Thursday, October 30, 2014

On the Fly: Food & Love (Part I)

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Candied crab apples in China.
  • Candied crab apples in China.

At the heart of every family are twin pillars of food and love. In my opinion, these are two of the most important parts of a parent's job: making sure you're eating good food together and loving each other.

When it comes to food, you need to figure out three meals a day and think about how you are going to give everyone the nutrition they need, ensuring they like it, without boring them (or yourself). Likewise, you have to think about love everyday  — how to express it, cultivate it and serve it up in interesting ways.

This trip has us focusing on these pillars in new and deeper ways.

Some families, like ours, have one picky eater, who can wreak havoc at family meals. Ours is 8-year old Lola. She loves all kinds of white foods — bagels and cream cheese, macaroni and cheese, quesadillas, plain pasta, white rice, etc. At home, meal times are tough because I either end up catering to her with something different than what I made for the rest of the family, or I refuse and she ends up in tears and goes to bed hungry. 

Before we left on this trip, my sister (who was also a picky eater as a child) expressed concern about Lola. She told me to pack special food, like granola bars, for her so she wouldn’t starve.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It felt like the antithesis of what we set out to do with this adventure — let the children explore new worlds without coddling them. Lola is naturally thin, and though I had visions of her becoming frail and weak from lack of nutrition, I put this out of my mind. I had faith that she would open her mind (and mouth) and just eat.

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Will You Go Out With Me? A Private Lesson at Talent Skatepark

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 8:49 AM

So present was I on this date that I forgot to snap a pic of the two of us. Here is a staged recreation, which includes only me. I’ll get better at blogging, I promise!
  • So present was I on this date that I forgot to snap a pic of the two of us. Here is a staged recreation, which includes only me. I’ll get better at blogging, I promise!
Who doesn’t love a hot date on four wheels?

As I mentioned last week in my introduction to this series, my husband, Ryan, and I recently spent an afternoon at the skatepark. Any images you might have of two kind-of-old-but-still-rad skate punks tearing shit up with abandon should immediately be stricken from your imagination. We had no idea what we were doing. But we had so much fun doing it.

Here are some reasons why a skate lesson is a great date:

1) Skateboarding is new to both of us. This puts us squarely within the Venn Diagram of vulnerability and potential personal growth. One of the most important things to me in a relationship is that the person I volunteered to spend my life with continues to grow and evolve as a human being, and that he encourages me to do the same. This applies on micro and macro levels, skateboarding obviously being an example of the former.

2) My husband and I were both psyched to try skateboarding. Though mutual interest in the date topic is not a requirement, it sure does make things go a lot smoother. Also, there’s research to back me up on this front.

3) A skate lesson is one hour long. Counting the time it took to drive to the skatepark, get our pads and helmets on and off, and drive home, we were out of the house for two hours. This makes a skate date the perfect option for squeezing something in when your husband is working on deadline. No excuses, my friends. No excuses.

Soooo… how was it? Well, first of all, you know things can’t go horribly wrong if you’re wearing pads and a helmet. And I mean that for life in general, not just the skatepark. We both looked kind of ridiculous — but in an adorable way. Looking ridiculous means feeling vulnerable and when you’ve been together for 13 years, that's refreshing. 

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Your Essential Guide to Halloween

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Haunted Happenings at Shelburne Museum
  • Haunted Happenings at Shelburne Museum

Halloween falls on a Friday night this year, which, as any parent who's tried to wake up their child on a November 1st school morning knows, is good news. The bulk of Halloween-related events happen this weekend. There are so many pumpkin lightings, trick-or-treat sessions, parades and other spooky celebrations that we compiled them into a master list.

Here's to a sweet Halloween filled with lots of fun!

  • Get your chills and thrills at the Haunted Forest at Catamount Outdoor Family Center, with multiple shows Thursday through Saturday night. Three matinees on Saturday are geared to kids 8 and under.

  • Carve and embellish your gourds with provided decorations, then warm up with a bonfire at Bombardier Park in Milton Friday night. 

  • Hoof it around Maple Street Park in Essex Junction at this costumed 5K and kids fun run Saturday morning. On Saturday evening, there’s a pumpkin fest at the park with crafts, storytelling, food and a Great Pumpkin Walk. Don’t forget your carved pumpkin to display.

  • Show your carving prowess and purchase a pie baked by a community member or local restaurant at this seasonal celebration in downtown Montpelier on Saturday.

  • Embellish a Halloween cookie at South End Kitchen in Burlington on Saturday afternoon.

