Company Yak-ing It Up in Waitsfield

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Business

By Joy Perrino Choquette

yak-waitsfieldVermont is known for its dairy production, and recently there has been a resurgence in raising sheep and goats throughout the Green Mountains. But one farm, made up of three families, is trying something completely different. The Vermont Yak Company, located in Waitsfield, is the first of its type in the state and possibly New England.

Yaks are native to Tibet and are the perfect cold weather animal, according to Rob Williams, one of the owners of the farm. “Yaks, also known as Bos grunniens, ‘the grunting bovine,’ are the perfect Vermont domesticated animal,” said Williams. “They are cold-weather hearty, incredibly adaptable, and very efficient grazers.” In fact, says Williams, three to four yaks eat the same amount of grass as a single cow. This makes yaks a very economical animal, especially for small farms.

Yaks are typically quiet animals, using snorts, head shakes and grunts to communicate, rather than mooing or whinnying as other farmyard animals do. Domesticated male yaks weigh approximately 1200-1500 pounds and females weigh between 600-700 pounds. It is important that yaks be handled frequently as infants and adolescents to become comfortable around humans before they mature into their full size at around six to eight years of age.

Yaks produce dairy, meat and fiber. Yak dairy products have a high fat content of five to seven percent. This makes it a perfect choice for making butter, cheese and yogurt. Yak meat is deep red with a small amount of fat, generally located around the outside edges of cuts, making it easy to remove. Yak meat is similar in taste to beef, however some say that the flavor is more delicate and the meat itself, more tender. Yak meat contains one-sixth of the fat and 40 percent more protein than beef. Yaks produce two types of fiber, the outer coat called “guard hair” and the inner coat called “down.” While down is similar to cashmere fiber, the guard hair is coarse and rough and usually used for making things like rope, rugs, and accessories like bags and belts. Yaks generally produce one to two pounds of fiber per year. Williams says that the Vermont Yak Company is primarily a meat business currently, however there are plans to experiment with fiber down the road. Bottle fed calves are also raised by request to serve as pack and plough animals when they are matured.

Day to day life on the farm is busy. The herd is currently made up of 31 yaks, including three bulls and a number of calves. The farm is hoping for another dozen and a half calves to be born this spring and summer, and has 15 more animals coming from a ranch out west to supplement the meat supply, according to Williams. “Ultimately, we hope to grow our herd to roughly 100 animals,” said Williams. “Using a few different pieces of land around Mad River Valley.”

The five owners, Rob and Kate Williams and Dave Hartshorn who are in their early forties, and Ted and Susan Laskaris who are in their early fifties, all take turns with farm chores and maintenance, marketing, bookkeeping, and property management. Says Williams, “Our five-person team is blessed with a number of complementary skill sets… And we meet once monthly to resolve any issues, and make decisions together. Our group process has worked reasonably well — and having five kids, ages six through 16 in the mix, makes it that much more interesting!”

Each of the owners holds down a “regular” job as well, with positions ranging from farmer to therapist, businessman to professor, and hockey mom to a non-profit leader. It’s a challenge that the owners feel is well worth the effort.

The idea for the yak farm came to the Williams family on a summer trip in 2007 to Montana. There they sampled yak meat for the first time at a family member’s sheep ranch. Upon their return to Vermont, the Williams family had continuous conversations with two neighboring families, the Laskaris and Hartshorns about how they might best utilize some of the unused agricultural land in the Mad River Valley. “All of us in the business were looking to bring a beautiful piece of arable farm land back to life, to get our hands dirty, and to develop what we hope is a new model of multi-family community farming that may have some staying power in this new century,” said Williams. “We did most of our research by talking with other yak owners, mostly out west, and talking with farm-focused friends and neighbors. And our abiding interest in the ‘localvore’ movement, in providing healthy, tasty, nutritious local grass-fed meat to our community, and in introducing a new and wonderful species of animal to Vermont all played a role. As we like to say: ‘Three families, two farms, one vision = Vermont Yak Company.’”

Marketing for any new business can be a challenge. According to Williams some of the farm’s best marketing so far has been word of mouth. Saturday farmers’ markets and local restaurants including Hen of the Wood, the Round Barn, American Flatbread, and Timbers at Sugarbush, have all been great places for people to see for themselves how delicious yak meat really is, says Williams. Meat is also sold directly from freezers on the farm on request and there are plans to sell to local grocery stores this summer or early fall. Vermont Yak Company also sells yak-related merchandise on its Web site including T-shirts, bumper stickers and yak hides. With the recent interest in eating locally (called “localvore or locavore eating”) Vermont Yak Company’s offering of a meat product unique to Vermont may be a big boon to the business.

