Looking Stylishly 18th Century at Quebec City’s Fetes de la Nouvelle-France

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Travel

By Steve Bergsman

Revelers in Quebec City show off their period costumes as they prepare for the Fetes de la Nouvelle-France. (Photo courtesy of Steve Bergsman.)

The famed Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac looks like Sleeping Beauty’s castle and dominates the skyline of Quebec City, and on the second floor there’s a set of historic photographs that most people don’t get to see. This floor is roped off from the lobby so the photos are usually out of bounds. That’s too bad because after I sneaked a peek at the photos, I came away with a lot more insight into the character of Quebec City citizenry.

The most interesting of the photographs were of the city’s 1908 tricentennial festivities. To celebrate 300 years of Quebec City history, its turn-of-the-century citizens threw themselves a big party on the Plains of Abraham, where the British defeated the French in 1759, and dressed up in period costumes of New France, which is what the French colonies in North America were called before the British took control.

In Canada’s great battle of the military titans, England’s Gen. James Wolfe defeated French troops led by Louis-Joseph Marquis de Montcalm, and the days of New France were over. Although the battle is now centuries in the past, in Quebec City they don’t forget the good ol’ days. Quebecers celebrated the founding of Quebec at 300 years and at 400 years, and they continue to do so annually in a festival of French heritage appropriately called Les Fetes de la Nouvelle-France. For the annual Fetes, the current citizens of Quebec City still dress up in the attire of 17th and 18th century New France – the glory days of the city’s heritage.

Despite the political controversies in this part of the country, Les Fetes de la Nouvelle-France is about having fun — and dressing funny. I know this first-hand from hanging about the city dressed in the wrong century.

One sunny day in late summer day I could easily have been spotted walking along the city streets like the haughty nobility of yore in an exquisite outfit of brocade long coat, matching vest, waist-shirt, long stockings, pantaloons and tri-cornered hat. My companions were dressed equally as fantastically. Some were dukes and duchesses, some servants and we even boasted a tavern maid or two. Amidst the tens of thousands of tourists visiting the city in modern-day shorts, T-shirts and jeans, many of the good citizens of Quebec City enjoy nothing more than to meander about like characters from “Tartuffe.”

I saw wenches and pirates, squires, royalty, militiamen, First Nation warriors and bourgeoisie. I even spotted the king of France strolling about in a beautiful deep-blue cape lined with fur — appropriate since it was the fur trade that originally attracted colonists to the wilds of North America.

The center of the fun was a fair in Lower Town, where everyone could eat, drink and be merry in 17th century style. It was there that I realized it was not only local citizens who liked to dress up as Samuel Champlain or Robespierre, but other Canadians, as well. I had a glass of mead (actually a beer) with a young couple from Ottawa who had traveled to town just for the day dressed in costume.

Besides walking around like an extra from the movie set of “The Three Musketeers,” there are a number of planned activities, including an opening parade where anyone who has a costume can be a participant. When I was there, rain postponed the beloved parade, but there is always an alternative when a festival lasts four days.

Last year a young Quebec City couple decided to get married as part of the festivities. They and their wedding party were dressed in 18th century garb, and to get to the stage where a real-life priest would perform the ceremony, the groom had to land by boat at the shore and then march through the city to the “wedding chapel.”

The groom was met at the dock by a martinet who made various pronouncements in French and a group of musicians all finely dressed in 18th century marching band outfits. With the band at the fore, the finely attired citizens of Quebec City followed behind in a lengthy procession that wandered through the streets of town.

What the parade attendees didn’t know was that my stockings wouldn’t stay up, the pantaloons that needed to be tied at the knee kept coming undone and I was sweating under my heavy brocade coat and felt tri-corner hat adorned with faux fur. I took comfort in knowing that when my image hit the Facebook pages, at least I was dressed as a duke.

WHEN YOU GO

The 2011 Fetes de la Nouvelle-France will take place Aug. 3-7: www.nouvellefrance.qc.ca.

It’s hard to make a bad choice of lodgings in Quebec City. I stayed at the Loews Le Concorde Hotel (www.loewshotels.com), located near the popular watering holes and restaurants of the Grand Allee Est. I also spent a few nights at the iconic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (www.fairmont.com), the edifice that dominates the city skyline. It can be found in Upper Town, along a promenade that overlooks the St. Lawrence River. Both are in terrific locations. — CNS

VA Loans Good Deal for Vets

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Money

By Terry Savage

The recent Memorial Day holiday served as a reminder of all who have served our country — and continue to do so even as we celebrate the start of summer. Our country has always recognized that we owe a special debt of gratitude toward our veterans.

One of the best programs available to those who were honorably discharged from the military is the Veterans Administration mortgage loan program. It stands out as one of the few government mortgage programs that not only works well, but is a great deal for those who are eligible.

A VA mortgage loan requires no down payment and carries a low, 30-year fixed rate, currently slightly over 4.5 percent.

I know that caught your attention! There are some conditions to getting a VA loan, but millions of Americans who are eligible are not even aware of this good deal.