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Will You Go Out With Me?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Intrepid daters: Angela and her husband, Ryan
  • Intrepid daters: Angela and her husband, Ryan
My husband and I have decided to start dating again.

We’ve been married for nine years and together for 13. Our daughter, Lionelle, was born in 2008, and our son, Dashiell, followed in 2010. So we’ve now been married with kids twice as long as we were married without kids. And it shows. 

Our daily life and conversations revolve around our children. Who’s bringing them to school? What time does she need to be picked up? Even a seemingly general, non-kid-specific question like “What should we have for dinner?” inevitably turns into a conversation about which veggies our kids have eaten this week and how much cinnamon toast is too much. 

What we’re not talking about is how work’s been or what books we’re reading or ... whatever else couples talk about when they don’t have kids to discuss.

Can we keep our relationship healthy if it remains on the periphery of our child-centered world? The answer, I fear, is no. I’ve finally come to understand that if we’re not paying attention to the relationship that started it all, we’re doing it wrong.

Which is why we’re dating again. It’s not a silver bullet, but we’ve decided that carving time out just for us — the “us” that predates our adorable family — is essential to the vitality of our relationship.

This isn’t our first attempt to reinvigorate our marriage, but this time feels different. We’ve just made it through a particularly rough patch, and neither of us wishes to end up there again. It was dark. And I have no doubt that our kids picked up on it, which is unacceptable to me. We can do better.

We’ve come up with a set of simple rules to govern our dating. Does that sound like the antithesis of recapturing the spontaneity of youth? Sure. But I’ve learned to appreciate the freedom that is born from structure.

May I present…

How to Date Your Spouse/Partner
1) You must leave the house.
2) No kids.
3) No errand running.
4) No movies.
5) No email, social media, phone calls or texting (except to the babysitter).
6) Every effort must be made to do something that is new to both of you.

My husband and I are committed to one legit, for-real, no-bullshit date per month. He travels a lot for work and once a month feels like a realistic goal.

I’ll write about each date here — the outstanding, the questionable and the hilarious. This is not your mother’s date night, people! I wanna get weird. I want to feel fear and exhilaration and wonder with my husband. I want to fall in love again. My hope is that you’ll be inspired to start dating your partner, too, and we can all share really fun, out-of-the-ordinary date ideas that put the dinner-and-a-movie standby to shame.

Next week, I’ll write about our first foray into the world of married dating: a couples’ skateboarding lesson at Talent Skatepark. Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Home Cookin': Warm Quinoa Salad

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 10:33 AM

It seems like you can’t look at a food magazine, blog or website these days without seeing an article about quinoa. It’s understandable. The funny little seeds do have a lot going for them. Quinoa cooks up in about 15 minutes, much quicker than brown rice. It's gluten- and cholesterol-free, has a high protein content and provides all 9 essential amino acids — making it an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans. What’s not to love? 

My introduction to quinoa came a year or so ago, and I was so excited about this new alternative to rice and pasta that I went a little crazy with it. For a while I put it on the menu at the Children’s Space at least once a week. I tried using it to replace the rice in burritos (not recommended), in casseroles (slightly more successful) and as a side dish (the kids mostly pushed it around their plates into little piles). At home I was equally enthusiastic and my family — usually good sports about trying new, healthy foods — eventually rebelled. I knew I had to take a break from adding quinoa to everything the night my husband, eyeing his dinner plate suspiciously for any trace of the tiny spheres, asked, “Did you put quinoa in these mashed potatoes?”

I took a step back, and vowed to only put quinoa on the menu at school and at home when I found a really fantastic recipe.

Over the summer, I experimented. I tried various combinations of quinoa with beans, veggies, herbs, spices and dressings. They were all okay, but there were no home runs. And I knew it would take something really special to get everyone excited to give quinoa another try.

When the Children’s Space got a box of butternut squash from our Intervale farm share a few weeks ago I had a brainstorm. I cooked up a pot of quinoa. I cut one of  the squash into tiny cubes, then roasted it with olive oil, salt and pepper until it caramelized. I added the squash to the quinoa, along with finely chopped red onion, scallions, salt, pepper, dill and feta.

I made it for my family's dinner that night and, for the first time, a quinoa dish actually disappeared.

I think I found my home run.

Warm Quinoa Salad

2 cups quinoa 
1 medium butternut squash – peeled, seeded and cut into a  ½-inch dice
1 small red onion, diced
3 or 4 scallions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 cup crumbled feta cheese, divided
2 tsp dill
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper
Juice of ½ a lemon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until all the pieces are coated. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, cook the quinoa. I usually cook 2 cups of quinoa with 3-3.5 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring it all to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. When it's done cooking, transfer the quinoa to a large bowl.