Williams says that the hope is for the farm to be fully sustainable by 2010. The owners are encouraged with the positive response that they’ve had so far to Vermont Yak Company. “We encourage folks to make an appointment to come by the farm and meet Vermont’s newest four-hoofed inhabitants,” says Williams.

The Vermont Yak Company, 1924 Main St., Waitsfield, VT. Phone: 802-279-3364. Web site: www.vermontyak.com

‘Micro Practices’ New Prescription for Personalized Health Care

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Joy Perrino Choquette

When was the last time you called your doctor’s office and the doctor himself answered? Can you remember when you last made an after-hours appointment and your doctor met you at the clinic…on a Saturday evening?

Patients of solo medical practices, also known as micro practices, experience these types of “luxuries” all the time. In an age where doctors see more and more patients, and patient visits are becoming shorter and shorter, micro practices are quickly gaining in popularity.

Micro practices are a return to the model used by old-fashioned country doctors. Those physicians, who treated everyone from babies to seniors, used to travel to people’s homes when they were ill, a convenience that’s been all but forgotten. Though today’s solo practitioners don’t routinely do home visits for the most part, they do take care of just about everything else.

Physicians who have a micro or solo practice often take on multiple roles including reception and nursing care. Many wear other hats as well, such as bookkeeper, records manager, and emergency on-call doctor, among other things. Typically, physicians who practice solo see far fewer patients than group practitioners. They are also able to spend a great deal more time with each patient. How are they able to do this? Overhead is dramatically lower for solo physicians. The trade off is the fact that they must wear so many hats.

According to Roger Giroux M.D., of Brookside Family Health Center in Hinesburg, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. “I’m kind of a do-it-yourself type and I like keeping it small,” said Giroux. “I’m not big into paying a lot of staff for things I can do myself like drawing blood and giving shots.”

Hiring a nurse would mean he would have to see more patients, explains Giroux, and that would mean extra overhead. Giroux says it’s worth it to him to keep his costs as low as possible, allowing him more time and energy to focus on his patients.

Having lower overhead and seeing fewer patients allows a physician to have a more flexible schedule. Avery Wood, M.D., of North Bennington, says that that is a great benefit to her. “I’m very much in control of my finances and my schedule,” said Wood. “There’s a simplicity to that, and I like the flexibility.”

Wood, who previously worked in a group practice, says she enjoys the fact that her patients can call and speak to her directly. “My patients always see me except when I’m out of town. And when they call, they talk to me.”

Micro medical practices, which are common in Europe, are sprouting up throughout the United States. Benefits to both the physicians and the patients are numerous. In most group practices, it’s common to see various physicians instead of a patient consistently seeing his or her own doctor. In fact, depending on a doctor’s working and on-call schedule, it might be months before a regular patient is seen by his own doctor. “I think my patients deserve to see me, and not a stranger,” said Giroux.

A patient should not have to jump through hoops to see his doctor, he says, and the fact that so many group practices are run this way is often frustrating to patients. “When they (patients) call here, about half the time I pick up myself,” said Giroux, who runs the office with the help of his wife. “The whole thing happens very efficiently . . . the patient gets better service that way.”

In addition to being able to more easily access his or her physician by telephone or in person, there are other benefits a patient visiting a micro or solo practice might experience. More in depth attention to the patient is an extremely important benefit, says Giroux. He says that there are often a lot of questions doctors should be asking that they specifically don’t because it will throw their entire schedule off a half hour or more. “I can schedule my book as light or as full as I want it to be, not dictated by the dollar, but by how busy I want to be,” he says.

Wood, who also feels that easy access to a physician is one of the greatest benefits, has added a new way of communicating with her patients to make this process even easier. “I’ve been able to start some new things like communicating with patients by E-mail,” she said. “It works out really nicely.”

But if there are so many benefits to patients and physicians alike, why aren’t more doctors getting on board with solo practices? Money is one of the greatest challenges. Giroux explains that family doctors already get paid less than specialists. More and more young doctors are choosing to specialize and there is little incentive to enter the medical field as a family doctor. “Until the system changes where they actually pay the primary care doctors what they should be paid, I don’t think it will be popular,” says Giroux.

