middlebury College more than 20 years ago, my favorite course (though I was an English major) was art history, so I was looking forward to seeing the museum's just-opened Gallery of Asian Art along with “Catherine Jansen: 1008”, a photography exhibit focused on India, and “Imbibe: Drinking in Culture,”  devoted to the ways that humans shape and share the beverages they drink.

Dillon and I walked in the front entrance from the cold, her purple pom-pom hat squarely on her head. She took one look around the crowd of adults and looked at me forlornly. “When will we go home?” she asked. “We just got here!” I said. Clearly, she needed a little direction, so I armed her with one of her favorite things — a spiral notebook — and a pencil and asked her to wander through the exhibits and write down which pieces were most special to her.

Decanter set - SARAH TUFF DUNN
  • Sarah Tuff Dunn
  • Decanter set
Less than 10 minutes later, she was back with her list. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes. How could she appreciate art in that amount of time? But as she led me through the Gallery of Asian Art and pointed out her choices — a bright-red dragon robe from the Qing Dynasty in the 1700s and the reclining Parinirvana Buddha from Burma in the 1800s — I found that they were the exact two that I would have chosen. The same was true as Dillon pointed out a surreal photo that she called “Big Rock” from “Catherine Jansen: 1008” and a delicate, sage-green decanter set displayed in the “Imbibe” exhibit.

Amazingly, through art, our odd couple had synergized. I was buoyed by the moment of connection.

“Why did you like all those pieces?” I asked Dillon.

“They are old, they are cool,” she said. And I was cool with that.

The Gallery of Asian Art is permanent, while Catherine Jansen: 1008 and Imbibe: Drinking in Culture will be at the Fleming Museum through May 21. Find more information here.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Printable Camp Planner

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 3:57 PM

Camp Abnaki
  • Camp Abnaki
Ready to get going on your summer planning? Want to make sure that you have coverage for all the weeks of summer? Click below for a printable camp planner — perfect for hanging on the fridge — then start penciling in camps for your kids!  camp_planner_PDF.pdf

Kids VT: Your One-Stop Shop For Summer Camps

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Camp Abnaki
  • Camp Abnaki
Whether you're new to the whole camp thing or you've been doing it for years, the process of planning your kids' summer schedules can be a daunting one. Many of us here at Kids VT are parents to school-age children. In other words, we can empathize. That's why we're doing everything in our power to make it easy to find the best summer programs the area has to offer.

In addition to four consecutive months of pull-out camp guides in our print magazine (starting this month!), we've created a special Vermont Camps page on our website. Here you'll find helpful articles from our archives that profile specific camps and provide general advice about preparing your kids for the camp experience.

Davis Studio
  • Davis Studio
New this year is a handy camp finder that allows you to search programs using different criteria, such as town, age group, and day vs. sleepaway. Click on any of the camps listed and you'll find a brief summary, plus a link to its website where you can get the nitty-gritty details.

If you prefer meeting face-to-face with camp staff, we'd love to see you at our 20th annual Kids VT Camp & School Fair, happening this Saturday, February 4, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Hilton Burlington on Battery Street. You'll find dozens of reps from camps and schools in Vermont and beyond, eager to provide you with lots more information and answer any questions you may have.

Looking for something else camp-related you don't see on our site? Let us know at

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Welcoming Winter: A Roundup of Outdoor Events

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 12:20 PM

  • Courtesy of Green Mountain Audubon Center
  • Family Trek
Here's one way to survive Vermont’s looooong winter: Get outside. Outdoor events offer fun for the whole family and many cost little or nothing to attend. Below you'll find a roundup of some of the best things in store during the coming months. A word of advice: Dress warmly and bring an extra pair of socks for everyone. A thermos of hot chocolate isn't a bad idea either!

Starry-eyed riders sail over Shelburne Farms’ snowy fields in Full Moon Sleigh Rides, powered by a team of Percheron draft horses. Thursday, January 12 & Friday, February 10.

Nature-lovers of all ages explore exhibits and snowy trails at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science’s Winter Wildlife Celebration. Family-friendly guided tours and talks fill the morning, followed by indoor and outdoor games, crafts and a crackling campfire with toasty treats in the afternoon. Saturday, January 14.