Chop the onion and the scallions, and add to the quinoa while it’s still warm.

Check your squash! It’s ready when it’s easy to pierce with a fork, turning brown and slightly crispy on one side. Add it to the bowl, making sure you get any nice crunchy bits and all the oil from the pan.

Throw in the salt, pepper, dill, and lemon juice and mix everything well.

Last, add ¾ cup of feta and toss to combine.

Taste and adjust the salt, pepper or lemon juice to your liking.

To serve, sprinkle the last ¼ cup of the feta over the top, and drizzle with the last tablespoon of olive oil.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gaming for Good [Updated]

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Noah Cohen, 8, leads Extra Life participants on a tour of Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen.
  • Noah Cohen, 8, leads Extra Life participants on a tour of Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen.


Local gamers raised $15,705 for Vermont Children’s Hospital, and Extra Life participants around the country collectively raised $5,102,500 for the Children's Miracle Network. Still want to participate in Extra Life? November 15 is the local make-up date for gamers who missed the big event last weekend. 

While 8-year-old Noah Cohen was in the middle of the gaming marathon, his mom, Amy, wrote about what the fundraiser meant to her family:

It's 3 in the morning, and I am sitting on the couch playing PlayStation 4 with my 8-year-old son. He was been gaming for 19 hours straight so far, and while occasionally I can hear the faint criticism of the textbook parent in my head who might be questioning the judgement of this decision, when I look over at my son, I am bursting with pride. So much about who he has become awes me, but tonight (or this morning, I suppose) I am amazed by the seriousness with which he approaches his task.

He is in the home stretch of the Extra Life 24-hour game-a-thon to support the Children's Miracle Network, and while I am clear that this is not a hardship (playing video games for 24 hours might, in fact, be his dream come true), he has done so much to prepare for this occasion — from deciding what he wanted to share on his fundraising page, telling others about Extra Life and asking for donations, raising more than $4,000 to date, articulating his desire and expectation to game for the full 24 hours like the majority of Extra Lifers and, finally, mapping out his "game plan" for the day.

It's impressive. And I love that through it all he continues to remember and share his real reasons for fundraising and playing today. It's for the kids. It's because he loves Vermont Children's Hospital, our local Children's Miracle Network Hospital, and he, like his parents, is grateful for the exceptional care he has received there in his 8 eventful years. It's deeply personal for us.

I am even more moved by the fact that at this moment there are 49,264 others across the United States and Canada awake and doing the same thing, all to support the 170 Children's Miracle Network hospitals in North America. Some of these self-professed gamers also have a personal investment in the cause while others have had less direct experience yet understand the power of doing what they do best to support the well being of sick and injured kids. And together we have raised $4.3 million so far.

It's astounding and inspiring. Yet I will admit, it's late and I am growing tired and so I think of the few times I have pulled an all-nighter in my life, and the only instances I can think of are nights I have stayed awake while my son was in the hospital.

I think of the many ways that Children's Miracle Network funds have made those difficult nights and the hospital stays surrounding them easier — from medical equipment to hospital-room furniture to child-life services without which our hospital experience would not be same. And so we play on with the knowledge that so many children and families will benefit from this sleepless night.

If you have the opportunity to support the Children's Miracle Network and your local children's hospital, I urge you to do so. Your contributions will make such an tremendous difference in the care children receive. And their families, like mine, will be forever grateful.


Gamers get a bad rap sometimes. But this weekend, many of them will be glued to their screens for a great cause. 

On Saturday, October 25, thousands of people around the country are participating in a fundraiser called Extra Life, a 24-hour gaming marathon to benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. So far, 126 Vermont participants have raised $7,621 for Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen.

Nearly half of that money has come from an 8-year-old from St. George named Noah Cohen. Since early September, he has raised $3,500.

Cohen has a special relationship with Fletcher Allen. Born with a rare variety of congenital anomalies, he has undergone 23 surgeries and seen more than a dozen specialists there.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vermont Tech Jam Hosts Luncheon For Girls Interested in STEM Careers

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 10:45 AM

Know any Vermont girls ages 12-18 with an interest in science, technology, engineering or math? We know they're out there! And we're inviting them to a free Girls and Women in STEM luncheon at the Vermont Tech Jam on Saturday, October 25.

The number of jobs available in STEM fields is on the rise as computers and smartphones become increasingly ubiquitous. Careers in STEM fields pay well — according to the White House Women in STEM initiative, women who have STEM-related jobs earn 33 percent more than their counterparts in other fields.