According to Wood, the importance of electronic medical records is essential to micro practices. And though the cost can be high for such a system, the benefits are well worth it. Being a one woman show, Wood says it would be very difficult for her to stay on top of all the information without the electronic system. The cost of such a system may be one more deterrent for physicians who are interested in exploring the idea of a solo practice.

Still, the number of solo practitioners does seem to be growing, though slowly. And for patients, the benefits seem to far outweigh the negatives. “I’ve been getting a good number of people every week who want to come and meet me, and I’m impressed by that,” says Giroux.

Is Living With Parents Too Close For Comfort?

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Aging Parents

Living with parents can be challenging

By Susan Green

In less enlightened times, they were once called Dowager Homes. Later, the notion of Granny Flats came into prominence. More recently, Secondary Suites or Accessory Residences have become common urban-planning terms.

But Denise Nagelschmidt quips that her parents – Ruth and Stuart Sharp – actually landed at “a resort.” After all, these fortunate seniors don’t need to cook for themselves anymore and there’s a pool outside the nine-room Colchester house where they’re ensconced on the spacious ground floor. Their daughter and her husband, Charlie, live upstairs.

When aging moms and dads can no longer manage independently, the answer might be a separate unit on property that would otherwise host only their grown children. If the potential costs don’t allow expansion, some people opt to share whatever space is available.
To address such choices Home Instead Senior Care, a nationwide company with a franchise in South Burlington, has just launched ‘Too Close for Comfort?’ This initiative is “brand new and cutting-edge,” suggests Karen Koechlein, the local branch’s community service representative. “There’s never been a resource like it before.”

For starters, Home Instead is offering a free 19-page guidebook to help parents and their offspring chart a course for the future. “It’s about figuring out how they make the decisions that are best for them,” she notes. “How might it affect small children in the family? How might it affect if we go on vacation? We also include a cost calculator to understand possible changes in their financial situations. And my staff will be trained to answer simple questions.”

In exploring potential “emotional rewards, changes in the dynamic of a household, tips on intergenerational living, comfort and safety,” the goal is to determine what works best, says Koechlein, who will soon be presenting information about this resource at senior centers and church groups across the five Vermont counties served by Home Instead. “It’s ready to roll.”

As a touchstone for people who may feel adrift, Koechlein adds, “at least they’ll have tools to decide if they can even begin the conversation.”

Nagelschmidt began that chat with the Sharps a few years ago, before ‘Too Close for Comfort?’ was on the scene. Ruth, 88, and Stuart, 91, were still in Peabody, Massachusetts in late 2005, unwilling to consider assisted living. Instead, they moved from their house to an apartment that was not ideally suited for them.

“I would call my mother every night and noticed she was having [memory] trouble. Dad was on a walker then; he’s now in a wheelchair,” says Nagelschmidt, 49. “My husband and I wondered if we should relocate there or should I just keep going back and forth all the time.”
The couple thought of building an addition on their house but realized it was not a good option. They eventually found a place with a bedroom, office and living room on the first floor, as well as comparable quarters upstairs. Grab-bars and a ramp were installed for safety and accessibility. By October 2006, despite some reluctance to leave behind their five grandsons and three great-grandchildren, the Sharps could call themselves Vermonters.

“It’s alright,” observes Ruth, when asked how she likes the new digs.

“I’d like to see a few changes but other than that it’s OK,” Stuart contends.

What sort of changes?

“I only think about that when I’m dreaming,” he surmises.

“We’ve all had to compromise,” Nagelschmidt points out. “We waited until it was the right time to live together.”

The right time for Dawn Densmore of Highgate Center is now. After a period of indecisiveness her father, Gardner Palmer, finally migrated north from Virginia in May. Although dementia wasn’t an issue for the 84-year-old widower, she’s had to grapple with his physical limitations.

“He can’t do stairs,” Densmore, 57, explains. “My biggest worry is that he doesn’t want to use a walker, only a cane. He sees that as being disabled, but he’s already fallen a few times.”

She purchased a house, conveniently next door to her own, that already had a finished basement, a bedroom and bathroom with a walk-in shower. “All I had to do was put in a kitchen,” Densmore says of the ranch-style dwelling, where she rents out the upper level to help cover expenses. “His place in Virginia had a few steps to get inside but this one has none.”

The Highgate Center abode also is adjacent to a man-made lake, not a bad perk for this retired carpenter.