Hot chocolate fuels wanderers during North Branch Nature Center’s Full Moon Snowshoe Hike beneath lunar light. Snowshoes provided. Saturday, January 14.

Families face the skies in Starry, Starry Night. Guided by the North Branch Nature Center’s staff, amateur astronomers learn the winter constellations, identify planets and check out the Pleiades and other celestial sights through a telescope. Dress warmly. Friday, January 20.

Shelburne Winterfest offers indoor and outdoor family activities, including horse-drawn sleigh rides, crafts, music, tasty treats and sledding. Saturday, January 21.

Aspiring anglers bundle up for a frosty morning at the Ice Fishing Derby, part of the Stowe Winter Carnival. Hot chocolate and refreshments keep the kids chipper and limited equipment is available for use. Ages 14 and under. Saturday, January 28.

Ice on Fire in Montpelier fêtes the heart of winter. The community festival begins with a parade of giant puppets at 2 p.m., followed by songs, theater skits, stories, winter games, satisfying snacks and a hearty bonfire. Sunday, January 29.

The Rikert Center’s Nordic Rendezvous and Back-to-the-Barn Tour celebrates snow with cross-country skiing, fat biking and snowshoeing on scenic trails to Robert Frost’s writing cabin, followed by spiced cider around a bonfire, a buffet dinner and a rousing barn dance. Saturday, February 4.

At the Green Mountain Audubon Center, adventurous kiddos and their parents search the snow for animal tracks and homes during the Family Trek. Then the group builds a campfire and makes merry around a crackling blaze, with snacks and hot chocolate. Saturday, February 4.

Wintervale invites the whole family to Burlington's backyard with children’s games and activities, plus local food and drink available for purchase. Free cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals and three miles of groomed trails to explore make for a fun — and active — day. Sunday, February 12 & Sunday, March 12.

A longtime tradition at the Montshire Museum of Science, Igloo Build features igloo expert and author Dr. Bert Yankielun leading a hands-on, all-ages workshop in domed-shelter construction. While at the museum, check out their new exhibit, Making Music: the Science of Musical Instruments, which combines stories and science, and an opportunity to make your own sweet sounds. Saturday, February 18.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Vermont State Parks Offer New Year's Day Hikes

Posted By on Sat, Dec 31, 2016 at 9:26 AM

  • Courtesy of Vermont State Parks
  • Groton Nature Center
Looking to start 2017 with some exercise and fresh air? Multiple state parks are offering free, family-friendly guided hikes on New Year's day. Professional guides and outdoor educators will lead participants, sharing their knowledge and love of the Vermont outdoors.

Below is a list of participating parks. Preregistration is not required; simply show up ready to enjoy the outdoors and the company of other participants. Dress for the weather and bring beverages and snacks. Dogs are welcome on leash unless otherwise noted.

Hikes on January 1, 2017
Ascutney State Park, Windsor
Guide: Scott Davison (The Woodstock Naturalist) Meet at 10 a.m. at the ranger station. Hike: 1+ hour, easy terrain. Note: Not a summit hike.

Bomoseen State Park, Castleton
Guide: Caitlin Gates (Vermont State Park Interpreter) Meet at 1 pm at park entrance station. Hike: 1+ hour, easy terrain

Button Bay State Park, Ferrisburgh
Guide: Ron Payne from Otter Creek Audubon Society Meet at 9 a.m. at park entrance. Hike: 3 hours, easy terrain

Groton Nature Center, Big Deer State Park, Groton
Guide: Dave Spencer (local expert) Meet at 1 p.m. at Groton State Forest Nature Center parking area on Boulder Beach Road, 1.6 miles from Route 232. Hike: 1+ hour loop, easy terrain.

Hunger Mountain
, Waterbury
Guide: Caitlin Miller from the Green Mountain Club Meet at 9 a.m. at Hunger Mountain Trailhead (Waterbury). Hike: 3.5 miles, 5 hours, moderate to difficult terrain. Hike to the summit if weather permits.

Jamaica State Park
, Jamaica
Guide: Lowell Lake Park Ranger Scott Renker Meet at 10 a.m. by the park office at the entrance. Hike: 1+ hour, 1-mile, easy terrain. Participants will have the option of a longer hike along the same trail.

