Tee Time: Newbies and Seasoned Players Join the Club

June 15, 2010  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Phyl Newbeck

They say Vermont has ten months of winter and two months of poor skiing, but you’d never guess the Green Mountain State was known for winter sports if you surveyed the various options for golfing in the state. Why head to Florida when there are so many opportunities to play here?

Champlain Country Club head pro Mike Swim suggests that those just learning the sport should start with 9-hole courses like Arrowhead, Bakersfield or Richford. Other courses may be more challenging due to the length of the course, the pace of play and other conditions. In particular, he noted that Arrowhead, a par-3 course, is suitable for those just learning the sport. He describes his own Champlain Country Club as “friendly but challenging.” Champlain offers a 9-hole option and is not very hilly and therefore good for walking. Swim said roughly 25 percent of those at the club are over the age of 60 and another 35 percent are in the 45-60 age range; a cross-section which he believes is fairly typical for a golf club. He noted that 9-hole courses may skew older because younger golfers generally prefer a more challenging set-up.

Swim recommends that anyone starting out in golf should seek advice from a professional regarding lessons, gear, and courses. He further recommends renting clubs before purchasing them to get a feel for the types of equipment available. Swim personally keeps a set of clubs for novice golfers to borrow. “Golf takes a lot more energy than people think,” he said noting that golfing improves endurance and flexibility. In addition, “golfing stimulates the mind,” by requiring players to learn the rules and etiquette. There are also visual benefits as golfers learn to follow the ball to its landing spot. Swim encourages those just starting out to check out the various specials at area clubs, many of which have special discounts for seniors during the week.

Barry Churchill, the PGA Golf Instructor at Cedar Knoll refers to golf as “a lifetime game,” particularly since most clubs have several different tee boxes to accommodate beginners as well as the very old and very young. He lauded golf for its physical and social benefits. “Golf has camaraderie,” he said. “It’s social as well as aerobic.” Churchill’s home course, Cedar Knoll, is relatively hilly so even those patrons who use golf carts will still get exercise.

Churchill recommends Cedar Knoll as a good place for beginners, in part because with 27 holes, the club has 9 “extra” which aren’t as busy as the rest of the course. Beginners are often intimidated when playing on a regular course for fear they might hold up the players behind them. For this reason Churchill also recommends that even before beginners set foot on a golf course, they should get a lesson at a driving range. Although beginner golfers can outfit themselves for under $300, he advocates borrowing and/or renting equipment first. Churchill believes lessons are important for health reasons, as well as for learning the sport.

He noted that men often hurt their backs with bad swings and improper stances, whereas women are more likely to hurt their wrists from incorrect use of their hands.

Brian Gara, the head professional at the Vermont National Country Club lauds the social and physical benefits of the game, but adds that golf is also “an endless challenge; it’s a game with room for constant improvement.” Gara recommends that those new to the sport check out the “Play Golf America” section of the PGA Web site to learn about special discounts and offers. Gara noted that the muscles used to swing a golf club are often underutilized, so stretching exercises are helpful to develop strength and flexibility. Although he does not consider golf to be a physically demanding sport, Gara believes it is important for new players to recognize their limitations before they begin.

Gara said golf participation has been relatively flat over the last decade; the only areas of growth are for women and seniors. Since there is a growing cadre of older people learning the game, he recommends that newcomers find a peer group to help reinforce the learning process and provide companionship on the course. “We are always seeking to invite and retain people to play golf,” he said. “There are all kinds of programs run by PGA professionals that people can participate in. We’re always trying to make taking up the game of golf as easy and seamless as possible.”  Fore!

For more information visit the Vermont Golf Association Web site: vtga.org

Where to golf

In Chittenden County, one of the most prestigious courses is the Vermont National Country Club in South Burlington which was designed by Jack Nicklaus. Burlington Country Club is a slightly less expensive option, while the Links at Lang Farm in Essex and Kwiniaska Golf Club in Shelburne offer annual memberships without an initiation fee. The largest public golf course in the county is Cedar Knoll in Hinesburg which features 27 holes. The Essex Country Club, Rocky Ridge Golf Club in St. George, West Bolton Golf Club and Williston Golf Club all have 18-hole courses. Nine-hole courses in Chittenden County include Arrowhead Golf Course in Milton, and Catamount Golf Course and Catamount Country Club, both in Williston. There is a driving range at the Essex Family Golf Center, and most golf courses have their own practice areas. For those who want to practice their swings regardless of the weather, there is Gonzo’s Indoor Golf and Vermont Indoor Golf, both in South Burlington.

