Thursday, April 30, 2015

Get Out!: Pay to Play

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 2:05 PM

Sarah and Tristan taking a riding break.
  • Sarah and Tristan taking a riding break.
Outdoor adventure is the foundation of my relationship with my partner of 16 years, Tristan. We’re held together, at least in part, by a need to see what’s at the top of that climb or around the bend.

Our outdoor loves include hiking, backpacking, canoeing, skiing, mountain biking, dirt road cycling, gardening and walking. It’s been relatively easy to bring our almost-6-month-old daughter, Elise, along on all of those adventures, with the exception of one: cycling.

Before Elise was born last November, Tristan and I mountain biked through the summer and fall up to five times per week and hit the dirt roads on our cross bikes whenever the weather turned rainy. We’ve ridden countless miles of dirt roads right out our back door through Marshfield, Plainfield, Calais, Danville, Peacham, Groton, Hardwick and beyond.

Our kids’ bike trailer, a gift from a friend, will eventually be an essential piece of gear. But until Elise can steadily sit and hold her head up with a helmet on — which we hear from other cycling parents will be around 1 year old — we can’t use it. For now, Elise is sitting out our biking adventures.

That’s why we decided to get a babysitter so Tristan and I can get out and ride together.

These rides are our form of a date, I suppose, so hiring a babysitter for a bike ride isn’t that much different from hiring one for dinner and drinks. When we found our babysitter, Kayla, for our first bike ride together this spring, my giddiness was similar to what you might experience on a first date with a boy you really like. While I was excited to ride with Tristan, it was really my bike and the miles of dirt road that lay before us that made my heart go pitter-patter.

Leaving Elise with Kayla was really hard at first. I was scared that something bad would happen or that Elise would feel neglected. I pictured her red-faced and crying the whole time. I felt guilty for leaving her. Compounding the guilt was the feeling that a bike ride was too selfish. And there was the financial aspect. I stressed about how the money spent to pay a babysitter could be used for other things, like diapers.

But my love for cycling with Tristan and the warm spring day called to me. Once Kayla was settled in and Elise was happily playing, we hopped on our bikes and rode down the driveway, taking a route that includes a favorite climb toward East Montpelier.

We pedaled hard and fast, dodging potholes and chatting the whole way. As we settled into our climb, we took in the views and talked about our day. We reconnected with each other and the landscape around us, feeding our need to travel up the hill and around the bend.

We stopped to look out over the hills in the direction of home. I could see where our house is nestled and pictured Elise, content with the babysitter. I thought about Elise growing up as part of a family who is fit, healthy and happy. That bike ride was worth every penny – and more. 

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Home Cookin': Rhubarb Tarts

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 9:00 AM

I am thrilled to report that fresh rhubarb has arrived. That means fruit pie season has officially begun!

To mark the occasion, I wanted to make a fancy rhubarb pie with a show-offy crust. I found started poking around on Martha Stewart's website for some inspiration and found this  instead —  an easy and delicious-sounding recipe for adorable mini tarts made with frozen puff pastry. Martha used strawberries along with the rhubarb, but I left those out since it was the tart and tangy experience I wanted. I also added a honey drizzle at the end because I have a maniacal sweet tooth. If you don’t, feel free to skip that part.

These are so quick and easy I made them after cleaning up dinner last night. The recipe is also a great one for kids to help with. My 4-year-old, Sadie, helped combine the rhubarb mixture and pinch the pastry around the filling. An older kid could easily handle the prep entirely on his or her own, with rhubarb-slicing supervision, of course.

When shopping, look for rhubarb that's nice and bright, with firm, crisp stalks and no blemishes. if the leaves are still attached, make sure they look perky and fresh. 

Make these for a special weeknight dessert. After all, spring produce is something to celebrate!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Get Out: Mud Season Means Physical Therapy

Posted By on Wed, Apr 15, 2015 at 12:47 PM

Sarah stretching on the trail
  • Sarah stretching on the trail
Mud season, Vermont’s oh-so-charming fifth season marked by muddy roads and trails, can be a tough time of year for outdoorsy people. Sure, there are still ski turns to be made; snow in the mountains is likely to stick around until June this year.  Dirt road, or gravel, cycling is phenomenal these days, too. But hiking, backpacking, trail running, and mountain biking aren't options until the trails dry up.

While this is a tricky time of year to get outside, it’s the perfect time of year to make sure you’re in the best shape to hit the trails once they are open. For me, this means working with a physical therapist on a major trouble spot for many new moms  — my weak core.