Niquette Bay State Park
, Colchester
Guide: Jessica Savage from Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation Meet at noon at the trailhead in Niquette Bay State Park. Hike: 1.5 miles, 2 hours, moderate terrain.

Taconic Mountain Ramble State Park
, Hubbardton
Guide: Bat biologist Alyssa Bennett Meet at noon at the Hubbardton Battlefield parking lot on Monument Hill Road. Hike: 2-3 hours, easy to moderate terrain, followed by fresh-baked cookies!

Underhill State Park
, Underhill
Guide: John Connell, Greenmont Farms Meet at 1 p.m. at gate just below Underhill State Park on Moutain Road in Underhill Center. Hike: 3 hours, easy to moderate terrain. Bring a snack and warm beverage to share!

For hike updates, please call (802) 249-1230. For more information on First Day Hikes and to view additional hike offerings as they are added, visit or check out Vermont State Parks on Facebook and Twitter.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Go Exploring: A Guide to Fun During Vacation Week

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 1:00 PM

  • Courtesy of Montshire Museum
  • Dinosaur Revolution
My favorite part of holiday break is hanging out with the kids after the flurry of gift-giving. We love to pull on our warm boots and snow pants and explore the outdoors. But if the temps drop, or the company isn't up for bundling up in bulky outerwear, there’s plenty to do inside to keep your crew amused and on the move. We'll likely be heading to the Montshire Museum’s Dinosaur Revolution exhibit before it closes on January 2. Here are some other indoor ideas — and a few outdoors ones — to keep you entertained during the upcoming school vacation!

  • Animal admirers greet Santa’s graceful friends and learn how these marvelous creatures survive the snowy season at Reindeer Up Close at ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. Monday, December 26, 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. & 2 p.m. While at the science center, get answers to your kids' questions about clouds and hurricanes at the traveling exhibit, The Zula Patrol: Mission Weather.
  • Courtesy of Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center
  • "Flip, Fly, Fun!"

  • On temporary loan from the Smithsonian Institute, X-Ray Vision: Fish Inside and Out at the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium illustrates evolutionary history through translucent photographs of ancient sea creatures, in an elegant combination of science and art. Before you plan a visit, call ahead and reserve tickets for a planetarium show, too.

  • Treat your gang to a special night out. "Flip, Fly, Fun!" at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe transforms the stage with a dazzling array of jugglers, acrobats, aerialists and clowns. Wednesday, December 28, 7 p.m.

  • Giddy-up! Silver bells jingle as horses trot cherry-cheeked riders over snowy rolling hills by sleigh at Shelburne Farms. Daily from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., December 24-December 31 (except Christmas day); weekends through February.

  • Courtesy of Billings Farn & Museum
  • Christmas at the Farm
  • Families spend a day at Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock savoring the season the old-fashioned way. Partake in 19th-century crafts in a restored farmhouse, keep toasty by a woodstove and enjoy tasty treats. Bring your warmest clothes to take a tour of the barn, meet the livestock and enjoy horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides. Daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., December 26-January 1.

  • Ring in 2017 at Montpelier’s New Year’s Eve, beginning with a 5K race at 2 p.m., followed by a magic show and evening fireworks. First Night Burlington makes merry with the Church Street Dancing Dragons Parade at 6 p.m.; circus arts, theater and music; and fireworks at both 6:45 p.m. and midnight. On the state’s eastern side, First Night St. Johnsbury caps the year with activities including Nimble Arts’ Ruckus Circus and the Family Fun Fair from 4-8 p.m.