In Franklin County, there are a number of options including 18-hole courses at Bakersfield Country Club, Champlain Country Club in St. Albans and Enosburg Falls Country Club, as well as the 9-hole course at Richford Country Club. In Addison County, there are 18-hole courses at Basin Harbor in Vergennes and the Ralph Myhre Golf Course at Middlebury College. Lamoille County courses include the 9-hole Copley Country Club in Morrisville and Farms Resort Golf Club in Stowe, as well as two 18-hole courses at Stowe Mountain Resort. Washington County boasts the 9-hole Country Club of Barre, Montpelier Country Club, and Northfield Country Club as well as the 18-hole course at Sugarbush.

Localvore Movement on the Rise In Vermont

June 15, 2010  
Filed under Food

By Susan Orzell-Rantanen

To the roster of herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore describing the varied eating habits of the animal kingdom, add one more: localvore. The localvore eats only foods grown or produced within an average of a 100-mile radius of where he lives, to the extent that it is possible.

Locally grown foods are available at natural food stores, farmers’ markets, community-supported agricultural enterprises, and farm stands, and while the proprietors of these and similar establishments offer the goods differently, they chorus that “the localvore movement is skyrocketing!”

Until the 20th century, “eating local” was by necessity the way of life. Today, the same practice requires planning, dedication and in some cases more money; it is a culmination of many deliberate choices.

“Localvore Challenges,” which urge consumers to buy only local foods for limited amounts of time as a gentle re-introduction to the concept, have sprung up across Vermont to help people interested in the benefits of those choices follow through.

According to well-sourced data published by Vermont’s Mad River Valley Localvore Project (MRVLP), these benefits are many. To enjoy green peas from a nearby farm flies in the face of the statistic that, “on the average, foods travel 1,500 miles before arriving on your table,” which explains the fact that “the average meal uses 17 times more petroleum products” than the same meal produced locally. If you visit the supermarket to buy frozen or canned peas that include a flavored sauce, add this statistic: “70 percent of processed foods in U.S. grocery stores contain bioengineered ingredients.”

But the localvore movement is about more than the important health and taste benefits of fresh produce. The bottom line is, as always, economic. The MRVLP notes that “91 percent of each dollar spent in a traditional food market goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen and marketers and only 9 cents goes to the farmer, while farm markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of every dollar.” Let’s make this more personal: “If Vermont substituted local products for only 10 percent of the food we import, it would result in $376 million in new economic output, including $69 million in personal earnings from 3,616 jobs,” thus benefiting all Vermonters.

Community-Supported Agriculture
Eating locally is by definition all about community and the farmers that are members of the aptly named Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program (in cooperation with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture) consider themselves partners with consumers. In this system, the producers sell “shares” in their upcoming harvest to consumers in the spring long before the produce is ready. This up-front money is available at the crucial time of year to buy the supplies (including seeds, fertilizer and fuel), needed to grow the crops. As the harvests come in throughout the summer, “members” who have “pre-bought” items enjoy the fresh produce. In CSA terminology, an “item” is a certain amount of a certain vegetable, such as four ears of corn, a bunch of carrots, or a bag of lettuce. Shares are available in single-, family-, or senior-sized increments and delivery to predetermined checkpoints may be arranged for set days.

The Vermont Department of Agriculture lists 16 CSAs in Chittenden County.

The Boutin Family Farm, on South Road in Williston, is managed by family members Kevin and Lisa Boutin. Of the 120 acres, 40 are tillable, and are referred to by Lisa Boutin as “a huge backyard garden” providing a plethora of items for about 50 members during a 12-week share season. The Boutins designed a creative method of marketing, offering a coupon book which allows consignees to “purchase” vegetables and fruits harvested each day. “We make it very convenient,” notes Lisa Boutin. The produce, which is certified naturally grown, ranges from asparagus to zucchini and from blackberries to strawberries and is available at the farm stand, through a “U-Pick” operation on the farm, and at local farmers’ markets.

