Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Spectacular Kids!

Posted By on Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 4:56 PM

Fiona and Emmett Stowell
  • Fiona and Emmett Stowell
Young performers from all over the state stepped up to the Higher Ground stage this month. They were vying for a spot in the first-ever Kids VT Spectacular Spectacular, a talent show for Vermont’s rising stars — and they sure did impress! More than 50 kids sang, danced, played instruments, performed comedy sketches and generally poured their hearts out before three discerning judges. Before they left, photographer Matthew Thorsen snapped headshots of the all the kids who auditioned.

The big show is Saturday, December 13, at Higher Ground in South Burlington. Doors open at noon; the show’s at 12:30 p.m.

Choosing just 16 acts to perform at the big show was tough. But we did it! Here's who made the cut:

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Friday, November 21, 2014

On the Fly: When Plans Go Awry

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 10:42 AM

Staying in a rondavel, a traditional Xhosa thatched-roof round hut made from mud.
  • Staying in a rondavel, a traditional Xhosa thatched-roof round hut made from mud.

The fog surrounded us as we drove. Adam and I leaned our faces close to the windscreen, trying to see a few feet in front of us, making sure we didn’t run over a cow, a herd of goats or a person walking in the road.

We had been driving for hours through the Transkei, the rural part of South Africa's Eastern Cape, past the Xhosa village Qunu where Nelson Mandela grew up. This was our last week in this country. We wanted to show the girls more of South Africa than just Eurocentric Cape Town.

As usual, we hadn’t fully read the directions to our destination: an eco-village run by the local Xhosa community. And we underestimated how bad the weather was when we started off.

We were still on a high from the last few days. We'd stayed in a rondavel – a traditional Xhosa thatched-roof round hut made from mud. We'd seen elephants and zebras and other African animals on safari. We'd toured Robben Island and the black townships, and seen intense poverty in squatter camps with shacks made from corrugated iron. We'd watched  a dance performance at a local theatre, visited beautiful beaches and seen sunsets in posh neighborhoods. We'd hiked Table Mountain, walked through picturesque Afrikaans towns and swum with African penguins. We had spent time with friends and family of all races and backgrounds. Now it was time to get out of the city and see the countryside.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Home Cookin': Weekend Chili & Cornbread

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM

It’s a good time to talk about my favorite meal for a cold, snowy Sunday: chili. I grew up with my grandmother’s simple version. She used just three ingredients: ground beef, kidney beans and a packaged spice mix she purchased at Wegman’s grocery store. She always served it over white rice.

I loved Nana's version, but when I started making chili for my family I wanted something with more complex flavors. I experimented with various vegetarian and meat versions and finally settled on this smoky, spicy recipe. Don't be scared by the heat. This is exactly the way I make it for my family and everyone — including our 3-year-old daughter — scrapes up every last bit. 

You don’t have to make the cornbread. You can certainly serve this with rice, quinoa, bread or biscuits. But I feel that chili is best enjoyed when you scoop up the last spoonfuls with a warm slice of golden-brown deliciousness. Make some and judge for yourself.

Note: I call this Weekend Chili because I like to let it simmer for as long as possible, and weekend afternoons accommodate that well. But don’t let that stop you from trying it on a weeknight. A half-hour simmer is plenty to satisfy an emergency chili craving any night of the week.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Book Review: Masterpiece

Posted By on Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I’m always trying to get my two kids, Thomas, 12, and Kate,11, to read more. That means finding books they’ll love. A great place to start is the library's Dorothy Canfield Fisher section, which is devoted to high-quality, new, American children’s books selected by a panel of literary Vermonters.

My kids respond best to stories with plot twists and a bit of mystery. When I came upon the fast-paced Masterpiece by Elise Broach, I knew it would win them over. And when I finally read it to them, I couldn’t wait to see their reactions to each twist and turn. 

The protagonist, James Pompaday, lives in a New York City apartment with his mom, stepdad and little brother, William. Mrs. Pompaday works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and James’ biological dad is an artist. Unfortunately, James hasn’t inherited either of their artistic talents. When he receives a pen-and-ink set for his 11th birthday, though, things change quickly. 

Marvin, a beetle who lives with his family under the Pompaday’s kitchen sink, only emerges to gather loose Cheerios or the occasional M & M. But one night, he sees the ink bottle and paper on James’ desk and decides to surprise him with a picture. James discovers the amazing drawing — and Marvin — and an unlikely boy-beetle friendship begins. 

Broach describes the beetle’s sentiments:

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On the Fly: Food & Love (Part II)

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Adam and Jessica first met and fell in love in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1998. Now they're back for the first time together.
  • Adam and Jessica first met and fell in love in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1998. Now they're back for the first time together.

Arriving in Cape Town, South Africa felt like a momentous occasion. We had made it through Asia’s challenges and almost halfway through our trip. It also felt like a big deal because this was the place where many things began. In our family, anyway.

Cape Town is the birthplace of my maternal grandmother and my father. It is also where I met and fell madly in love with Adam, in June 1998. Adam and I were transformed as much by our passion for this beautiful, complicated, troubled, inspiring place as by our love for each other. The backdrop of our love was the New South Africa, a country full of hope and expectation only four years post-apartheid. (Our oldest daughter’s middle name is Hope, named after this extraordinary time in our life and South Africa’s history.) 

Although I had been back to Cape Town since 1998, we had not returned together since we met.

It was extremely special to come back here with our three children, to show them the country that holds a huge place in our family history — and our hearts. We were excited to show them where we lived, to talk about the incredible history and culture of this country, to show them my father’s old house, my grandfather’s business and even the restaurant where Adam and I had our first date. We wanted to introduce them to the country that made their lives possible.

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Home Cookin': Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I always make wonderful plans for the holiday treats I’ll make — and the cute ways I’ll package them — but I just never have time to bake for Christmas.

I want the holidays to be special, but I know that the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are always the busiest and craziest of the year for our family. Even the best-laid plans during those few weeks tend to go awry. 

When I was growing up, I made holiday cookies with my mom every year. The process meant a lot to me. Even as a teenager — when I was too busy to spend a weekend day baking with her — I was comforted by the knowledge that she would unfailingly make the twisty, little, frosted cookies that made the house smell delicious.

Although my kids and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen together, we don’t have a standing, we-make-this-every-year recipe like I did growing up. Preparing for the lightning-fast approach of the holiday season, I found myself thinking about this dilemma. Suddenly the answer seemed obvious: baking for Thanksgiving!

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YWCA VT Camp Hochelaga

YWCA VT Camp Hochelaga

South Hero, VT

YWCA Vermont Camp Hochelaga: empowering girls and women through residential and day camp programs since 1919. Located on the shores of Lake Champlain in South Hero, Vermont, Camp Hochelaga offers girls ages 6-17 opportunities to try new things, embark on adventures, and build friendships that last a lifetime. Residential and…(more)

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