There is no age restriction on qualifying for a VA mortgage loan, and you can get a new loan even if you had one many years ago. The surviving spouses of veterans with benefits also qualify if they have not remarried. Plus, there are good VA loan deals for those seeking to refinance an existing loan.

Perhaps you, or someone you know, could qualify. Here are the basic requirements to get a VA loan:

• You must have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military.

• You must have a Certificate of Eligibility (available from the VA Eligibility Center at 888-244-6711).

• Your credit score must be above 640.

• You must be able to demonstrate steady income, or a two-year history of self-employment, or a stream of retirement benefits.

• Spousal income can help you qualify.

• Your total debt payments cannot be more than 41 percent of your total income.

• You cannot have any unpaid liens or judgments.

• You must wait until two years after a bankruptcy to apply and cannot have any subsequent late payments.

If you’re a vet with a higher rate or adjustable-rate mortgage, this is the time to lock in low fixed rates. It’s worth investigating.

You can qualify for VA home loan benefits no matter how long ago you were honorably discharged. And even if you took out a VA loan many years ago, you remain eligible for another VA loan if the first loan was paid off.

The VA loan program is not intended for speculators or investors. The property must be owner-occupied, although the loan can be used for single-family homes, condos, or one- to four-unit properties. And a VA loan can also cover a “jumbo” mortgage, making it an attractive alternative for higher priced homes.

The maximum amount of the full VA no-down payment mortgage loan is $417,000. However, if you purchase a more expensive home and need to borrow money above that amount, you must put down 25 percent of the amount above the $417,000 limit, and pay a slightly higher rate to get the larger mortgage.

So, for example, if you want to purchase a home below that limit, you get a no-down-payment mortgage for the entire amount at a fixed rate of around 4.625 percent for 30 years. The monthly payment on a $417,000 mortgage at 4.625 percent would be $2,144, plus property taxes and insurance.

If you wanted to purchase a $500,000 home, you must put down $20,750, which is 25 percent of the difference between $417,000 and the purchase price. The VA loan will cover the remaining $479,250, and your interest rate will be about a quarter percent higher (4.75-4.875 percent).

When you take out a VA loan, the closing costs (not more than $1,500) are rolled into the new mortgage. There is also a VA funding fee, typically 2.15 percent of the loan amount, also rolled into your loan. And you’ll pay $425 for an appraisal as you start the process, but you should not have any other out-of-pocket costs.

If you receive any service-related disability from the VA, however, they waive this fee altogether.

A VA loan can also be used to refinance your existing mortgage. In the case of a refinance, you can borrow up to 90 percent of the appraised value of the home, taking out cash to pay off other debts if there is equity available.

As with a new VA loan, you will have to pay $425 upfront for an appraisal, although there should be no other fees required to apply for the loan. For a refinance, the VA funding fee is 3.3 percent rolled into the loan. This applies if you convert a conventional mortgage to a VA mortgage. But if you are refinancing an existing VA mortgage, the funding fee is only one half of 1 percent.

Whether you are taking out a new-purchase loan or refinancing an existing loan, there is no monthly mortgage insurance (PMI), so payments are lower than comparable standard loans that require PMI when there is less than 20 percent equity in the deal.

The VA loan guarantee program has aided veterans since 1944. These loans have historically been a good deal for the government, as well. Statistically speaking, veterans just don’t default on their mortgages.

If you’re a veteran and you think you may benefit from utilizing your VA loan eligibility, then I suggest you contact Daniel Chookaszian, a VA mortgage specialist and head of veteran lending at American Street Mortgage. He is also a volunteer chaplain for disabled vets. You can reach him at (312) 376-3760, or by e-mail at dchooks (at) americanstreet.com.

Or, you can contact the VA Regional Loan Center in St. Paul, Minn., at (800) 827-0611 to speak with a VA loan specialist.

In our current lending environment, credit has tightened everywhere. But the VA loan still offers vets the opportunity to purchase and refinance property with very attractive rates and programs. It’s a well-deserved thank you to our military. And that’s The Savage Truth.  — CNS

Summer Wardrobe Wreckers

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Blogs

By Sharon Mosley

Well-fitting skirts are key to keeping comfortable and stylish in summer months. (Photo courtesy of Kohl's)

Do you think just because it’s summer and the livin’ is easy that you can throw caution to those beach breezes and forget about what you wear? After all, summer is all about less is more, right? Well, not so fast, says fashion trend expert, Andy Paige, author of “Style on a Shoestring” (McGraw Hill, $16.95).

“At any mall USA on any given Saturday,” says Paige, “you will find hundreds of women who have willingly sacrificed their power, femininity and confidence by opting to drown in fabric, logos and flip-flops. The national devotion to sloppy, comfortable clothes keeps me in an absolute tizzy and has become seriously ridiculous.”

But Paige — who regularly travels the country conducting “Beauty Boot Camps” — says she has discovered that there is a “predictability” to the wardrobe mistakes that many of us make. “And remember, there is nothing more comfortable than looking fabulous!”

