Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Home Cookin': Homemade Shells & Cheese

Home Cookin'

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 9:00 AM


When I need a quick and effortless dish to serve my family but don't want to turn to a box, I reach for this simple and delicious recipe.


Homemade Shells and Cheese


1 16-oz box mini-shells pasta
2 cups milk
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste


Boil and drain pasta; return to pot. Add butter and stir until melted over medium-low heat. Slowly stir in milk and cheese. Add in garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir until smooth and creamy. Serve hot.

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Bump on a Blog: Joni James Houghton

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 8:50 PM

Joni James Houghton
  • Joni James Houghton
Today the May issue of Kids VT went to press. It was supposed to be my last big deadline before maternity leave. I had expected to be extremely pregnant right now, anticipating the arrival of my baby (she was due May 4) while proofing pages and making last-minute corrections.

Instead, I’m typing this blog post — occasionally with one hand — while a one-week-old snoozes on my chest.

In my last post, I wrote about the high-blood-pressure scare that had my doctors considering inducing labor. But after testing my blood and urine, they found no other signs of preeclampsia. So they sent me home.

But at a follow-up appointment a few days later, they watched my blood pressure creep higher. It would be safest both for me and baby, they said, to induce the next day. 

Early Wednesday morning, my husband and I packed our bags and headed to Fletcher Allen. Daniel was so excited, he woke up before our alarm went off and immediately leapt out of bed. I was less enthusiastic. I'd been genuinely excited for labor and delivery, but only in the abstract. Now, knowing it was imminent, I was scared.

I felt exactly like I do every time I board an airplane: terrified, exhilarated, unable to stop my legs and arms from shaking. I tried to breathe deeply, reminding myself, just as I do when I'm roaring down an airport runway, that I was headed somewhere good.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Home Cookin': Burrito Bowls

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 8:12 PM

The fixins.
  • The fixins.
This week, we invited some friends we've known since before we had kids  — now a family of five —  to our house for dinner. Having others over for a meal is a nice way to shake up the routine, and something I wish I did more often, but it poses its own set of challenges.

First of all, making a meal for eight or nine people seems way more daunting than preparing one for just my family of four.

Moreover, given that I sometimes have a hard time coming up with palatable food options for my own daughter and son, making a meal other people's kids will like seems especially challenging.

My strategy was to create a base meal that was customizable depending on each person's likes and dislikes. I stumbled upon a recipe for burrito bowls that fit the bill on Shutterbean, a family-oriented food and photography blog with pretty photos and yummy-sounding recipes.

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Maple's Last Hurrah: A Weekend Preview

Posted By on Wed, Apr 23, 2014 at 7:43 PM

Vermont Maple Festival - PERCEPTIONS INC.
  • Perceptions Inc.
  • Vermont Maple Festival
If you didn't get enough of the sweet stuff in March, two big events this weekend wrap up the sugaring season. In St. Albans, the Vermont Maple Festival, this Friday through Sunday, has something for every member of the family, from specialty food sampling to pony rides, music on Main Street to marionette performances. 

In St. Johnsbury, the World Maple Festival on Friday and Saturday offers up an ice cream social, 5K run, pancake breakfast and street fair. 

At Shelburne Farms on Saturday morning, fans of feathers craft owl puppets or raptor mobiles and learn about birds of prey by meeting some in person. Preregistration is required for this program.
  • Shelburne Farms

On Saturday, tiny tots might enjoy meeting the cute canine, Biscuit, from the popular children's book series at Buttered Noodles in Williston or getting up close and personal with big, shiny vehicles at Big Truck Day in Fairfax.  

Animal lovers might like Horsin' Around on Saturday Night, a high-octane pooch and pony variety show that features musical freestyle riding, dog agility and obedience demos, and horse and rider drill teams. The performance is part of the two-day Everything Equine & Canine show at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, which includes seminars, demos and entertainment. Click here for a coupon.

Finally, nature lovers have several opportunities to commune with the flora and fauna on Sunday. A Spring Blooms Walk at Ethan Allen Homestead in Burlington and a Wildflower Hike at Round Pond Natural Area in South Hero make for fun, outdoorsy afternoon jaunts for the whole family. Here's hoping it doesn't rain. 

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Incredible, Edible Eggs: An Easter Weekend Preview

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 2:48 PM

The Easter Bunny greets kids at the Milton Park and Rec egg hunt. - COURTESY OF MILTON PARKS AND REC
  • Courtesy of Milton Parks and Rec
  • The Easter Bunny greets kids at the Milton Park and Rec egg hunt.
Put on your bonnets and grab your baskets! There's a bevy of egg hunts and Easter-related activities on Saturday sure to please bunny-loving kids. 

At Buttered Noodles in Williston, little scavengers search for eggs, get their faces painted and nibble on mini pancakes. Each participant goes home with a prize. 

In Waterbury, Laughing Moon Chocolates and the Green Mountain Club present a festive event featuring prizes, yummy confections and a visit from the Easter Bunny. 

The towns of MiltonShelburneSouth Burlington and St. Albans host egg hunts with a variety of activities and sweets. 

Buni Day Art Drop-In at Wingspan Studio in Burlington features egg decorating, watercolor painting and collage making to get young artists in the Easter spirit.

Shelburne Museum hosts EGG-STREME Spring, an event devoted to awesome ovoids. 