  • Put your healthiest foot forward at FirstRun, a New Year’s Day 5K in Burlington. With two kids’ fun runs and costumes encouraged, this sporty morning event is a virtuous way to begin the new year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Home Cookin': Pepparkakor, A Swedish Jultide Tradition

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 7:11 AM

Pepparkakor - ASTRID LAGUE
  • Astrid Lague
  • Pepparkakor
Probably the most quintessential Swedish Christmas treat is Pepparkakor, or Swedish gingersnaps.  They come in many different variations. You can roll them out and cut them into shapes or do what this recipe calls for and simply ball them up and flatten them into disks. You can ice them or leave them plain. I prefer mine along with a nice cup of coffee.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies, so there are plenty to share! Bring some to your holiday cookie swap or simply store the dough in your freezer and pull it out when you need a little something sweet. The dough needs to be refrigerated for at least several hours before baking and keeps well in the fridge for a few days, so don't hesitate to prepare it ahead of time.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Swedish Meatballs: Our Family's Christmas Classic

Posted By on Fri, Dec 16, 2016 at 11:56 AM

The julbord, or Swedish Christmas table - ASTRID LAGUE
  • Astrid Lague
  • The julbord, or Swedish Christmas table
My father's parents, Ingrid and Bengt, grew up in Sweden, though they met each other in the United States. When they started a family, they tried very hard to assimilate. They didn't teach their kids Swedish and they did the Boston Globe's crossword puzzle every week to improve their English vocabulary. They named their first three children James, John and Joan, which forced them to practice the English "J" sound, one that the Swedish do not use. They were proud of their Swedish heritage, but were determined to become Americans. Simple as that.

However, Christmas was a different matter.  My grandparents didn't have a turkey dinner or a Christmas ham. No, Christmas meant a Swedish Christmas buffet. My late father continued his parents' tradition with added vigor, using it as an excuse to cook all of the Swedish food he knew how to make. He would spend days in the kitchen, carefully laying out labeled serving dishes on multiple tables, ready to fill with the abundance of dishes we prepared using recipes gathered from at least half a dozen cookbooks. Visiting Swedish relatives have told us that we overdo the julbord, the Swedish word for the Christmas table.  Of course we do. We are American, after all.

Astrid's dad in the kitchen
  • Astrid's dad in the kitchen
I still vividly remember my dad's last Christmas. He was so happy to show all of us how to make the dishes he customarily made by himself. My sister was taught how to make Swedish cabbage rolls. Mom learned his secret to the Christmas liver pate. My husband and I got lessons on Swedish Christmas sausage. My other sister got the finer points of Swedish deviled eggs.

One dish that we didn't need instructions for was Swedish meatballs. The recipe is one my grandmother and grandfather perfected through the years. In America, "swedish meatballs" seem to be synonymous with any small meatball in cream sauce spiked with nutmeg. But this is not the way our family enjoys them.  My grandparents' recipe was clear: The only spices you need are salt and white pepper.

Our Swedish meatballs are made of equal parts beef and pork, ideally ground together by the butcher. Since your friendly neighborhood butcher can be hard to come by these days, we settle for buying ground meat and then running it either through a meat grinder or pulsing it in a food processor. The key is getting a finer grind of meat than what you typically find in pre-packaged ground meat.

  • Meatballs
The real fun, though, comes in the rolling. Many hands do indeed make light work, and your winter-chapped hands will thank you for the moisturizing they get from the fat in the meat. You'll want to make these meatballs small, only about a tablespoon each. And, instead of the traditional browning in a pan, my grandparents always broiled the meatballs carefully, until browned on all sides, before transferring to a pot full of pan drippings and water, where they would simmer away until fully cooked.

If you must serve these with a cream sauce, be my guest. I prefer them with a dollop of lingonberry jam (a relative of cranberry sauce), which you can find at IKEA, or the better-stocked international aisles of some grocery stores. This recipe makes about 100 meatballs, enough for a crowd. You can also freeze them after they're cooked to enjoy anytime.

My family spent a day last weekend with my mother, making Swedish meatballs and other dishes for our annual Swedish Christmas feast. We worked side by side and, somehow, 100 meatballs didn't seem that daunting at all.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Post-Election, Schools and Healthcare Providers Rally Around New Americans

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 9:53 AM

  • Integrated Arts Academy principal Bobby Riley
Like millions of Americans across the nation, Bobby Riley stayed up to watch the results of the presidential election. At about 2:30 a.m on November 9, Riley, the principal of Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington’s Old North End, wrote an email to his staff.

“If the election results follow the current trajectory, we may very well have woken up with Donald J. Trump as our President-Elect this morning. The immediate implications may be profound for many of our students and families," Riley wrote. "So let us proceed with attentiveness and understanding for any anxiety and concerns that may arise.”