But men are still far more likely to pursue these careers than women, and they're more likely to stay once they're employed.

Vermont schools, employers and policy makers are addressing this gender disparity in a variety of ways. Kids VT and our parent company, Seven Days, have written about their efforts. This year, we decided to try a different approach.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On the Fly: Finding the Mosaic

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 7:54 AM

China has our senses in overdrive. The sheer number of people, the noise, the smells, the pollution, the beauty and the chaos are overwhelming. In Japan, things were orderly and intentional. In China, it's more like "anything goes."

We love to see grilled insects on sticks and the colorful, unfamiliar vegetables on display at markets. The girls are amused by the toddlers with holes cut into the crotch of their pants for toilet training, which happens in the middle of the street sometimes. 

As we make our way through this country, I realize that we are as fascinating to the Chinese as they are to us. In a country of one-child families, we don't just stand out for our Western looks but for our many children. Everywhere we go, people point, stare, get out their cameras or approach us to ask questions. In a crowded subway car, people generously clear seats for us to sit as a family, or reach out to help when they see we need it.

Kaya, with her Shirley Temple curls and chubby cheeks, seems to attract the most attention. It’s like we have a celebrity on our hands. We have had to usher her away from gathering crowds as they grab and pull her. 

To make things even more intense, the first week of October was Chinese National Holiday week, meaning everyone was off from school and work celebrating and touring around the country. With nearly 1.4 billion people, this makes a big impact. It took us 3 and a half hours to drive 50 kilometers to the Great Wall (it was worth it!). 

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On the Fly: Bumps in the Road

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 5:10 PM

At the hospital in Kyoto. Dahlia was too upset to take a photo of my bloody face, so she got us from the side.
  • At the hospital in Kyoto. Dahlia was too upset to take a photo of my bloody face, so she got us from the side.

We spent our last night in Japan in an emergency room.

One of my biggest fears leading up to this trip was that one of us would get injured or sick and end up at the mercy of foreign doctors, hoping to communicate and get the care we need. However, when I imagined this scenario, it was always one of my children hurt or sick and me crazy with worry.

We had just finished our last evening meal in Japan and were heading back to the ryokan, or inn, where we were staying before leaving for China in the morning. Walking through the neighborhood — a touristy but beautiful area built into the hills with shrines and winding streets filled with art galleries and restaurants — I noticed a lovely alleyway lit by the Japanese lanterns. When I saw a chance to cross over the main road, I did something I don’t normally do.

I didn't see any cars coming, so I began to walk across the middle of the street — something I have taught my children never to do — an my family followed me. It was such a lovely evening, and we felt comfortable in Kyoto, and I was tired and ready to make a shortcut back to the ryokan. Midway across, I saw cars speeding toward us, so I yelled “Run!” and pulled Kaya’s hand.

I didn’t see the metal reflector built into the road marking the middle line since I was looking at oncoming traffic, so when my foot hit it, I went flying. I landed on my belly, and then my jaw came crashing down onto the road. I felt the blood gushing out of my mouth.

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Home Cookin': Coconut-Squash Soup

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2014 at 2:10 PM

The first time I tried to make soup from scratch, I warmed some chicken broth from a carton, then threw in chopped carrots, peas, green beans and precooked alphabet pasta. I think I may have sprinkled grated parmesan cheese on top. It was better than soup from a can, but it wasn’t very good. My kids ate it — they’ll pretty much eat anything that involves pasta — but I knew I could do better.

Luckily for me, Abbey Duke — Sugarsnap owner and Burlington Children's Space parent extraordinaire — offered to bring me into her prep kitchen and teach me a few tricks of the trade. That’s where I learned about the magic of mirepoix, the French technique of cooking down finely chopped onion, celery, carrots and sometimes aromatic herbs to start a soup or stew. She also introduced me to the idea of slowly simmering veggies in broth or water and pureeing them with butter and cream. After my session with Abbey, I felt much more confident in my soup-making skills and started brainstorming great soups I'd had in the past that I could try to recreate.

Over the years I’ve tasted various spins on a beautifully colored, slightly spicy butternut squash soup. I decided that making my own version would be a good place to start.

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Vermont Chess Camp of Champions

Vermont Chess Camp of Champions

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One week only! On July 27-31, 2020, learn chess from a former national high school and collegiate chess champion! Whenever William Aramil, a US Chess Federation National Master, is in Vermont, he is one of the highest-rated chess players in the state. Join Will and some of Vermont’s top scholastic…(more)

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