Joe and Anne Tisbert own the 300-acre Valley Dream Farm, which sits on the town line dividing Underhill and Cambridge. The farm supplies an estimated 200 members during a 24-month share season.
Valley Dream is among the more than 525 farms certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Vermont. Anne Tisbert says this certification, which involves meticulous recordkeeping and on-farm inspections, entitles them to a coveted state and USDA seal. NOFA also manages Farm Share, a program that allows low-income Vermonters to buy from CSAs.

The nature of agriculture, which can mean unexpected gluts of produce, allows CSAs to “give back to the community,” according to Anne Tisdale. “We donate thousands of pounds of food to local food shelves and to the Vermont Food Bank,” she notes.

Farmers’ Markets
CSAs often sell at farmers’ markets, a growing venue benefited by the localvore movement. In 2008, there were 64 farmers’ markets registered by NOFA-VT, up from 19 in 1986. NOFA-VT lists “the total gross sales from the markets that responded in 2008” as more than $5.5 million. According to the organization, the summer Burlington Farmers’ Market, held weekly in City Hall Park, is among the four largest in the state. The Richmond Farmers’ Market, held weekly on Volunteers Green, is considered more average in size for Vermont. Manager Carol Mader, who works closely with a board of directors, says there are 25 permanent seasonal vendors, which is capacity for the location, selling primarily agricultural products and prepared foods. There is also a waiting list of “day vendors” on call to take a spot that may be vacant if a seasonal vendor is unable to attend a market. “The localvore movement is becoming huge and we’re seeing the results of that in the [market] revenues,” Mader reports, noting that revenues have increased 170 percent over the past few years. “We have a strong following of customers over the years. We’ve seen many people who used to buy things for maybe one dinner now trying to buy for the week. We also now have a meat vendor. People are finding that prices are more competitive,” she notes, citing trucking costs as one reason for the rising supermarket prices.

For a list of Vermont farmers’ markets, visit: Vermontagriculture.com

Natural Food Stores
Natural food stores are another avenue reporting increased sales from the localvore movement. Natural Provisions of Williston, managed by Peter and Allison Lafferty, opened in 2007 as the second location of a popular store in St. Johnsbury. The 10,000-square-foot store and delicatessen on Harvest Lane maintains 20 employees. Peter Lafferty emphasizes that the naturally grown and/or organic foods and products are purchased locally as much as is possible in a full-service grocery that also sells health and beauty products and cleaning supplies. “The localvore movement is on a huge rise,” he said. “It’s so good for the community as a whole. The number of people who come in here and actually say ‘Show me what is local’ has been growing a lot over the past two years. People care about supporting the community,” he believes.

Considering the fact that eating locally was once the way of the world, it is interesting to ponder Ecclesiastes 1:9, the abbreviated form of which is “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Chittenden County Farmers Markets

Burlington Farmers Market                          Burlington    Saturdays

New North End Farmers Market                 Burlington    Wednesdays

Old North End Farmers Market                   Burlington    Tuesdays
South End Farmers Market                           Burlington    Wednesdays
Mt Philo State Park Farmers Market           Charlotte    Fridays
Hinesburg Farmers Market                           Hinesburg    Thursdays
Jericho Mills Riverside Farmers Market    Jericho    Thursdays
Milton Grange Farmers Market                   Milton    Saturdays
Richmond Farmers Market                           Richmond    Fridays
Shelburne Farmers Market                           Shelburne    Saturdays
South Burlington Farmers Market
at Healthy Living Market                              South Burlington    Saturdays
Westford Farmers Market Vermont           Westford    Fridays
Williston Farmers Market                            Williston    Saturdays
Winooski Farmers Market                            Winooski    Thursdays

Home Cooked Meals Without the Prep Work

June 10, 2010  
Filed under Business

Busy Chef’s Cindy McKinstrie Cooks Up Unique Food Delivery Business

By Phyl Newbeck

So you want a home cooked meal but you don’t really want to cook it yourself. You can’t eat out every night and ordering take-out food can be a questionable proposition. Besides, you’d like to do some of the work yourself; just not all that prepping. That’s where Cindy McKinstrie’s Busy Chef Kitchen comes in.