Here are some of her tips:

♥ Choose clothes that fit. Horrible oversized sweatshirts add 40 pounds and smother any glimmer of feminine shape. Choose active wear that creates shape through the waist, ends around your hip bone, and contains Lycra or spandex. “It’s just as easy to throw on a flattering active jacket as it is a fleece blob,” she says.

♥ Instead of wearing sweatpants that look like “oversized clown bloomers,” Paige advises wearing straight-leg yoga or running pants instead. “You still get the simplicity of just pulling them on, but the cut and lighter weight fabric create a much more figure-friendly look.”

♥ Skip the long tube skirts. “If an ankle-length body tube is hanging in your closet, use it to insulate your water heater,” she says. “Casual ankle-length skirts make us look like shapeless trunks.” Paige recommends wearing knee-length A-line skirts that fall freely from the largest part of the hip. “It’s a timeless silhouette that is the most flattering on everyone, from your grandma to your cousin Gracie.”

♥ Beware of horizontal details. “Whether they’re from stripes, rickrack, ribbons or ruffles, keep all wide lines and voluminous details off your rump,” she says. Vertical or diagonal details will elongate your body and give you more of an hourglass shape.

♥ No pleats, please. Pleated tapered-leg pants are a big no-no in Paige’s fashion book. She advises sticking to flat, front boot-cut or stovepipe-leg pants hemmed to the bottom of your heel to make your legs look longer. She also cautions about “muffin tops” and suggests wearing pants with comfortable waistbands that “frowns in the back and smiles in the front.” Leggings worn with crop tops, see-through white pants and splotchy bleached denim are also summer no-nos.

♥ Put away thick-soled shoes. “Frankenstein’s monster was big, green and dim-witted in the movies; why would you want to wear his shoes? There is nothing feminine, modern or attractive about thick, chunky man shoes. Plus, the thicker the sole, the thicker your legs look.”

♥ Some other summer shoe wardrobe wreckers: white pumps (go for silver pumps or slingbacks), sandals with toe overhang (you generally want about a half-inch of room at the heel and toe), bulky he-man jock sneakers (there are lots of sleek, “declunkified” urban walking shoes available) or socks with sandals (“sandals are for freshly painted toes).

♥ Last thoughts. “So considering the dynamic potential of clothing,” says Paige, “something we all have to buy and wear anyway, since most of us don’t live in a nudist camp, why would you choose to tell the world you’d rather be napping, as you sport a comfortable outfit that’s barely a step above footie pajamas? Smarter fashion choices simply make you look smarter.” — CNS

Richter and Oxfeld Driving Forces Behind Vermont’s New Healthcare Bill

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Business

By Sarah Zobel

An idealist and a self-described “noodge” walked into Vermont’s statehouse. By the time they came out, the legislature had passed a single-payer healthcare bill.

It wasn’t quite that simple, and there were other players, but no one disputes the fact that Deb Richter, M.D., and Ellen Oxfeld, PhD, collectively served as a driving force behind the passage of Vermont’s first-in-the-nation healthcare reform bill. More than a decade after the two women first met and started corralling their energies toward bringing insurance equity to all Vermonters, bill H.202 was signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin on May 26, 2011.

Richter admits that she was a bit idealistic when she started practicing medicine in Buffalo, N.Y. She saw patient after patient who had waited too long to get treatment because of no insurance; some of them had put off a doctor’s visit for so long that there was nothing Richter could do by the time they did come to her office.

“I was in shock that people were denied care or they couldn’t get it because they had no insurance,” Richter says. “Here I was doing primary care in the inner city and I thought, ‘ How long can I do this without getting totally frustrated?’ And that’s when I realized we really could do something about it. All we needed to do was eliminate the insurance industry!”

Since that wasn’t likely anytime soon and New York seemed too big for her efforts to have an effect, Richter instead decided to move to Vermont, where she felt things could happen.

The stories here were no better: a sugarmaker spilled hot sap all over his abdomen — despite a serious burn the size of a dinner plate, he didn’t seek medical treatment for several days. By the time Richter saw him, he had a secondary infection and ended up in intensive care, where he stayed for a week. Another patient, a woman who owned her own business and had a family history of colon cancer and signs of the disease herself, waited to get a colonoscopy because she was uninsured.

Richter realized that “even in a good state like Vermont, clearly we had to do something.”
Within six months of moving here in 1999, she’d spoken with Speaker of the House Michael Obuchowski—he contacted Richter after reading a letter to the editor she’d written—and Governor Howard Dean, both of whom supported health-care reform. Ellen Oxfeld also contacted Richter before she’d even unpacked her belongings, and invited Richter to speak at a forum at Middlebury Library.

Oxfeld is a professor of anthropology at Middlebury College who has been active in political organizing since helping with Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign while in junior high. There was no defining moment for Oxfeld in terms of single-payer healthcare—she says it’s just always been a cause she’s supported.

