Dock Dogs National Championships, Hay Festival in Killington

September 22, 2011  
Filed under Things to do

Big Air meets fresh air this fall, when the Town of Killington hosts the 2011 DockDogs National Championships, Oct. 7-9 at the Snowshed Base Area at Killington Resort.

Big Air meets fresh air this fall, when the Town of Killington hosts the 2011 DockDogs® National Championships, Oct. 7-9 at the Snowshed Base Area at Killington Resort. The 3-day competition winds up a full calendar of events taking place during the 4th Annual Killington Hay Festival, which runs from Labor Day to Columbus Day. The DockDogs event is expected to bring in over 300 of the most experienced teams from all parts of the country to compete for the national title.

“We are very pleased and excited to bring this unique event to Killington as a highlight of the Hay Festival,” says Seth Webb, Killington’s Economic Development and Tourism Director. “This is a tremendous opportunity to provide quality family entertainment, and will surely make Killington the place to be for fall foliage.”

DockDogs, as seen on ABC, ESPN, and the Outdoor Channel, feature distance jumping and retrieving competitions from the world’s best canine athletes. At speeds over 20 mph, Big Air dogs catapult off the end of a 40-foot dock into a 28,000-gallon pool to retrieve a floatable object. Jump distances are measured from the end of the dock to where the base of the dog’s tail breaks the water.

“This sport is just so much fun for both the dog handlers and their dogs,” says Grant Reeves, DockDogs CEO. “It’s an ear-to-ear grins sport for competitors and a wildly popular spectator sport.”

The DockDogs National Championships take place during the final weekend of the award-winning Killington Hay Festival, a five-week celebration of the Vermont harvest that runs from Labor Day to Columbus Day. The centerpiece of the festival is the show-stopping Grass Menagerie – a collection of 40 gigantic animal sculptures made entirely of hay. The Town hosts a multitude of special events and activities as part of the festival, including a scavenger hunt, a “Farm to Table” food festival, a Brewfest, New England’s largest motorcycle touring rally, a 5K and 15K run/walk for charity and more.

The Town Of Killington offers a wide range of pet-friendly lodging options for both competitors and spectators, including condos that can accommodate an entire team or club. For more information and a complete list lodging options visit www.discoverkillington.com

Something Special for Destination-Focused Cruise Fans

September 22, 2011  
Filed under Travel

By Robert Selwitz, CNS

The MV Aegean Odyssey is the centerpiece ship of Voyages to Antiquity. Photo courtesy of Barbara Selwitz.

Cruise fans who prize intelligently led visits in small groups to intriguing destinations need look no further than Voyages to Antiquity. Aboard the 198-cabin, 378-passenger capacity MV Aegean Odyssey — which focuses on the Mediterranean with occasional forays into the Black Sea and, late next year, Asia — calm definitely reigns.

Two restaurants, three comfortable lounges, an Internet center, well-stocked library, lecture theater and an outdoor pool head the amenities roster. But Voyages is also lauded for what it isn’t: Rock-climbing walls, blinging slot machines, heavy drinking, minor-league Las Vegas-type shows and hourlong waits for embarkation and debarkation simply are not here

The reason is that everything fits with the line’s mission: to maximize the number of port calls and time spent off the ship, since that’s what their passengers seek. Even though this is just the line’s second year in operation, it is seeing an impressive number of repeat passengers. Many return for the ship’s appealing itineraries, relaxed atmosphere and excellent service.

All of this became quite evident during a Greece-to-Turkey venture that featured seven days at sea and visiting multiple ports of call, plus two pre-sailing days in Athens and two post-sailing days in Istanbul. This schedule allowed passengers valuable extra time to experience these capitals of culture.

Voyages had  originally arranged for passengers to stay at the Grand Bretagne in central Athens prior to sailing, but major riots related to Greece’s financial problems happened right below the hotel’s windows. The night before passengers arrived, their Athens hotel was switched to a suburban Westin resort.

Even from there, we enjoyed free Athens options, including a guided look at the Acropolis and 2-year-old Acropolis Museum. Some guests also chose to participate in extra-charge excursions to Cape Sounion, Delphi and Athens’ National Archaeology Museum.

After departing the port of Piraeus (essentially the port of Athens), the first call was Nauplia, the takeoff point for a half-day visit to Mycenae. This was the actual capital of a civilization that predated classical Athens by nearly 1,000 years. It was particularly exciting to view the actual settings for the “Electra” plays of Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles.

Beyond the myths and legends, the monumental Lion Gate and tomb of Agamemnon were most impressive. An optional tour of the ancient theater of Epidaurus followed Mycenae.

Visitors experienced a much greater step back in time the next day when the Aegean docked on Crete. The highlight was a visit to the heavily reconstructed Palace of Knossos. This was the capital of the Minoan civilization that thrived between 1900 and 1500 B.C. The throne rooms, painted columns and royal living quarters — much of it discovered and enhanced by 19th-century British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans — may not be entirely accurate. But the work produced a fascinating example of a civilization and economic powerhouse that should be better-known.

Earlier, from our dock at Rethion, Crete, passengers were also able to get a brief glimpse of Chania, an hour’s ride away. This ancient city, which retains its appearance as a Venetian seaside village, has plenty of narrow streets that encourage strolling. Indeed, on one such walk, my wife and I encountered a virtually hidden synagogue and a small but enticing archaeological museum.