McKinstrie’s operation isn’t a typical catering business. Sure, she prepares and delivers food from her Jericho home, but her customers still get the option of taking part in the creative process and inhaling the aroma of the dishes as they simmer in the pot or cook in the oven. The difference between McKinstrie’s offerings and a typical delivered meal is that her meat is still raw because cooking and reheating meat can reduce the protein value. Additionally, this gives her customers the ability to decide whether they want their dinner rare, medium or well-done. McKinstrie’s meals come in sealed containers or plastic wrap with instructions for preparation.

Generally, all that is required is the mixing of some ingredients and then some time in the oven or on the range. “It’s no more than 20 minutes of ‘physical time,’” is how McKinstrie describes it.

Every Sunday night, McKinstrie develops a menu for the week which includes three main courses and three salads. She also keeps a well-stocked freezer with some of her customers’ favorites including about 20 entrees, and a variety of soups, side dishes, and desserts. McKinstrie’s offerings range from “comfort food” like chicken pot pie to ethnic cuisine like Lamb Tagine (a Moroccan dish) and Thai Coconut Saffron Scallops.

When McKinstrie started her business, she expected her primary customers to be families where both spouses worked outside the home. That has not turned out to be the case; instead, empty nesters are some of McKinstrie’s best customers. She theorizes that many have cooked for their entire lives and the thrill is gone from that activity. They want to try new foods without going out to dinner every night. McKinstrie also has quite a following among seniors who are caring for a sick spouse. “They are exhausted from being caregivers,” she said, “and happy for the help.” Although McKinstrie’s meals are designed to feed two to three people, she noted that seniors can sometimes eat off one meal for four nights.

All of McKinstrie’s food is made from scratch with very few unnecessary ingredients like sodium. Because her operation is small-scale, she is able to make alterations to her menu to accommodate those with dietary or religious constraints or food allergies. Virtually all her ingredients are purchased locally including chicken from Misty Knoll, beef from the LaPlatte Farm and vegetables from Paul Mazza. By keeping her menu seasonal, she is able to make use of these local suppliers.

Although McKinstrie is the guiding force behind the business, she does have some help. Two sons provide assistance one or two days a week even though they hold full-time jobs, and McKinstrie’s friend, Beth Garland, is the creative force behind the menu. McKinstrie confesses that while she is fully capable of following a recipe, she needs Garland’s expertise to come up with new dishes. The two have worked together on and off for the last five years. “She’s so amazing,” McKinstrie said.

Most of McKinstrie’s clients buy several meals at once which she delivers at a set time each week. Her delivery area reaches almost completely across Chittenden County, with the charge dependent on the distance she drives. McKinstrie estimates that 85 percent of her business is from repeat customers. She delivers three to four meals a week to one couple whose work schedule keeps them at their respective offices until 6:00 or 7:00 at night; if they had to start a meal from scratch, they might not eat until 9:00 p.m. Another regular is a personal trainer whose metabolism necessitates eating six meals a day. McKinstrie said his wife drew the line at three, so she provides him with regular deliveries. She has recently begun a weekly delivery to a Williston day care center to help busy parents.

McKinstrie noted wryly that the economy plummeted right after she started her business, but she does not believe she has been adversely affected. “People still need to eat,” she said. Additionally, McKinstrie found that some clients who used to go out to dinner are now relying on her for their meals. “I’m that ‘in-between,’” she said. McKinstrie also does conventional catering, in addition to her Busy Chef work.

Despite all the extra cooking, McKinstrie’s kitchen doesn’t look like a commercial establishment. The only alterations are a large double door freezer and her insistence (in accordance with the Health Department’s mandate) that the family cat stay outdoors when meals are being prepared. The beauty of working at home is that McKinstrie can chat with her granddaughter, work with her sons, and then, sit down to a home-cooked meal, just like her customers.

See http://www.vtbusychef.com for more information.

Andy’s Dandys Graduates First Class in Richmond

June 10, 2010  
Filed under Business

Andy’s Dandys, a Vermont-made, all natural gourmet pet treat company recently graduated its first class from its flagship store, bakery, and training center on Bridge Street in downtown Richmond.

Owner and founder, Lucie Whiteford of Richmond, and special educator, Lesha Rasco, launched the store in September 2009 to provide premium quality, natural gourmet pet treats for dogs and horses while establishing a certified specialized training program for individuals with unique learning needs. Andy’s was founded by Whiteford in 2008 to provide her son, Andrew, who has Down syndrome, an opportunity to find meaningful employment upon his graduation from high school. Rasco joined the company in 2009.