A few of Densmore’s eight siblings are from neighboring towns and they’ll check on Palmer, a native of Georgia in the Green Mountain State, during the week. “It’ll be me on weekends, doing his laundry, taking out the trash, probably grocery shopping,” she says. “I think he’s still able to be on is own for the most part, especially once he gets going on a walker. Maybe he can even try fishing or at least sit on the bench by the water. It will be brave new world.”

‘Too Close for Comfort?’ is a nascent program, but Densmore did have a toehold in the brave new world of organizing living arrangements for her father. For six years, she’s been working as a part-time Home Instead care provider, in addition to her full-time job as a director of outreach and public relations at the University of Vermont’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.
“I’ve been working day and night to afford the right and privilege of moving my dad nearby,” Densmore says. “I deal with the physical needs of people as they decline, so I’m not afraid of the level of care he’ll need. I know exactly what I’m walking into. And I’m so excited to have him here.”

As a lovely personal touch, she had a large section of the picket fence he built three decades ago on another Vermont site installed outside his 2009 dwelling. And his forwarded mail was waiting on the kitchen table for him when he first arrived. Densmore acknowledges: “It’s the little things. I want him to feel like this is truly his home.”

Denise Nagelschmidt, executive director of the Vermont Children’s Aid Society, needed to take time off from her previous job to handle the transition when the Sharps moved into their Colchester “resort.” At the moment, she’s pondering the next step – because there’s always a next step in the aging process – for coping with her father’s mobility problems. Perhaps he’ll envision whatever changes are necessary in one of his dreams.

Now, Nagelschmidt relies on Home Instead care providers to spend five hours with them each weekday. However, she has begun to realize there are many fellow travelers on the complex path to giving beloved elders a new lease on life.

“At a dinner party recently, there were about 20 people asking me what to do,” she recalls. “A woman I work with moved to Maryland for two years to be with her parents. Another friend built an addition for her mother but they wound up not being able to live together. With my folks, even though it’s easier than I anticipated, we just play it by ear day to day.”

For more information about ‘Too Close for Comfort?’ visit www.homeinstead.com or call 860-4663.

Healthy Homes: Simple Changes Offer Lasting Improvements for Safety and Independence

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Home & Garden

By Phyl Newbeck

In 2008, the AARP did a survey on healthy homes. The results were somewhat disheartening: One-third of all seniors interviewed reported having limited independence in their own residences based on deterioration of strength, endurance, vision, hearing and memory. Thankfully, many of these impediments can be overcome if seniors make some simple changes to their homes.

The AARP recommends having an occupational therapist perform a home assessment to ensure a safe living environment. An occupational therapist will review the activities that are important to each individual. For gardeners, raised flower beds might allow a favorite hobby to be performed without back strain. Better lighting may be essential to someone who enjoys reading, crossword puzzles or other potentially eye-straining activity. Kristine O’Malley, an occupational therapist at Fletcher Allen Health Care, said a distinction must be made between being independent and being safe. Many seniors are pleased by their independence, but their living areas are not safe. Occupational therapists visit homes to ensure that they are both.

O’Malley said occupational therapists study a patient’s daily routine with the goal of making necessary adaptations. If there are some visual deficits which prevent someone from seeing a step or a rise, they may suggest adding colored tape to the floor. O’Malley said one of the greatest risks to seniors is falling after getting out of a bath tub. Therefore, therapists often recommend shower seats or a tub bench. O’Malley cautioned against making too many modifications. If a senior has lift chairs and lift toilet seats, they may not be using their leg muscles sufficiently and will have difficulty with regular chairs outside the home. “It’s a delicate balance,” she said.

One way to ensure homes are safe is to follow the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This includes eliminating steps for at least one entrance, adding grab bars in the bathroom, changing the height of bathroom fixtures to allow for wheelchair users, exchanging handles for levers for those with limited hand strength, and widening doorways. Some common sense changes including limiting opportunities for tripping and falling by ensuring carpets don’t slip, extension cords don’t stretch across walking areas, and moving furniture out of the way.

Tom Moore, a builder based in Underhill is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, one of only four in the state. Moore believes more thought should be put into planning a home to avoid costly retrofits, noting that it costs no more to put in a doorway which is wide enough for a wheelchair than it costs to install a smaller one. Moore added that seniors can be seriously injured by falling and therefore attention should be paid to transition areas to make them as clean and settled as possible. He also touted the importance of good lighting, suggesting that homes be constructed with extra fixtures so lighting can be added, as needed.