During the campaign, students had expressed their fears to him and his staff over Trump’s statements about registering Muslims and deporting illegal immigrants, Riley told Kids VT. Muslim and immigrant students were afraid they would not be able to remain in the U.S. if Trump became president. In turn, their friends expressed concern for their newcomer classmates and neighbors. IAA’s student population is arguably the most diverse in the state, said Riley. Forty percent of its students come from households whose first language is not English. An overwhelming majority of these families were also refugees. That's a rarity in Vermont, a state with a largely homogenous population that, according to the latest census data, is approximately 94 percent white.

Students in the diverse Winooski School District — from kindergarteners to high schoolers —expressed the same fears leading up to the election, said Kirsten Kollgaard, director of English Language Learners and Curriculum.

A significant number of students from the district come from refugee backgrounds, she said. Some were fearful of getting deported. And U.S-born students were worried that their New American friends would face deportation, said Kollgaard.

“Children pick up more than we think they do,” Kollgaard noted.

The non-stop news cycle, as well as easy access to the Internet, meant that students were inundated with election-related information, according to Riley and Kollgaard. Although schools are non-political and non-partisan, they can serve as “community centers for dialogues,” said Riley, where people should “accept multiple perspectives.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders at Integrated Arts Academy
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders at Integrated Arts Academy
The day after the election, Riley offered his school as the venue for a community potluck gathering. Sen. Bernie Sanders made a short appearance and he praised IAA for being a “great school in a very diverse community.”

Now weeks after the election, Kollgaard said the community is “still concerned” but “seemed to be relaxing.” She attributed this partly to the work that home-school liaisons — cultural brokers between the Winooski school district and New American parents — have done to reduce fears among parents. They remind parents that the U.S. is a country of laws as well as checks and balances, and that is not going to change overnight. Kollgaard said she’s been following the news very closely to keep abreast of conversations relating to immigration. Some parents expressed worry that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed and leave them vulnerable, noted Kollgaard.

Miriam Ehtesham-Cating, ELL coordinator for the Burlington School District, said her staff — known in the district as multi-lingual liaisons — have also reached out to New American parents. Ehtesham-Cating said she shared educational tools (including posts from the website Teaching Tolerance) which reinforce the values of diversity and respect, with several organizations that serve the refugee and immigrant populations. Although she hasn’t personally heard reports of harassment and bullying at schools, she has reminded teachers to remain vigilant.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Home Cookin': Apple Butter Pie

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 7:00 AM

  • Astrid Lague
Every year, my sister makes her amazing version of apple butter. First, she asks the folks at Hackett's Orchard in South Hero to put together a special blend of apples for her. (I'm not sure what the mix is, but I think it might be magical.) Then, she turns the fruit into something spreadable and delicious.

Apple butter is really just a thicker version of applesauce. You don't even need added sugar because the natural sugars in the apples caramelize, making the apple butter dark and sweet, without being cloying. You can cook the apples down in a crockpot, which makes your house smell wonderful. My sister cans hers and presents a jar to everyone in our family for the holidays.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to showcase the apple butter in a pie. In my family, we all love pumpkin pie, so why couldn't I make the same kind of pie using my sister's wonderful apple butter? And so, Apple Butter Pie was born. The dessert, with creamy custard-like filling brimming with apple-cinnamon flavor, has become a family favorite.

If you don't have homemade apple butter on hand, you can substitute with a store-bought variety. Look for one with no sugar added. Vermont-based Cold Hollow Cider Mill or Sidehill Farm make tasty versions.

This pie is ridiculously easy to make.  All you have to do is whisk together the filling, pour it in the pie crust, top with a sprinkling of cinnamon, then bake. For a fancy touch, create a decorative crust using leaf-shaped cookie cutters. This pie is the perfect way to bring a Vermonty vibe to your Thanksgiving table — though it's delicious any time of year.

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    Hosmer Point

    Hosmer Point

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    Building Confidence, Building Community. At Hosmer Point, campers build a sense of community in a beautiful and caring environment where boys and girls can play, explore, create life-long friendships and build self-confidence. With only 74 campers per session, and three or four campers for each counselor; every child is respected…(more)

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