Rasco conducts classes two days per week. This spring, three students received certificates for their work in the course “From Raw Material to Gourmet Pet Treats.”

Andy’s Dandys is certified by the state of Vermont as a training facility for at risk youth with specialized learning needs. Graduating this spring were, Jordan Willey, Patrick McLeod, and Glen L’Esperance.

According to Rasco, “Many of our students would not have an opportunity to learn a trade in the traditional sense. They want to be employed and employable. Here at Andy’s Dandys we work with the students to meet their unique employment needs.”

Students under Rasco and Whiteford’s employ have a range of atypical strengths and challenges that make finding independent and individualized training and employment difficult.

“I am so proud of what my partner, Lesha, has created with this training program,” said Whiteford. “It makes all the long, baking hours necessary to maintain this business as a viable classroom worthwhile. I love that each part of this business supports and relies on the other. We make treats in order to create cash flow that helps to sustain the facility we use to teach workplace skills, and it’s an actual commercial bakery setting.  And the training program aspect of the business also helps sales, as consumers like knowing that by purchasing our products, they are supporting this program and the people it serves. The synergy is so satisfying.”

Andy’s Dandys are sold at the bakery on Bridge Street in Richmond and at retail shops throughout Vermont and New Hampshire including Speeder and Earl’s, Jiffy Mart Stores, Play Dog Play, Natural Provisions, The Dog and Cat, Keeler’s Bay Variety and A Passion For Pets.

Plans are to expand the store and distribution and to develop a teaching method that can be duplicated in other markets. For more information, visit www.andysdandysvt.com.

Home Cooked Meals Without the Prep Work

June 10, 2010  
Filed under Food

Busy Chef’s Cindy McKinstrie Cooks Up Unique Food Delivery Business

By Phyl Newbeck

So you want a home cooked meal but you don’t really want to cook it yourself. You can’t eat out every night and ordering take-out food can be a questionable proposition. Besides, you’d like to do some of the work yourself; just not all that prepping. That’s where Cindy McKinstrie’s Busy Chef Kitchen comes in.

McKinstrie’s operation isn’t a typical catering business. Sure, she prepares and delivers food from her Jericho home, but her customers still get the option of taking part in the creative process and inhaling the aroma of the dishes as they simmer in the pot or cook in the oven. The difference between McKinstrie’s offerings and a typical delivered meal is that her meat is still raw because cooking and reheating meat can reduce the protein value. Additionally, this gives her customers the ability to decide whether they want their dinner rare, medium or well-done. McKinstrie’s meals come in sealed containers or plastic wrap with instructions for preparation.

Generally, all that is required is the mixing of some ingredients and then some time in the oven or on the range. “It’s no more than 20 minutes of ‘physical time,’” is how McKinstrie describes it.

Every Sunday night, McKinstrie develops a menu for the week which includes three main courses and three salads. She also keeps a well-stocked freezer with some of her customers’ favorites including about 20 entrees, and a variety of soups, side dishes, and desserts. McKinstrie’s offerings range from “comfort food” like chicken pot pie to ethnic cuisine like Lamb Tagine (a Moroccan dish) and Thai Coconut Saffron Scallops.

When McKinstrie started her business, she expected her primary customers to be families where both spouses worked outside the home. That has not turned out to be the case; instead, empty nesters are some of McKinstrie’s best customers. She theorizes that many have cooked for their entire lives and the thrill is gone from that activity. They want to try new foods without going out to dinner every night. McKinstrie also has quite a following among seniors who are caring for a sick spouse. “They are exhausted from being caregivers,” she said, “and happy for the help.” Although McKinstrie’s meals are designed to feed two to three people, she noted that seniors can sometimes eat off one meal for four nights.

All of McKinstrie’s food is made from scratch with very few unnecessary ingredients like sodium. Because her operation is small-scale, she is able to make alterations to her menu to accommodate those with dietary or religious constraints or food allergies. Virtually all her ingredients are purchased locally including chicken from Misty Knoll, beef from the LaPlatte Farm and vegetables from Paul Mazza. By keeping her menu seasonal, she is able to make use of these local suppliers.

Although McKinstrie is the guiding force behind the business, she does have some help. Two sons provide assistance one or two days a week even though they hold full-time jobs, and McKinstrie’s friend, Beth Garland, is the creative force behind the menu. McKinstrie confesses that while she is fully capable of following a recipe, she needs Garland’s expertise to come up with new dishes. The two have worked together on and off for the last five years. “She’s so amazing,” McKinstrie said.