Moore said statistics show that seniors who stay in their homes rather than going to assisted living may live longer. An important component is having one’s living quarters on the first floor, but Moore noted the value of seemingly little things like light switches and door handles. Large rocker switches are easier to use than small toggle switches and lever handles are easier than doorknobs. To prevent stooping, he suggests raising the height of washers and dryers, and adding rolling cabinets which can be hidden behind doorways. Creating kitchens with peninsulas instead of islands also improves mobility and Moore recommends installing showers without lips.
Physical changes are the most obvious, but there is far more that can be done. Many paints and varnishes contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). According to the EPA, exposure to VOCs can lead to a variety of health issues. They recommend ensuring houses have good ventilation if VOCs are present. One option is to use paints which have been given a “Green Seal.” Another major issue, particularly in old homes, is mold. According to the EPA, “molds produce allergens…, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances.”

The Agency stresses that it is impossible to get rid of all mold because spores float through the air. However, mold can be controlled by fixing the underlying issue of moisture seeping into the house.

Todd Leach of Leach Construction in Jericho noted that modern building shells are tighter than older ones and it is important that these buildings have proper ventilation, particularly with older citizens who may not be in the best health and are more susceptible to pollutants. Leach cautioned against the use of plywood made with formaldehyde-based products, and paints and varnishes with VOCs. He noted that all products, even such seemingly benign ones as plastic toys and scented candles produce “off-gases.” Heightened exposure to these gases can affect people adversely, particularly those with high sensitivity levels. Leach cited studies that the elderly tend to spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors. He said indoor air is generally of poorer quality than outdoor air because of the variety of products in a confined space. Therefore, those who spend a great deal of time indoors are more likely to have respiratory and allergic reactions. This can be exacerbated by the addition of toxic cleaning products, space heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, animal dander, bacteria, and gas stoves. Leach recommended electric stoves over gas ones.

One simple solution offered by Leach is to make sure your house is clean. Since mold is a major issue, residents should control the humidity level of their home and, whenever possible, let in fresh air. If a carpet gets soaked from a leak or burst pipe, Leach recommends replacing it rather than trying to clean it. He also cautioned against leaving unnecessary toxins like paint or cleaning supplies in the house.

In addition to making a house physically healthy, Leach noted that one should take care of the mental health of the inhabitant, as well. Even though it may increase their bills, it is important for seniors to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Leach stressed that one crucial component of mental health is light. “Sitting in a dark room with the curtains drawn,” he said, “is a recipe for depression.” Leach recommended skylights and open floor plans with windows. “Natural light,” he said, “just makes you feel better.”

Dorset Theatre Festival Announces New Family Programming

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

The Dorset Theatre Festival (DTF) is pleased to announce a new component of its Summer 2009 programming. From August 18-28, DTF will present a new theatrical adaptation of the children’s classic, “Alice in Wonderland.” “I am thrilled to continue DTF’s commitment to producing work for family audiences that began with last season’s hit “A Year With Frog and Toad,” says Artistic Director Carl Forsman. “This new, thrilling version of “Alice in Wonderland” will delight audiences of every age!”

With kooky, mesmerizing movement, puppetry, dance, zany inventions and a few other quirks along the way, Dorset Theatre Festival invites you to take a trip down the rabbit hole and into a whole new way of thinking and seeing. DTF’s production of “Alice in Wonderland,” based on the novel by Lewis Carroll, will be adapted and directed by Tracy Bersley, the choreographer of last summer’s hit, “A Year With Frog and Toad.” The Festival is thrilled to have her back again this summer, bringing her unique and creative vision to this classic story. “When I was young, before computer games were the norm,” Bersley says, “my brother and I would make fortresses out of cardboard boxes and old sheets. Wild, elaborate stories emerged and our imaginations could keep us occupied for hours. In the spirit of this kind of creation, my adaptation of ‘Alice’ will captivate all ages with whimsical visions that could only come from that desire to build something from nothing.”

This family-friendly production will run in repertory with the mainstage musical “Marry Me A Little,” from August 18 – 28. “Alice” will be performed and designed by the Festival’s non-Equity acting company, in collaboration with the young artists serving as interns for the summer. After each performance, ticket holders will be invited to meet the cast and get a special tour of the Playhouse stage.

Dorset Theatre Festival’s mainstage 2009 season includes Conor McPherson’s “St. Nicholas, Merton of the Movies” by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly, Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow,” and the musical “Marry Me a Little,” featuring songs by Stephen Sondheim, conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman René.