Pretty shortly after my daughter, Elise, was born five months ago, I began experiencing severe back, hip and neck pain. It turns out that my pelvis was having a really hard time holding everything together: My hip flexors are very tight from cycling, running, and backcountry skiing, plus years of sitting at a desk. My poor posture was being made worse by hunching during nursing, which was throwing off the natural curve of my spine. And my core muscles — or lack thereof — were not balancing out all of this tugging and pulling on my pelvis, which caused major low back pain.

When my pain was at its worst, I could barely lift Elise. I knew I couldn’t let this back pain prevent me from getting outside this summer. I called the physical therapist that helped my partner, Tristan after his knee surgery, Noreen Harrington at Choice Physical Therapy, just one of the many excellent physical therapists in Vermont.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Home Cookin': Veggie Soup & Cauliflower Fritters

Posted By on Wed, Apr 8, 2015 at 9:03 AM

Soup & fritters - ERINN SIMON
  • Erinn Simon
  • Soup & fritters
Spring weather is almost here, but we’re still weeks away from fresh local produce. And sadly, it’s still chilly outside. Even so, all I can think about cooking is vegetables. Soup's one of my favorite things to make, but at this point in the season I need something a little brighter than a winter stew. I think this one is perfect for the transition from winter to spring. I make it often, at work and at home, and it's a kid pleaser. It’s vegetable-based, but has just enough creaminess to qualify as a total comfort food. 

But there's a catch. My family likes soup, but they always look at me sideways when I serve it as the main dish. Even a hearty one like this often leaves them asking, “What else are we having?” During an online search for a side dish other than our usual biscuits or cornbread — preferably something that would allow me to sneak even more veggies into the meal — I found this gem of a recipe for cauliflower fritters on Food52.  I am happy to report that everyone in my family loved these.

Golden Vegetable Soup  (adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook)
Serves 6

3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
1 cup peeled, diced butternut squash (or another yellow potato if you don't have squash)
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup milk (or plain soy milk)
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese (you can leave this out if you like)
chopped scallions for garnish (optional)


Heat the butter or olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot until shimmery, then add the onion and carrots.

Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until the onions are softening and starting to brown. Add the garlic, potatoes, squash (if you're using it) and a few tablespoons of the vegetable broth and cook, stirring to incorporate everything, until the garlic becomes fragrant, another 3-4 minutes.

Add the rest of the broth, the turmeric, salt and pepper, then cover. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the carrots are tender enough to pierce with a fork.

Remove from the heat, add the milk, then blend everything until smooth using a hand blender or by transferring in batches to a blender or food processor.

When the soup is nice and smooth, transfer it back to your soup pot, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Put it back on low heat, and sprinkle in the shredded cheese if you’re using it, stirring until it’s melted. Sprinkle chopped scallions on top to garnish if you like.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Burlington Teen Wins Prestigious Writing Award

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 1:55 PM

Edil Hassan
  • Edil Hassan
Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Stephen King and Lena Dunham all received Scholastic Arts & Writing awards when they were teens. Now, Edil Hassan can count herself as a member of that gifted group.

In March, the Burlington High School senior was one of sixteen talented young artists and writers from across the country chosen as a Scholastic Arts & Writing Portfolio Gold Medal Winner. The prestigious award, which dates back to 1923, recognizes creative leaders in grades 7 through 12. Hassan's submission consisted of poems, a short story and a memoir, all of which were inspired by her family's Somali roots.

In her artist's statement, Hassan reflects on her writing: "I want to convey through my works a sort of transgenerational trauma that all immigrants and the children of immigrants feel. I want to show longing and heartbreak, melancholy and violence through my writing, but I also want to show hope. Hope for new beginnings, hope for learning to love a place as much as the place you were born in."

In 2006, Edil's Somali parents immigrated to the United States from the United Arab Emirates, where they had moved in the 1980s, before the civil war broke out in Somalia. Hassan was born soon after they arrived in the U.S. She says her parents chose to settle in Burlington because they had friends in Vermont and they'd heard it was a nice place to live, with good schools and little crime. 

In one of her award-winning pieces, "My Mother's Stories in Me," Edil writes about what it's like to grow up in a country so different from the one where her parents and grandparents grew up. "I hear the distance when speaking the language of my parents, in the pauses I have to take as I struggle to find the right words, my American accent slipping out all the while," she writes. "I feel it again when my grandmother tells me stories of Moqdishu, and I know that I will never experience them myself, even more so because the places she speaks of have been bombed and reduced to rubble."

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YMCA Camp Koda

YMCA Camp Koda

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A co-ed day camp for kids who have completed kindergarten up to 12 years old, Camp Koda is located in several area communities with a focus on achievement, belonging and relationships. Koda locations are Georgia, Underhill, Waterbury, and Essex (Essex Elementary and Founders School – Founders is for kids who…(more)

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