Most of McKinstrie’s clients buy several meals at once which she delivers at a set time each week. Her delivery area reaches almost completely across Chittenden County, with the charge dependent on the distance she drives. McKinstrie estimates that 85 percent of her business is from repeat customers. She delivers three to four meals a week to one couple whose work schedule keeps them at their respective offices until 6:00 or 7:00 at night; if they had to start a meal from scratch, they might not eat until 9:00 p.m. Another regular is a personal trainer whose metabolism necessitates eating six meals a day. McKinstrie said his wife drew the line at three, so she provides him with regular deliveries. She has recently begun a weekly delivery to a Williston day care center to help busy parents.

McKinstrie noted wryly that the economy plummeted right after she started her business, but she does not believe she has been adversely affected. “People still need to eat,” she said. Additionally, McKinstrie found that some clients who used to go out to dinner are now relying on her for their meals. “I’m that ‘in-between,’” she said. McKinstrie also does conventional catering, in addition to her Busy Chef work.

Despite all the extra cooking, McKinstrie’s kitchen doesn’t look like a commercial establishment. The only alterations are a large double door freezer and her insistence (in accordance with the Health Department’s mandate) that the family cat stay outdoors when meals are being prepared. The beauty of working at home is that McKinstrie can chat with her granddaughter, work with her sons, and then, sit down to a home-cooked meal, just like her customers.

See http://www.vtbusychef.com for more information.

What to Fix When You Put Your House On the Market

June 10, 2010  
Filed under Home & Garden

By Katie Langrock, CNS

Trying to sell your house? With the housing market still struggling in some areas — plummeting prices, excessive competition and timid bank loans — selling your home is an upward battle. But don’t give up hope. There are many small fixer-uppers and a few large overhauls you can do to make your house stand out from the rest. Here are a few tips on how to get your home sold quickly.

Easy fixer-uppers
The first thing you should take care of is curb appeal, i.e., how your house looks from the street. Getting buyers inside the house is half the battle, according to Sandi Forgey, a real estate agent and a tax accountant. “People can’t see past a bad curb appeal. The inside of your house may be awesome, but no one will know if the curb appeal doesn’t draw buyers in.”

Luckily, curb appeal is a cheap and easy fix. Forgey recommends cleaning up your yard, trimming bushes, planting flowers, power washing and, if needed, adding fresh paint or an attractive new door. “Take care of all the things that make the front of your house look appealing to someone, and make them feel as if they want to come inside and see what else is in there.”

Congratulations, your perfect curb appeal has attracted potential buyers to step inside your home. “The next thing you need to do as the homeowner — so people aren’t turned off the moment they step inside your front door — is to de-clutter your house,” Forgey says. “You need to get rid of all the junk. And don’t just put it in the closet; put it in a storage. Rent a Pod; rent storage space; do a yard sale.”

De-cluttering your home also includes taking down all of your family photographs. “If you leave all your photos and your personal items in the house, it makes it harder for potential buyers to visualize their families and their things in the house,” Forgey says.

If you need help de-cluttering and reorganizing your home, you may want to consider hiring a stager, Forgey advises. “Stagers don’t have to use their own furniture. They can come in and just spend a couple of hours giving you advice on how to move around your own furniture and de-clutter. So you are only paying for an hour or two of consultation, not paying for their furniture, and it can make a huge impact on your house,” she says.

When selling your home, keep in mind that first impressions are everything. Clean the carpets; change the burned-out light bulbs; fix anything that is broken. “If people are looking at your house and there are all these easy fixes that haven’t been taken care of, they are going to think that you haven’t properly cared for your house,” Forgey says. “The buyer will wonder what else is hiding in the closet. If the easy stuff isn’t fixed, what big problems haven’t been taken care of? On the contrary, if they see that everything is in good condition, it makes them feel comfortable.”

Neutral paint color also helps attract and comfort potential buyers. “I sold a house once that had very cool, eclectic purple paint on one wall,” Forgey says. “But the sellers lost many potential buyers because they just couldn’t see past that purple paint. They couldn’t visualize the house in another color. Painting is one of the easier and cheaper things to take care of, so you should fix it before buyers come in.”