$110 subscriptions and $130 Pass Plans are available through June 30. Each subscription includes one ticket to each of the four mainstage plays. Each Pass Plan includes four tickets to use at any point during the summer. Subscribers and Pass Plan holders will be able to purchase tickets for “Alice in Wonderland” at a discounted rate of $10 per ticket. For more information, call 802-867-2223 x200 or visit www.dorsettheaterfestival.org. Single tickets for Summer ‘09 go on-sale in June and will be available at www.dorsettheatrefestival.org, by calling 802-867-5777, or by visiting the Playhouse Box Office at 104 Cheney Road, Dorset. Mainstage productions cost $37 for performances Tues.-Thurs. and $42 for performances Fri.-Sun. Tickets to “Alice in Wonderland” cost $16 each.

A complete calendar of all 2009 performances is available at www.dorsettheatrefestival.org

Fine Artists and Crafters Wanted for Juried Show

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Art in the Park summer and fall festivals are Vermont’s oldest continuing arts tradition, and the Chaffee Art Center’s major fund raising events. The festivals will be held on August 8 – 9 and October 10 – 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Main Street Park at the Junction of Routes 4 and 7 in Rutland. The festivals feature live music, hourly door prize drawings, free activities for children and demonstrations of works in progress.

Organizers are seeking potential exhibitors in the following categories: fine art, clay, fiber, floral, glass, jewelry, photography, specialty food, wood.

All exhibitors are juried. An application can be printed from www.chaffeeartcenter.org or mailed if requested by calling (802)775-8836.

Champlain Valley Festival Celebrates 26 Years in July

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Join folk musicians, dancers, and crafters at Kingsland Bay State Park on Lake Champlain for a 3-day celebration – the annual Champlain Valley Folk Festival, which brings together the best elements of the area’s centuries-old and recent traditions.

This year’s festival features folk legend Geoff Muldaur, Quebec’s Reveillons, traditional singers Enoch Kent and Tim Eriksen, dynamic guitarist Pat Wictor, West African proto-banjo player Sana Ndaiye, the thrilling fiddle and piano duo of Laura Risk and Jacqueline Schwab, and exciting young bands The Duhks, Crowfoot, and Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers. Many of this year’s guests are family acts — the Amidons, Abenaki singers and storytellers Joe and Jesse Bruchac, Albany’s Annie and the Hedonists, and Maine’s Gawler Family. A large variety of local performers of all musical persuasions will also be on site throughout the weekend, and Saturday afternoon will feature a special “mini-Quad Fest” at the Lakeside Stage as our part of the year-long commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival to Lake Champlain. For dancers, there is a large tent with a wooden floor, featuring contras and squares, family dances, waltzes and more. For music listeners, performers rotate among multiple venues ranging from the “Big Tent” to more intimate settings. And a variety of craftspeople show their wares, along with food vendors of various ethnic backgrounds.

The Festival begins at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 31 and winds up on Sunday, August 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by the day or for the entire weekend. The cost of a full weekend pass is $70 ($60 if purchased by July 15). Camping and ticket information: www.cvfest.org.

Tickets: Flynn Regional Box Office, www.flynntix.org, or at the gate. For more information, please call 877-850-0206.

Picturesque, Artsy Idaho Falls

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Travel

By Kay Grant, CNS

Snuggled into Idaho’s southeastern corner, Idaho Falls is an inviting, livable destination along the scenic Snake River. Its wide waterfalls, 20 feet tall, located in the downtown area, present a picturesque lure for visitors and locals.

Unlike many small city historic districts, the city center is actually used by the locals rather than merely a setting to draw tourists. The shops in this city of about 50,000 are the ones needed for everyday life — hardware, drugstores, clothing, office supplies, as well as art galleries and the public library.

A six-mile paved trail — the Greenbelt — has been preserved along the river, enjoyed by joggers, walkers, cyclists, children, and picnickers. The soothing sounds of the falls and ample places to sit and enjoy waterfowl make the greenbelt a delightful place to spend a sunny afternoon.

Utilitarian pieces of art mark this historic downtown. Sprinkled throughout the business district are more than 20 one-of-a-kind benches — in artistic shapes of a skateboard, a river, the stars and stripes, and other intriguing designs.

“Art you can sit on” marries the creativity of local artists with the need for functional resting spots. The benches range from the abstract to the whimsical, and the esthetic to the amusing.