Creative kiddos use tissue paper and glitter to make glass egg ornaments at Creative Habitat in South Burlington during a Saturday afternoon drop-in crafting session. 

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Home Cookin': Roasted Veggies

Posted By on Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 9:00 AM


I get sick of serving the same old vegetables at dinner time. If I see carrots or broccoli on my plate one more night, I might scream! So I'm always looking for ways to get my kids, and equally veggie-squeamish husband, to try something new.

I know they love seasoned salt, so when I found this recipe idea at the McCormick website, I thought I'd give it a whirl. It got mixed reviews, but everyone ate some, a couple of us with smiles on our faces. It's always worth the extra effort to get everyone at the table to try something new — especially when you promise ice cream afterwards.


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Monday, April 14, 2014

Bump on a Blog: Are We Ready?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 8:49 PM

The car seat is set up and ready to go, thanks to Gori, my favorite childhood chimpanzee. - MEGAN JAMES
  • Megan James
  • The car seat is set up and ready to go, thanks to Gori, my favorite childhood chimpanzee.
For a few hours last Friday, my husband and I considered the possibility that we were about to become parents — not three weeks from now, as we had been expecting, but, like, now.

Earlier that day, at my 36-week ultrasound appointment, my doctor found that my blood pressure was unusually high. She decided to send me to the hospital to be monitored and tested for preeclampsia.

Left untreated, the condition can develop into eclampsia, which causes seizures, and even death, in the mother. The only way to treat it is to deliver the baby. If I did have preeclampsia, my doctor told me, she'd want to induce labor right away.

Despite that scary description — and the fact that the disorder killed Lady Sybil on "Downton Abbey"  — I wasn't all that worried. Both my mom and grandmother had high blood pressure at the end of their pregnancies; they were fine. And my baby on Friday was just two days away from 37 weeks, technically full term. If she had to come out now, she'd be ready.

Still, while I sat there in the Fletcher Allen triage room in my hospital gown, listening to the galloping of her heartbeat on the fetal monitor, I wondered, Am I ready for her? 

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Egg-cellent Events: A Weekend Preview

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 12:00 PM

  • Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center
  • Mudfest
Easter is still more than a week away, but there are a gaggle of events devoted to the incredible, edible egg this weekend.

Egg hunts in EssexShelburne and at the UVM Farm in South Burlington will entertain little scavengers looking to fill their baskets.

Eggs serve a different purpose at Montshire Museum's annual Egg Drop Contest, where participants create protective containers for the fragile ovoids, then see if they can survive an 18-foot fall. 
  • Montshire Museum
  • Egg Drop Contest

ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center's Mudfest, a 16-day celebration of Vemont's fifth season, commences on Saturday with a mess of fun activities including worm exploration, mud tables and a "mud fling" every afternoon.

Vehicle-obsessed kids can get up close and personal with shiny trucks at Big Rig Day in Swanton on Saturday morning. 

Families can fill up on Sunday morning at an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast benefitting the Williston Fire Department.

Lost Children of the Far Islands, Emily Raabe's magical debut novel for kids ages 8-12, is fêted by the Flying Pig Bookstore at Shelburne Town Hall on Sunday afternoon. 

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Five Questions for National Student Poet Michaela Coplen

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 7:55 AM

  • National Student Poets Program

Pennsylvania high school senior Michaela Coplen holds the title of National Student Poet, an honor presented annually to five young wordsmiths chosen from a pool of national medalists in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards who show creativity, dedication to the craft and promise.

As part of her duties, Coplen travels around the Northeast as a poetry ambassador, doing workshops and readings. The Vermont Humanities Council and Vermont Arts Council are co-hosting a two-day visit by Coplen this Thursday and Friday.

Her schedule is packed with events, including a workshop with women at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington and visits to Edmunds Middle School in Burlington and Montpelier High School. She'll also give the morning devotional in the State House Chambers on Friday morning and do a short reading before Vermont poet laureate Sydney Lea's appearance at Vermont College of Fine Arts as part of Montpelier's PoemCity celebration on Friday evening. The latter two events are open to the public.

Kids VT asked Coplen about how she became a National Student Poet and what advice she’d give to budding Whitmans and Angelous.

What got you into poetry?

It’s been an interesting journey. My mom started reading me poetry very young as bedtime stories. I also started writing poetry at a young age but I started getting away from it when poetry was taught in school. It felt inaccessible.

I’m a military child so sometimes, when you move around a lot, it’s difficult to hold on to places that you've left. I started writing poetry freshman or sophomore year as personal memoir from the lens of trying to encapsulate or share an experience in a poem.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Home Cookin': Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 12:59 PM

There's no rhyme or reason to what my children enjoy eating and what they flat out reject. The perennial kid favorite, grilled cheese, grosses out my almost-7-year-old, Mira, but she devours apple slices like they're candy. Blueberries — the most innocuous berry out there in my opinion — send my 4-year-old, Theo, running for the hills, but he's a fan of eggplant parmigiana and pickles. 

My husband, Jeff, and I have been on a healthy food kick recently, trying to cut out sugar and complex carbs Monday through Friday. One night last week, I decided to make quinoa-stuffed peppers for us all. I was pretty sure my kids would hate them.

But wouldn't you know, they gobbled them up with glee. Mira declared she'd like them every night. Theo was especially tickled by the edible pepper bowls.

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