Big overhauls
People don’t want to spend extra money fixing up a house after they buy it. To keep potential buyers interested in your home, especially in today’s struggling housing market, it may be worth it to spend some cash updating it. Most buyers are interested in renovated kitchens and bathrooms. “If you have the money to completely renovate these rooms, that’s great,” Forgey says. “But don’t overlook what new floors and painted cabinets can do to update the look of your kitchen and bathroom.” Instead, she recommends spending the big bucks on making functional changes to the home, such as replacing an old roof and windows, bringing in hardwood floors, updating to central heating and air conditioning and upgrading your plumbing.

Ultimately, Forgey says, the most important thing to keep in mind when you go to sell your house is that you have to disengage yourself from the emotional connection you have with your home. “It’s no longer your house; it’s a commodity that you are selling,” she says. “You may love it the way it is, but once you make that decision to sell it, you need to change your focus to: ‘This is not my house anymore. How do I get it to a place where other people will like it?’”

Father’s Day Fishing Derby Returns for 29th Year

June 10, 2010  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

By Tim Simard

For the 29th Father’s Day in a row, thousands of anglers will take to Lake Champlain in hopes of catching several varieties of fish while spending an exciting time with family. Lake Champlain International’s Father’s Day Derby, this year presented by Yamaha, takes place June 19-21. With lucrative top prizes available for those who catch the largest bass, salmon, walleye and other fish, entire families head out onto the lake on boats or hit the shores to try their luck.

But it’s not all about prize money and bragging rights during the Derby, said Lake Champlain International’s Executive Director James Ehlers.

“Families are out there fishing because it’s a family event,” Ehlers said. “We have families sign up year after year after year. For some of these folks, it’s become part of a family tradition. People plan their whole vacations around the derby.”

What began as a small event in 1981 with only a few hundred participants has grown to become the largest derby in the Champlain Valley. In 2009, 5,500 participants took part.

“It seems like we always have at least one day of phenomenal fishing,” Ehlers said.

The derby hosts several family events, many at weigh-in stations in Vermont and New York. There is also a family barbeque scheduled to take place at the Apple Island Resort & Marina in South Hero on June 19 from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.

The Father’s Day Derby is Lake Champlain International’s largest fundraising initiative. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to conserve, restore and revitalize Lake Champlain and its watershed. By taking part in the derby, participants help the organization keep Lake Champlain a vital natural resource, Ehlers said.
Costs to enter the derby are determined by how fishing enthusiasts sign up. There is a $30 entry fee per individual, or a $60 family pass for a husband, wife and child. You can sign up online at www.mychamplain.net or at nearly 40 participating stores across the Champlain Valley up until the day before the derby begins. Visit the organization’s Web site for a list of businesses: www.mychamplain.net
“This is a benefit to ensure Champlain is a swimmable, fishable and drinkable lake,” Ehlers said.

Discount Travel Tips

June 10, 2010  
Filed under Travel

The ‘senior discount’ isn’t always the best deal

Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you tell us about U.S. travel discounts? My husband and I are approaching retirement and love to travel but have a limited budget.
­ Discount Travelers

Dear Travelers,
Everybody loves a bargain but in today’s tight economy, discount travel deals that have real value are getting harder to find. Here are some tips to help you find the best deals.

Senior Discounts?
When it comes to senior travel bargains, an important point to keep in mind is that the “senior discount” may not always be the best deal. Hotels, airlines and cruise lines, for example, offer advanced bookings along with special deals and promotions from time to time that may be a lower rate than what the senior discount is. Always ask about the lowest possible rate and the best deal available. With that said, here’s a breakdown of the different “senior” travel discounts that are available today and where you can find them.

AARP discounts: If you’re a member of AARP, various travel discounts are available on hotels, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages. To find them see aarp.org/travel or expedia-aarp.com, or call 800-675-4318.
Airlines: Southwest (southwest.com, 800-435-9792) has the best senior fare program, offering discounts on walk-up fares to passengers 65 and older. American (aa.com, 800-433-7300), Continental (continental.com, 800-523-3273), U.S. Airways (usairways.com, 800-428-4322) also offer limited senior fares to passengers 65-plus to selected destinations.

Train discounts: Amtrak (www.amtrak.com, 800-872-7245), the nationwide rail network, provides a 15 percent discount to coach travelers age 62 and older, and a 10 percent discount to passengers 60 and older on cross-border services operated jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.

