Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review: Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses

Posted By on Fri, May 27, 2016 at 1:10 PM


I confess: Up until now I have resisted the Pete the Cat books. 

I know they are wildly popular. We even have a few lying around our house that were gifts from friends and family — Pete the Cat and the New Guy and Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins. I get it. He’s cool. He’s a cat. He’s inclusive. He’s helpful. But still, I sort of denied him in that way a high school kid tries to pretend that "The Current Coolest Thing" is not for them, because, you know, they're cooler than that.

I finally gave in when I bought Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses from one of my 5-year-old daughter's school book orders. Hadley and her 3-year-old sister, Pippa really wanted the book. So I filled out the form and sighed at my inability to resist my kids' literary demands as I wrote the check.

The first time I read it, I realized, for about the hundredth time since becoming a parent, that it’s not really about me.


The narrative starts with cool cat Pete having the "blue cat blues." Pete’s friend, Grumpy Toad, pulls up on his motorcycle and shares his “COOL, BLUE, MAGIC sunglasses" which instantly "help you see things in a whole new way." Grumpy Toad’s sunglasses do the trick, improving Pete’s mood immediately, and the next page offers a closeup of Pete wearing the new specs, looking around at things, ears perky and the sun shining down on him. He sings out a quick rhyme which is repeated through the story as he shares his sunglasses with other friends who are feeling down and out: “The birds are singing. The sky is bright. The sun is shining. I’m feeling ALRIGHT!”  

I surprised myself with the singsongy way in which my voice read the rhyme. But what really caught me off guard were the comments from the girls through the next bit of the story where Pete meets other friends who are also down in the dumps. Pete comes across Squirrel, whose spirits are easily lifted by the specs, then Turtle who, Hadley pointed out, would be better served if Pete flipped him right side up rather than shared the glasses. When Pete comes across Alligator, Hadley rightly observed that the reason he’s blue and nobody wants to play with him is that, well, he’s an alligator. The obviousness of these comments struck me as funny. But what I also noticed is that the girls were tuned in to every single page. At one point Pippa, who is studying shapes in her preschool class, pointed to a stop sign and yelled, “Mama! Octagon!”

It's the message at the end of the story, when the glasses break during a skateboard accident, that really got me. Wise Old Owl counsels Pete: "You don't need glasses to see things in a new way. Just remember to look for the good in every day."  There are so many children's stories that offer messages like this one, something that you yourself probably try to impart on your kids. But it is undeniable — Pete the Cat is cooler than you. And me. Your kids like him. So let him take the lead on this one. 

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Get Out!: Build It and They Will Come

Posted By on Tue, May 24, 2016 at 10:01 AM

25 mountain bikers, including a few kids, spent the weekend learning about sustainable trail construction - SARAH GALBRAITH
  • Sarah Galbraith
  • 25 mountain bikers, including a few kids, spent the weekend learning about sustainable trail construction
Mountain biking is my reason for living. Or at least, it was, until I had a daughter. But it still ranks pretty high on the importance scale. Tackling tough terrain on two wheels gives me freedom, time with my friends, a clear mind and confidence.

After years of driving all over the state to ride my mountain bike on Vermont's excellent trails, from Kingdom Trails in East Burke to Pine Hill Park in Rutland and everywhere in between, my partner Tristan got the idea to build trails in our own backyard in Marshfield. Now we are collaboratively leading an effort to build out-the-door riding for ourselves and our neighbors by incorporating as a non-profit group called Riders in Plainfield & Marshfield (RIPM), a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA). In the past two years, we have built our first trails in the Marshfield Town Forest with the help of 50 volunteers who have collectively donated 460 hours of labor to the effort. 