Together, the two women helped establish Vermont Health Care for All in 2003; Richter now serves as president and Oxfeld as vice president. The organization’s goal is to educate residents about publically financed healthcare, and in 2009, they created the Vermont Single Payer website, the only online reference source exclusively dedicated to single-payer care in Vermont. Oxfeld notes that there are other useful websites, including the Vermont Workers’ Center’s Healthcare Is a Human Right site, but, she says, “Ours is a little more policy-oriented and wonky.”

Oxfeld learned to use the website and e-blasts to organize rallies and ask people to contact their representatives and speak out about proposed amendments—in particular, the amendment that would have excluded migrant workers from coverage. Richter, meanwhile, became the face of single-payer health care, traveling around the state and speaking at more than 400 forums, rallies, and meetings to explain the sometimes confusing initiative.

Anya Rader Wallack, special assistant to the governor for health care, calls the two women “doggedly determined” in their efforts. “They’ve been available 24/7 to respond to opponents, organize supporters, and persuade legislators,” she says. “They’ve made a real difference in terms of making sure that at every turn in this process we had lots of supporters standing behind us.”

But both Richter and Oxfeld are quick to note that they were far from the only Vermonters working to pass the legislation.

“I know I’ve dedicated a lot of time to this issue,” says Oxfeld, “but a lot of people have, and that’s what makes Vermont so great. It’s a state where you can really get involved, and make a change for the better, for the common good. I do think Vermont is unique in that way.”

This summer, Oxfeld will be coordinating a number of public forums so citizens can learn what the Bill means, as well as what remains to be done, while Richter continues her travels around the state. Richter has company on the road now, as a handful of other doctors and nurses are sharing the touring duties with her. The goal is to establish a network of 35 or 40 physicians who understand and are willing to speak about the new plan. Both women are hopeful that this is the first of many steps to overhauling healthcare not only in Vermont, but nationwide, and who speak honestly but energetically about the future.

“You’re never finished,” says Richter, noting that there will always be opposition that will work to dismantle health-care reform. “I can’t ever imagine my work will be done.”

Food for Thought: Local Dietitians Offer Tips for Healthy Eating

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Food

By Susan Green

“To eat is a necessity,” noted Francois de la Rochefoucauld. “To eat intelligently is an art.”
The 17th-century French author’s observation may be more relevant than ever in an age marked by fast food, chemical ingredients, stress and lack of knowledge about healthy choices.

People grappling with various concerns — diabetes, weight gain, acid reflux, gall bladder problems, gluten allergies — are often unsure where to turn. Primary care physicians generally have had little or no training in nutrition; most medical schools fail to offer such courses.

“The reality of requiring substantive course work in nutrition for doctors — we’re not there yet,” acknowledges Amy Nickerson, director of the Master of Science in Dietetics Program at the University of Vermont.

Luckily, a wealth of registered, certified dietitians can offer guidance.

As a former head of the nutrition program at the state’s Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, Nickerson is particularly aware of how seniors are faring. “We do know from studies that older adults don’t eat enough, especially enough fruits, vegetables and dairy, or get enough physical activity,” Nickerson says, adding that strength training and tai chi are excellent ways for people to incorporate movement into their daily routines.

On matters of food, she advocates learning more about essential nourishment to understand the options. For one thing, every Area Agency on Aging in Vermont contracts with a dietitian who might do home visits, phone consultations or nutrition workshops.
These experts can dispense numerous little tips. Nickerson points out the importance of foods with Vitamin B12, for example, which doesn’t absorb well in seniors who need it for cognition. Vitamin D and calcium are crucial for strong bones. “This is a field I’m still able to get fired up about,” she acknowledges.

The same probably can be said of Laura Biron, a dietitian who practices in Stowe and at the Adams Center for Mind and Body in South Burlington. “My focus is people struggling with food because of eating disorders, weight management or digestive issues,” she explains. Input from primary care physicians or specialists is sought because “it’s important to have a medical diagnosis, sometimes even just to rule things out. Of course, I have more time to talk with patients than doctors do during our 60 to 90-minute initial visits.”

Biron looks at “dietary patterns, weight history, a snapshot of the patient’s lifestyle so I can start to put the pieces together.”

One of those pieces tends to be sleep disturbances. “If people are not feeling refreshed, their hormones may be off-balance,” Biron says. “The hormone gherlin is responsible for hunger and it goes up in your system if you’re not getting enough rest. And leptin is another hormone to think about since it signals that we feel satisfied after eating. Sleep apnea, which is common in older folks, may contribute to being overweight.”

Menopause, according to Biron, frequently affects sleep patterns and thereby can lead to consuming more calories. “The cause is not necessarily menopause itself,” she contends.
The basics, in her view, include making sure to fuel the body throughout the day, never skip meals “which may set us up to eat more or larger portions later. Also, we can mistake thirst for hunger. This exacerbates overeating. Plus, medications are likely to increase thirst. So stay well hydrated.”

Reflux is largely related to eating too close to bedtime, Biron says. Otherwise, different people have individual reactions to certain foods. “I do a complete dietary recall with my patients.”