Bus travel: Greyhound (greyhound.com, 800-231-2222), the largest provider of intercity bus transportation, offers a 5 percent discount on unrestricted fares to seniors over 62. Peter Pan (peterpanbus.com, 800-343-9999), which serves the Northeast region of the U.S., offers the same deal. Trailways (trailways.com, 800-776-7581), a privately owned bus company also provides senior discounts but they vary by location. And, most local bus lines and public transportation offer discounted senior passes.

Car rentals: Most car rental companies offer 5 to 25 percent discounts to customers who belong to 50-and-older organizations like AARP. Good discounts are also available to AAA (aaa.com) members. To shop around for the best rental car deals use travel aggregator sites like orbitz.com or kayak.com.

Hotels: Most hotels in the U.S. offer senior discounts usually ranging from 10 to 30 percent. Age eligibility will vary by hotel, usually starting at age 50, 55, 60 or 62. Hyatt (hyatt.com, 888-591-1234) offers the biggest hotel discounts – up to 50 percent off to seniors age 62 and older.

Cruising: If you’re interested in taking a cruise, there are lots of bargains available regardless of age. To find them use cruisecompete.com (800-797-4635), which can give you the lowest prices for the dates and ports you specify. In addition, some cruise lines offer seniors discounts on select cruises to passengers 55 and older. The best way to find these is to contact a travel agent (see cruising.org to find an agent who specializes in cruises), or check with a few cruise brokers like vacationstogo.com (800-338-4962), cruise411.com (899-553-7090), or ecruises.com (800-223-6868).

National Parks: One of the best travel deals available is the “America The Beautiful – Senior Pass” (www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm). This is a lifetime pass that will let you and anyone in your car into national parks, forests, recreation areas and monument grounds. It’s available to those 62 or older, and you can get it at one of the federal recreation sites for a one-time fee of $10, and it never expires.

Entertainment: In most cities, seniors over 60 qualify for reduced admission to theaters, museums, and other attractions. Be sure you ask!

The Battle Over BPA

June 10, 2010  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Ron Vigdor

There is an intense and ongoing debate about the safety of Bisphenol –A, or BPA, an ingredient found in many plastic products including many baby bottles, hard clear plastics and most recently the lining of canned foods. According to the CDC, the BPA toxin has been detected in more than 90 percent of Americans, which poses a huge health threat to adults and children across the nation. A growing body of scientific research has linked BPA to neurological, endocrine and reproductive health effects, different types of cancers and other serious health problems.

Specifically, BPA is used in making plastic hard and clear. Today, approximately 6 billion lbs. of the chemical are still produced each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The problem is that BPA breaks down when washed, heated or stressed, or when combined with fatty or acidic foods, allowing the chemical to leach into food and water and ultimately enter our bodies.

In January 2010, the FDA shifted its stance on BPA, saying exposure to the chemical is of “some concern” for infants and children, while declaring that more research was needed. Previously, the agency’s stance was the chemical posed no risk to humans; this stance was consistent with the chemical industry.

The public is still awaiting the outcome of the FDA’s study. However, some states have taken matters into their own hands. Currently, five states have officially banned BPA in the U.S. Bills are also pending in Vermont, California, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Canada was the pioneer in curtailing the use of BPA in plastic products.

Until BPA is banned completely, there are some things we can all do to protect ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. First, you should purchase products completely free of BPA, phthalates and PVCs, especially anything that comes into contact with children and anything you serve or heat food in. Also, avoid any and all plastics with recycling numbers 3, 6 and some 7– they usually contain harmful chemicals. And lastly, use bottles made of opaque plastic. These bottles probably do not contain BPA.

Ron Vigdor is the President and co-founder of BornFree®, which specializes in developing and manufacturing innovative baby feeding products that are free of BPA, phthalates and PVCs. For more information, visit newbornfree.com.

Pill Celebrates 50th Birthday

June 10, 2010  
Filed under Health & Wellness

The first FDA-approved birth control pill was born in 1960, and so this revolutionary drug is celebrating its fiftieth birthday.  MORE magazine is looking for women willing to share their experiences about how the Pill has affected their lives, and why some women have chosen not to use it. Get in on the conversation! Visit MORE.com for details.

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