Some of the benches glorify the Gem State’s natural beauty, such as “Fish in River” with glass bubbles by Russel Lewis; “Idaho Sunrise,” a metal work by Chris Layton and Kory Walford; and “Grand Teton” by Lane Boyce. The animal kingdom provides inspiration for several seats: “Swan” by Robert Carter has beautiful flowing lines; “Trout” by Davidjohn Stosich; and “Geese” by Marilyn Hoff Hansen, where the back of the bench is formed by graceful necks of geese with their heads meeting in the middle.

Of special interest are benches where the artist flings open the doors to whimsy: “Voodoo Chile,” a tile bench by Doug Warnock; “Pillows” by Peggy Gunnerson look fluffy and inviting even though they are made of concrete; and the popular “Skateboard” by Carol Poppenga, Warden Bourne, and Shane Ruckman.

On the edge of downtown, the Museum of Idaho exhibits a history of Eagle Rock (an earlier name of Idaho Falls — the current name was chosen in 1891 as a better way to market land) with rooms showing handsome shaving mugs in the barbershop, burial cases in the carpenter shop, ladies clothes, a sheriff’s office, a dry goods shop with penny candy, and rooms for rent “by day or week.” This museum also offers temporary exhibits, such as Egyptian artifacts, dinosaurs, and outer space.

The family friendly Collector’s Corner Museum, in a residential area, has more than 90 eclectic collections, sure to satisfy any age, in its 5,000 square feet. This is the home for more than 400 Barbie Dolls and her friends, including designer Barbies, Barbie as a sign language teacher, as Cleopatra, and as a Native American.

In the two cases of Disney collectibles, you’ll spot Minnie Mouse in a kimono. Elsewhere are GI Joe action figures, including a Russian infantry soldier, hubcaps, antique tools, trains, Japanese dolls of various kinds, miniatures, cloisonne eggs, trolls, antique planes, an Idaho centennial rifle, and much more. Whatever you and your friends collected as kids, you’ll find it here.

The Tautphaus Park Zoo holds more than 350 animals, highlighting a Primate Discovery Center and Asian Adventure, as well as a Children’s Zoo. Here you can see and enjoy penguins, primates, and red pandas, cranes, camels, and big cats.

Idaho Falls is home to other attractions, among them art galleries and the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho (aka Eagle Rock Art Museum) featuring local artists and educational programs.

Performing arts are not forgotten. This town has its own symphony, repertory theatre, storytelling, dance, opera, and an 80-member symphony chorale. Its renovated Colonial Theater attracts Broadway touring musicals. If you’re looking for sheet music, the Chesbro Music Co. has the largest inventory in the Western United States.

Our 43rd state is an outdoors person’s paradise, with plenty of al fresco recreation — fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, kayaking, and more. The town features minor league baseball, semi-pro football, golf courses, an aquatic center, and closeness to both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, as well as the Jackson Hole Ski Resort.

Keefer’s island, 1.85 acres, is in the middle of the Snake River at Idaho Falls. It is home to a number of wildlife species, including some that do not swim. During low-water years, the creatures are able to walk to the island and take up residence.

While you’re in Idaho Falls, enjoy some delicious huckleberry ice cream from Harry Reed’s, a real dairy, where you can watch the cows from the back of the store.

Art you can sit on, museums, great trout fishing, a peaceful river walk, and picturesque waterfalls makes Idaho Falls a destination worth visiting.

IF YOU GO
For more information: www.visitidahofalls.com

Summer White Out: The Dos and Don’ts of Wearing White

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Blogs

By Sharon Mosley

It’s time to shift gears and put your wardrobe into neutral with white, one of the most versatile “colors” around. From casual to dressy, from a pair of white jeans to a white sheath dress, white is the common style denominator for brightening up your spring and summer wardrobe. And yes, you can wear white before Memorial Day and after Labor Day.

At J.Crew, white — especially white jeans — is a big DO this season.

“White jeans are amazing,” says Tom Mora, vice president of women’s design at J.Crew. “I think when you put them on you just feel happier … lighter.

“I love them worn super skinny and cropped like our white cropped toothpick jeans or also destroyed like our vintage matchstick jeans. A really beat- up pair of white jeans worn with a loose T-shirt and a vachetta sandal always looks right!”

But before you buy that extra bottle of bleach, here are a few dos and don’ts for lightening up with white:
• Do make one of your first purchases this season a pair of white jeans. In a classic five-pocket style, they are one of the most resourceful items for your wardrobe; they will go with anything.

• Don’t forget to check sheerness. Panty lines or no panty lines, you want to make sure that your white pieces are not see through and you’re covered, especially when you step out into the daylight. Visible underwear is always a don’t.