Biron recommends a balanced diet, “with as close to whole foods as possible,” 80 percent of the time, but that it’s OK to indulge in other edibles “just for taste” the other 20 percent.”

In terms of packaged foods, look for a short list of ingredients and avoid things on the list if you don’t know what they are.”

Another way to go is “the plate method,” which involves filling one-half of a platter with non-starchy vegetables and fruits, one-quarter with protein (meat, poultry, seeds, nuts, tofu) and one-quarter with grains or veggies that have starch (peas, corn, winter squash).
Biron admits that the process isn’t always easy. “I tell patients to keep a food log to get an objective, non-judgmental look at what and how much they’ve eaten each day. Over 50, we have ingrained habits that may be hard to change. But taking small, sustainable steps is a great way to start.”

An Alternative Approach

Those seeking an alternative approach might appreciate the ideas espoused by Ann Ramsay, a dietician and registered nurse who offers Chinese acupuncture and medicine, massage and nutritional counseling in Essex Junction. “There is no blanket advice,” she says. “You must eat what’s appropriate for your age, for your level of activity and for your location.”

With this philosophy, the body’s internal mechanisms can become too cold or too hot, requiring procedures and foods that warm or cool. Ramsay cites a patient in her late 20s, an ex-athlete who had cut back on exercise, begun experiencing painful menstrual cycles and gained weight. “The painful periods meant there was cold in her uterus, which is close to the digestive system.”

Over six weeks, the woman apparently improved after starting to exercise more, eat better, drink warming teas like ginger and ingest an herbal formula that the Chinese call “warm the middle burner.”

Ramsay, whose husband is a doctor specializing in palliative care, taught at UVM’s nursing department — her courses included an introduction to Chinese medicine — for ten years. “People may come to me for acupuncture but you can’t leave food out of the health equation. First, I do a dietary assessment and decide how that fits into the entire treatment plan. The advice is specific to their situation: It’s different for 60 or 70-year-olds than for a 20-year-old; the tropics versus Vermont; what type of work they do. All those factors are important. I tell anyone who wants to lose weight that there is acupuncture geared to cravings and addictions.

In working with some elderly patients, she often uses a Japanese abdominal massage technique called ampuku that improves digestion: “It’s the hands-on part of nutritional counseling. Muscles are part of the digestive system in Chinese medicine. If I had my way, every nursing home in Vermont would have at least one massage therapist.”

Gallbladder problems

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ, just beneath the liver, that aids in the digestion of fat, such as cholesterol. Painful gallstones form when that substance becomes concentrated in the gall bladder.

Among a range of dietary solutions for this condition, beet greens are at the top of the heap in the opinion of Dr. William Warnock, at the Champlain Center for Natural Medicine in Shelburne. The naturopathic practitioner’s recommendation is quoted on a web site (www.mothernature.com/l/Natures-Medicines/Gallstones_1676.html) that covers the topic.

Soybeans, wheat germ and apple cider vinegar also qualify as respected treatment possibilities. Lecithin — particularly in granule form — cannot break up an existing gallstone, but has proved effective in preventing the formation of new ones.

Gluten allergies

Reportedly, one in 33 Americans is allergic to gluten, a protein primarily found in wheat, rye and barley. The resulting Celiac Disease is an immune reaction in the small intestines and an inability to absorb nutrients that can lead to severe vitamin deficiencies. There’s no cure but, in recent years, a plethora of ways to avoid the culprit:

• The King Arthur Flour Company in Norwich produces gluten-free bread, pancake, muffin, bread and pizza crust mixes that replace wheat with tapioca and potato. www.kingarthurflour.com or (800) 827-6836.

• The Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury concocts gluten-free beer with sorghum instead of barley. www.alchemistbeer.com or 244-4120.

• The Woodchuck Cidery in Middlebury brews hard cider from apples rather than ingredients with gluten. www.woodchuck.com or 388-0700.

Against the Grain Gourmet in Brattleboro turns out gluten-free artisan baguettes, rolls, bagels and pizzas. www.againstthegraingourmet.com or 258-3838.

Many grocery stores now offer gluten free food sections including Natural Provisions in Williston and Healthy Living in South Burlington.

Diabetic challenges

“Older people may have limited transportation and more social isolation, see changes in their senses of smell and taste — appetite killers. So eating well can fall by the wayside,” says Robin Edelman, a dietician who is the administrator of the diabetic program at the Vermont Department of Health in Burlington.

She mentions some staggering statistics: “About 50,000 Vermonters of all ages have diabetes, though only 31,000 of them know it. So one-quarter to one-third don’t realize they have this chronic disease. But 130,000 adults in the state have pre-diabetes conditions. Diet and exercise to lose five to ten percent of a person’s current body weight is the best way to prevent or at least delay the onset.”