We're building mountain-bike culture from the ground up in our community, and, as part of this effort, we recently hosted the annual statewide trail-building workshop, sponsored by VMBA and taught by well-known Vermont rider and builder, Brooke Scatchard of Sinuosity. Twenty mountain bikers attended the full-weekend workshop at our house, traveling from Bennington, Rochester, Rutland, Waterbury, Jeffersonville and beyond to talk about sustainable trail construction, trail repair, trail tools and more. Together we spent a day learning, both inside a classroom at nearby Goddard College and outside on the trail, followed by a full day working together to build a new section of trail in our town forest. Saturday night included a barbecue and outdoor movie at our house, and local families brought their kids to ride the trails in our yard and hang out.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mother's Day Bike & Brew

Posted By on Thu, May 12, 2016 at 7:57 AM

Tristan pulls Elise along the Morrisville section of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail - SARAH GALBRAITH
  • Sarah Galbraith
  • Tristan pulls Elise along the Morrisville section of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail
I love the combination of bikes and beer. An exhilarating ride followed by a crisp refreshing beverage is my favorite pairing. So when it was time to celebrate my second Mother's Day, I knew just what I wanted to do. 

That Sunday started with an epic downpour. The raindrops on our metal roof drowned out our  conversation over coffee as we tried to hatch a plan. Fortunately, we could see on the weather radar that the rain was going to ease up in the afternoon, so we decided to head out to Lost Nation Brewing in Morrisville; the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail runs right past the brewery's tasting room.  

We gathered all of the optimism we could find for a break in the weather. Then we packed what we needed for the ride, including warm layers and snacks for 18-month-old Elise, plus toys and books for her to amuse herself with while she rode in the trailer. We loaded our bikes onto the car and folded down the trailer so it would fit in our back hatch, then we were off.

In the brewery parking lot, we unloaded our bikes and hitched the trailer to Tristan's while getting Elise ready for the ride. We watched as other families came and went from the brewery, then walked down a steep hill onto the trail and headed off on our bikes. 

The trail is currently under construction, though some sections, like this one in Morrisville, are already complete. When it's finished, it will run from St. Albans to St. Johnsbury. We've ridden finished sections in Danville and look forward to using the full trail for bike touring. But on this day, our trip was short.  We ran into several other cyclists, one out for a casual ride with his dog and another fully clad in spandex and going for a longer distance.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Mother's Day Happenings

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2016 at 11:27 AM

How are you celebrating this Mother’s Day? This weekend offers ample opportunities for fun. My own plans likely involve homemade crêpes served up with maple syrup and the remainder of last year’s frozen blueberries, followed by our traditional visit to Cate Farm’s seedling sale. This weekend, many farmers markets also unfurl their canopies for the season’s opening day, offering a chance to catch up with neighbors and bring home some early local greens.                            
-Brett Stanciu, calendar writer

To start the weekend in a satisfyingly sweet and savory way, take mom out for a morning meal a day early at the Orchard Valley Waldorf School Pie Breakfast, where homemade pastries are served buffet-style with plenty of coffee and conversation. Afterward, meander through Montpelier Mayfest, where downtown activities include an art walk and a bike swap at Onion River Sports. 

What better way to celebrate motherhood than Kids Day? The morning kicks off with a 9:30 a.m. parade from Edmunds School to the Waterfront Park, followed by a day of family-friendly entertainment and activities, including science with Ms. Vermont, live music, petting animals, Burlington Electric bucket truck rides and much more. 

The Davis Studio celebrates its brand-new Shelburne Road space with a Grand Opening Celebration featuring Mother's Day card crafting, hat making, a photo booth and other family-friendly activities all day Saturday.

If you've got an avian aficionado in your home, check out the Early Birders Morning Walk at the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington. Don’t forget good walking shoes and binoculars. 

As the black flies and mosquitoes haven’t reared their pesky heads yet, wildflower walks are a nice way to unwind in the wild. The Jaquith Library teams up with the Marshfield Conservation Committee for an afternoon amble at the Stranahan Forest in Marshfield to admire blooming ephemerals. The North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier offers their annual spring stroll on Sunday, too. 

ECHO’s XOXO: Expressions of Love devotes Mother's Day to appreciating families across diverse world cultures. Lois Trombley and the dancers of Swan Dojo Dance Studio perform at 12:30 p.m., then invite the audience to join in on the action. At 1:30 p.m., Teresa Davis of Davis Studio helps anyone old enough to hold a pencil with “love portraits” of family members. 

Happy Mother's Day!

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Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center

Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center

East Thetford, VT

Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center is a family-friendly organic farm that is open to the public May-December. Our farm is a place to learn, to taste and experience new things, and to meet and get to know your community. It’s a place to strengthen your connection to the food…(more)

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