• Do stock up on white T-shirts. You can never have enough of these go-with-everything basics. In ribbed tanks or classic crewnecks, the white T-shirt is a great layering piece for any time of year.

• Don’t get overwhelmed. If you’re wearing a loose white shirt, make sure you pair it with slim-fitting capris or pants. This also works in reverse — when wearing a fuller skirt, team it with a snug-fitting shirt.

• Do dress white up. When everyone else may be wearing a little black dress, you’ll stand out in a crisp white suit or sheath dress. Another casual dressy alternative: a white camisole underneath a sheer white blouse and teamed up with white jeans.

• Don’t upstage the bride. There is one occasion when wearing white may not be quite right, and we all know when that is: a wedding. That’s when you may want to wear your own little black strapless dress … let the bride stand out in white.

• Do splurge on accessories. Go ahead and get creative. Pick your favorite pair of turquoise sandals, a metallic tote or wooden hoops; add some personal style to your basic whites. White provides the perfect backdrop to show off unique accessories.

• Don’t have an emergency white out! Before you hit the beach or the pool in your new white bathing suit, please check out the wet factor.

We all know what can happen when a white swimsuit gets soaked. You might just be drenched with embarrassment.

Leave Your Family a Tasty Legacy: Sourdough

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Food

By Janet Groene

Empty nest? Here’s a baby you can burp, feed, change AND turn over to your heirs. Early Alaskans used so much of this wonderful stuff,  they’re still called Sourdoughs.  Start now to create an inheritance that will cost almost nothing but will enrich your family with a living, breathing presence they can nurture, share with friends, leave to their grandchildren and eat!

Like a newborn, sourdough must be kept at the right temperature, fed, burped and changed. In return it lives for years, picking up wild yeasts in your kitchen and becoming uniquely yours.  As you pass it along to others, it picks up new yeast spores, morphing into another culture that is truly theirs.

Sourdough can make a new recipe every day: bread,  rolls, biscuits, cookies, croissants, waffles, muffins, pizza and even chocolate cake.  An Anchorage  woman called Gold Nugget Morrison was famous for her Sourdough Applesauce Cake. Russian residents of Sitka ate Sourdough Donuts and Sourdough Fruitcake. Jake O’Shaughessey’s place was famous in Seattle in 1897 for its sourdough bread.
Many families are eating sourdough bread made today with cultures started by their ancestors. What a beautiful legacy to leave your grandchildren!

Make the Starter
Choose a non-metal container that has a good lid but is not airtight. (Gases form and sourdough must be allowed to burp). Starter expands,  so use a 4-cup container to hold 2 cups. Scald it with boiling water to kill unwanted organisms. When it’s cool, add a teaspoon of dry yeast,  two cups flour and 1 ½ cups warm water. Stir until it’s evenly moist (lumps are OK), cover with a clean dish towel, and let it stand in a warm place 48 to 72 hours until it’s tart and tangy.

Now refrigerate this starter. You’ve made two cups, one to use in a recipe and one for starting the next starter.

Let’s Bake Something
To begin any recipe, take out a cup of starter. This can be done as often as daily if you wish,  but it should be done at least once every two or three weeks. Stir a cup of flour and 3/4 cup water into the remaining starter. Let it stand on the counter a couple of hours, then return it to the refrigerator.

Important tips:
Never add other ingredients to the starter. Add them later to whatever recipe you’re making.

Never dip into starter with a utensil that is not clean.

Never put leftover dough back into the pot. If starter gets green and stinky, throw it out.

Your Own Sourdough Bread
1 ½ cups warm (not hot) water
1 packet dry yeast
1 cup sourdough starter (directions above)
About 6 cups flour, preferably unbleached
2 teaspoons sugar or honey
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon soda
In a big, non-metal bowl, mix the yeast and water. Stir in the starter plus 4 cups flour with the sugar, and salt. The bowl should be no more than half full to allow room for rising. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place. It will double in bulk in two hours or less but will be sticky. Turn it out on a floured surface and work in additional flour as needed to make the dough easy to handle. Then knead 5-10 minutes until it’s shiny and stretchy.  Shape into two long logs, slash tops every few inches on the diagonal and place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size. Brush tops with water and bake 45 minutes or until golden brown at 400 degrees.

Bread is just one of  many delicious foods that can be made with sourdough starter. Start now to collect sourdough recipes from the Internet, cookbooks and your friends.

Janet Groene is the author of many books including “Cooking Aboard Your RV, 2nd Edition.”

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