For diabetes and a host of other “complex chronic diseases,” Edelman urges people to avoid empty calories and pick foods without fat, especially saturated and trans fats, and find a support system to help make behavioral changes that will manage the problem.
Community services are available, she says, adding that Fletcher Allen Health Care maintains The Diet Line (847-3438) at no cost. “You get a recorded message, give your name and phone number, and a dietician will call you back.”

In addition, the health department has a web site (www.heathvermont.gov) with an A to Z menu. Under the letter E, click on Eat for Health and see an array of subjects, such as Meals for a Week. Similarly, under D, the Diabetes Prevention and Control Program link contains a bonanza of information.

At www.eatrightvt.org, an online service of the Vermont Dietetic Association, there’s much food for thought to explore, such as Quick Guide to Healthy Living, Fruits and Vegetables: More Matters, Online Checkups and Watch Your Weight. Contact a Dietician enumerates the state’s many nutritional counselors on a county-by-county basis.

In days of yore, “we never thought we were getting diseases from what was missing in our food,” Edelman suggests. “Nutrition is a relatively new science.”

And, to borrow a 460-year-old concept from Francois de la Rochefoucauld, a timeless art.
Laura Biron: www.theadamscenter.com/staff/biron.html or 859-1577
Ann Ramsay: www.vtacupuncture.net or 879-1515

Brush and Floss for More Than Just Teeth

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Most people know that in order to live a healthy lifestyle, you must eat a balanced diet, get plenty of exercise and avoid tobacco products. What many people don’t realize is that tooth brushing and flossing are just as important in helping to maintain overall health. Routine oral care is the best way to prevent periodontal, or gum, disease. And since research has linked gum disease to several other diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, maintaining periodontal health is more important than ever.

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects not only the gums, but also the bone supporting the teeth. “If left untreated, it destroys the supporting bone and tissues that hold the teeth in the mouth,” said Dr. Brian Shuman, Chairman of Vermont State Dental Society’s Continuing Education Division. “Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.”

The American Academy of Periodontology estimates that eight out of 10 Americans suffer from some form of periodontal disease. “Because periodontal disease develops silently and painlessly, most people don’t even know they have it, until it becomes advanced,” said Dr. Shuman.

For more information on preventing periodontal disease, or to determine if you are at risk, visit www.keepyourteeth.com and www.perio.org.

Don’t Shoulder the Burden Alone: Seek Help for Shoulder Pain

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Phyl Newbeck

“I love talking about my shoulders,” said Raymond Verville of Burlington.

That wasn’t always the case. Verville had pain in his shoulders for years, but thought he was too old for surgery. Finally, unhappy about not being able to do things like dry his back after a shower, he went to see Dr. John Macy. In December of 2009, at age 78, he underwent shoulder replacement surgery. “Five days later, I was feeling so good I was crying,” he said. “I went back six weeks later to get the second one done. I never had the slightest bit of pain from the procedure.”

Macy is an orthopedic surgeon based in South Burlington whose specialty is shoulder and elbow problems. In May he gave a presentation at the Doubletree Hotel before an enthusiastic audience of 75 people on “Understanding Chronic Shoulder Pain.” Macy was impressed at how knowledgeable the audience was.  “It was a varied crowd,” he said “and they asked great questions.”

While shoulder problems can come in many varieties, Macy said the most common are those involving the rotator cuff. There are three stages of rotator cuff disease: early stage which is inflammation, tendonitis or bursitis; middle in which the tendon is partially torn; and late stage which is characterized by a full rotator cuff tear. Each stage can be symptomatic or asymptomatic and not every tear needs to be repaired. Ideally, treatment for rotator cuff injuries is non-operative, requiring activity modification, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy to regain a full range of motion. If that doesn’t work, it’s best to have surgery as early as possible because tears can get worse over time and smaller tears are easier to repair. The earlier the surgery is conducted, the less the chance the tear will reopen.

Macy said rotator cuff injuries can’t necessarily be prevented because some occur due to intrinsic tendon disease, which is genetic. External factors can include exposure to overhead activities such as swimming, tennis or throwing. Macy said studies have shown that 30-50 percent of those over the age of 50 have partial or full rotator cuff tears. “It’s a very high incidence,” he said “but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are all symptomatic. We treat those who are symptomatic because that causes disability, dysfunction, weakness and pain.”

Recovery from rotator cuff surgery usually requires a patient to be immobilized for four to six weeks. Physical therapy is initiated after a week and can last for two to three months. A full recovery may take six to nine months. “I tell all my patients,” said Macy, “that rotator cuff surgery is the longest rehab process and can take up to a year for a full recovery, but most patients are doing well after three months.”

Another frequent shoulder problem is arthritis, although it is significantly less common than knee or hip arthritis. Like rotator cuff injuries, arthritic shoulders can be treated non-operatively with activity modification, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. Macy said the importance of physical therapy cannot be overstated. “If you have knee or hip surgery, you can walk afterwards,” he said, “but you don’t use your shoulder or arm as much, particularly if it hurts. We need to almost force people to use the joint, and that requires therapy.”

Cortisone shots can also be used as treatment, but Macy doesn’t recommend more than three annually because of possible side effects.

Brynn Kusiak, a physical therapist at the Edge in Williston, works with patients with shoulder injuries. For those who have not had surgery, Kusiak said it is important to learn how long they have had pain, what positions make them feel better and what makes them feel worse. An important consideration is posture, which Kusiak described as a major aspect of muscle pain. Symptoms can be treated with heat, ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and progressive exercise including stretching and strengthening programs. Patients are encouraged to develop a home exercise regime, as well.

Post-operative rehab programs are very similar. Kusiak said it is important to have “early movement” after surgery, even if it is just passive motion that a patient does at home.

“We try to help them manage,” she said. “We try to get them exercising within their comfort range and sometimes we help them stretch beyond what they think they can do.”
Kusiak noted that the shoulder is unique because use of it “involves the coordinated movements of the ball and socket joint, shoulder blade, collar-bone, and the joints, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that connect through the whole region.” For this reason, shoulder rehabilitation is a longer, more complex and more challenging process than that required for many other types of injuries.

Although roughly 600,000 knee and hip replacements are performed by doctors annually, the number of shoulder replacements is much lower; 30,000-40,000 annually. While most orthopedic surgeons perform no more than two to four shoulder replacements annually, Macy does close to 100. He describes the operation as quicker and easier than rotator cuff surgery. Full recovery may take nine months to a year, but most patients spend three weeks in a sling. Within three months after the operation, they can do most of their regular activities. Macy said over 90 percent of rotator cuff surgery and shoulder replacement surgery is successful in the short and long-term.

Kusiak believes the increasing level of activity in older people is leading to more shoulder injuries. “Shoulders are very vulnerable,” she said. It may take longer for an older person to heal, but the rehab regimen should not be appreciably different than a younger person.

Among the sports which can create the most shoulder problems are baseball, golf, sailing, swimming and tennis. Kusiak noted that both kayakers and canoers are susceptible to shoulder injuries, but flat water kayakers can return to form faster than canoers because they don’t reach as high. “People should prepare for sports ahead of time,” said Kusiak. “There should be a combination of stretching, strengthening, and awareness of posture, as well as some sport-specific exercises. Two to three times a week everyone should do something to maintain their strength to avoid injury.”

Kusiak cautions older athletes to ease into their athletic endeavors.  “You need to gradually work into things,” she said, “and make sure to warm up before and cool down afterwards.”

“I keep thinking it’s a miracle,” said Verville. He underwent four months of physical therapy which he supplemented by working out at home. “I felt so good,” he said “that I just had heart surgery. Now that I’ve got two good shoulders I wanted to make sure my ticker would work.”

Efficiency Vermont Offers Tips for Energy Savings

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Home & Garden

Whether you love or hate cleaning, here’s some good news: Cleaning could save you money. When you make the following tips part of your annual spring cleaning list, you can cut your energy costs by getting better performance from your appliances, exhaust fans, and air conditioners.

Dry clothes faster. Clear lint from your clothes dryer’s exhaust hose. A coated or clogged hose can significantly increase the amount of time and energy your dryer uses. Have a flexible hose? Replace it with smooth metal ducting to improve air flow, dry clothes faster and reduce drying energy use. You also won’t need to replace this type of hose as often.

Don’t make your fridge work so hard. Clean dust from under your refrigerator, the front vent at the base, and any exposed coils at the back. Another tip: Make sure products aren’t blocking the fan vents inside the fridge and freezer.

Clear the air. Dust bathroom ceiling fan covers and fan blades. Clean dust and grease from the kitchen stove hood and exhaust fan.

Plug your home electronics into an advanced power strip. While you’re dusting your TV, computer, gaming equipment, and other home electronics, take a look at how they’re plugged in. You can stop overpaying to power these big energy users (many draw electricity even when off) by plugging them into an advanced power strip, which automatically cuts electricity to any idle equipment you choose.

Step outside. Take a look at any accessible exterior vents, such as for the clothes dryer, central-heating system, water heater, kitchen-fan exhaust, or bath-fan exhaust. Clear them of any blockage or buildup of dust, webs, leaves, and lint.

Be sure to dust and clean your air conditioners. Clean the back of window air conditioners, dust central-air system intakes and vents and keep them clear of obstructions. See that central-air filters are clean.

Efficiency Vermont was created by the Vermont Legislature and the Vermont Public Service Board to help all Vermonters reduce energy costs, strengthen the economy, and protect Vermont’s environment. Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) operates Efficiency Vermont under an appointment by the Vermont Public Service Board. VEIC is a Vermont-based nonprofit organization founded in 1986. Visit www.efficiencyvermont.com for more information.

Vibrant Vermont Vixens to Host Red Hat Society Bash in July

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Things to do

By Luke Baynes

With their flamboyant red hats and clashing purple outfits, the Vibrant Vermont Vixens have some advice for any woman seeking the elusive fountain of youth in the latest anti-aging cream or crash diet: 50 is the new 20.

“They get pretty rowdy,” said Vixens queen Nancy Young of her spry group of “Red Hatters,” all living proof that age is merely a state of mind. “These girls don’t sit down. Once they start, they don’t sit.”

There won’t be much sitting taking place at the Sheraton in Burlington on July 15 and 16, when the Essex Junction-based Vixens host the annual meeting of the Vermont Red Hatters, the state-level subgroup of the Red Hat Society, an international sisterhood of women age 50 and older.

The Red Hat Society was founded by Fullerton, Calif. resident Sue Ellen Cooper in 1998, based on the principle that women should greet middle age with verve, humor and élan. From a small handful of women getting together for tea and talk it has grown to over 70,000 members worldwide. Its distinctive red and purple dress code stems from Jenny Joseph’s poem “Warning,” which begins with the lines, “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple / With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

The aptly surnamed Young, who’s 60 but looks younger, could hardly be called an old woman, although her position of seniority in the Vixens has been unquestioned since she started the group in 2005.

“I tell my girls all the time: it’s not a democracy, it’s a monarchy,” she joked. But Young, who retired from her job as Operations Coordinator at New England Air Systems on May 20, will also soon be abdicating the Vixens throne to concentrate on her role as the newly elected state queen of the Vermont Red Hatters. It’s the kind of leadership position she wouldn’t have dreamed of before she became a member of the Red Hat Society.

“I used to be so shy. People can’t believe I’ve changed so much,” said Young of her development over the past six years. “I’ve become a lot more outgoing.”

Young also credits her fellow Red Hatters with helping her get through the most difficult period of her life, when her husband passed away after an extended battle with cancer. Before he died, he made her promise she would never quit attending Red Hat meetings.
“I wanted to quit. I said, ‘I can’t do this, I’ve got too much grief on my plate,’” Young said. “But you pick yourself up by the bootstraps and you just keep going and you think of other people. That’s what my husband would have wanted, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.”

Lorraine Matcovich, one of the “Original 10” members of the Vixens, agreed that becoming a Red Hatter changed her life.

“This is the only women’s group that I’ve ever belonged to,” said Matcovich. “I’ve loosened up a lot. To think that I show up to work actually in my red hat and clothes, instead of changing into them like I used to!”

Matcovich equated the Red Hat Society to a men’s group like the Elks Club or the Shriners, believing that it has empowered middle-aged women as individuals and in the media.

“Until the Red Hats, I think that our age group was a lost demographic,” Matcovich said. “If you look at TV shows, they’re mostly geared toward those 35 and under, or occasionally the very old. I think once the Red Hats started, (advertisers) realized what they were missing, because I’ve seen a lot more advertisements now geared toward our age group.”

The two-day event at the Sheraton will mark the second time the Vibrant Vermont Vixens have hosted the annual meeting of the Vermont Red Hatters. The first occasion was in 2007, when Governor and Mrs. Douglas were among the guests.

This year’s meeting will kick off the first evening with a performance by the local classic rock band The Hitmen. The next day will feature a PJ breakfast – red and purple pajamas, of course – and will also include a “Mad Hatters” tea party and a comedy routine by the Vermont Comedy Divas. The theme of the convention is fairy tales, with the slogan, “…And Dreams Do Come True.”

Young’s dream is that during her three-year term as state queen there will be scores of new members and new chapters of the Red Hat Society in Vermont. She hopes she can inspire women to come out of their shells and meet like-minded ladies who are comfortable in their own skins, regardless of how many wrinkles they have.

“My biggest joy is to see people that you wouldn’t think would be friends with one another who have made these lifelong friendships,” said Young.

For more information about the Vermont Red Hatters convention, contact Nancy Young at queenmumnancy@comcast.net.

VSO Outdoor Summer Concerts To Create Fireworks

June 15, 2011  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra presents its Summer Festival Tour in eight outdoor locations this summer with a program entitled “Symphony Royale,” with Anthony Princiotti conducting. From Friday, July 1 through Sunday, July 10, the Orchestra will perform in glorious mountain and lakeside settings across the state.

Handel’s fireworks begin the program and live fireworks complete it, in this musical homage to royalty. The noble procession includes Scheherazade’s Kalendar Prince, the King and Queen of Troy, and the King of Siam. In honor of Independence Day, the VSO celebrates our freedom from monarchical rule with America’s own version of royalty, Duke Ellington. The performance is crowned, as always, by the majestic 1812 Overture and selections from Sousa, the March King. Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Venues open early for picnicking. Concerts conclude with fireworks.

“The VSO is the only orchestra that actually tours the state each summer,” says executive director Alan Jordan. “All of us look forward to the summer tour. It’s become a cherished summer tradition. This summer, we’re especially lucky to be the only outdoor concert at Shelburne Farms,” he says. “So we hope people will get their tickets, gather their picnics, and join us under the stars in a town nearby this July.”

For more information about the Festival Tour, including a listing of local ticket outlets, or to order tickets, visit www.vso.org or call FlynnTix at (802) 863-5966.