A blend of the otherworldly and all-too-worldly waited Aegean’s passengers the following day. The best came first via a visit to Delos, the deserted but once powerful island where commerce reigned. And since Delos was also the reputed birthplace of the twin gods Apollo and Artemis, worshippers joined traders to make Delos a most dynamic place. In addition, no one was allowed to be born or die there, so for centuries it has been resident-free. It is still guarded by replications of its iconic lions (the originals are protected in a nearby covered museum), and visitors can hoof all over the former commercial center and come face to face with a wide variety of businesses circa 500 B.C.

For example, we encountered markers indicating the streets where prostitutes plied their trade. Not far away were the stone frames of windows from currency-exchange sites where merchants traded in cash from their homes for that of Delos. This was particularly important since Delos was a major multi-national center for slave trade. Since this was strictly a cash business, little would have happened without those exchanges.

For a complete change of pace, our vessel then sailed for less than an hour toward Mykonos. Famed for its iconic 16th-century windmills, it offers plenty of shopping opportunities, likely encounters with one or more resident giant pink pelicans and a vibrant party scene. Mykonos proved to be a relaxing change of pace.

Then followed a brief sojourn at Samos. Highlights here were its signature temple of the goddess Hera, plus a look at a 16-foot-tall marble statue dedicated to Apollo that now resides in an archaeological museum. With this we said goodbye to Greece and sailed to the Turkish port of Kusadasi for a two-day stay.

From here it was a short ride to Ephesus, one of the ancient world’s leading cities. Even under a blazing sun, passengers trekked down the main avenue past public buildings, temples and homes. The tour ended at the Library of Celsus and nearby stadium.

But Aegean’s passengers got an additional bonus — almost an hour’s worth of climbing through a former Roman housing complex where archaeologists have been unearthing secrets for two decades. Advance reservations are required to see these mosaics, frescoes, paintings and columns, so some tour operators don’t make it available. But the Voyagers group was able to make this side trip, which for many was a trip highlight.

The next day passengers had the choice of relaxing aboard, strolling and shopping in highly commercial Kusadasi, or venturing out on a long ride to see Aphrodisias, one of the ancient world’s best-preserved sites. Among the dozen or so who signed on for the three-hour-each-way trip, almost everyone was fascinated by its theater, 30,000-seat stadium, impressive walls, temple of Aphrodite and replicas of Sebasteion Hall. Originals from these lifelike Hellinistic structures are housed at a nearby museum. While the trip was long, this less-visited site offered a chance to view and contemplate something truly special. It was a fine example of the kind of places to which Voyages takes its passengers.

Next the ship sailed north to Canakkale, Turkey, where passengers chose between half-day excursions to either Gallipoli — site of a devastating Allied World War I defeat — or the scattered ruins of Troy, long thought to be the legendary or imaginary base of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey but which, in 1873, was discovered to actually have existed. Though there’s little here beyond rough foundations to see, the visit offered great food for thought.

Istanbul was the last stop, and embarking passengers were accommodated for two nights at hotels including the Ritz Carlton. From there they were shown such sites as Topkapi Palace. Suleymaniye Mosque, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Byzantine Chora Church. Here, as in Athens, many opted to stay longer in order to savor more of the fascinating sights Istanbul offers.

Beyond its unique itinerary, Voyages offers several other distinct appeals. Casual dress is the rule, with no formal nights. Another plus is all mealtime drinks, including beer and wine, are included in the cabin price.

WHEN YOU GO

Voyages to Antiquity: www.voyagaestoantiquity.com

Istanbul Ritz Carlton Hotel: www.ritzcarlton.com/istanbul

Ciragan Palace Hotel: www.kempinski.com/istanbul

Should You Save for College or Retirement?

September 22, 2011  
Filed under Money

By Jean Setzfand

Saving for retirement can be difficult. Saving for your retirement while also funding your children’s college education may seem impossible. If you didn’t start saving for tuition the moment your kids were born—and retirement is just around the corner—you might feel a bit overwhelmed about your finances.

But make note: if you haven’t or can’t set aside money for both tuition and retirement, it’s critical to secure retirement finances before funding your child’s education expenses. Financial assistance options to pay for school, including scholarships, grants and loans are available. Unfortunately, when it comes to funding retirement, these options don’t exist.

AARP offers the following five tips to help you plan for these important financial decisions.

Tip 1:  Do the Math.

Start by understanding when you might retire, how much money you’ll need for retirement, and then crunching some tuition numbers.  To get a better picture of your financial future, use AARP’s retirement and college savings tools:

www.aarp.org/readyforretirement

www.aarp.org/retirementcalculator

www.aarp.org/socialsecuritybenefits

www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/

Tip 2:  Talk to an Advisor.

Decisions about retirement and college are too important to leave on the back burner, so consider talking to a financial advisor. Online benefits calculators can give you an idea of what your monthly retirement income will be, but an advisor can help you chart a course to establish and reach retirement goals, plus determine how much you can reasonably put toward your children’s education without damaging your retirement resources.

Tip 3:  Turn to a College Funding Expert.

In addition to a financial advisor, college funding experts can identify well-known and little-known avenues to pay tuition and give prudent advice based on your circumstances.

Tip 4:  Investigate Savings Options.

Whether or not you’ve spoken to advisors yet, make sure your student completes a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), then investigate savings options like your state’s 529 plans and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Don’t overlook custodial accounts, U.S. savings bonds and municipal bonds. Additionally, Traditional IRAs allow you to withdraw money for your children’s education without a penalty, but never consider this option first – IRAs are for your retirement.

Tip 5:  Put Your Kids to Work.

Encourage your teens to work part-time to save for college. This will promote personal investment in their education and give them a greater sense of value for their college experience.

Remember: retirement savings should always the top priority, followed by saving for education. With the help of financial experts, and your future college student, you’ll be able to plot a course that you can stick to!

Visit www.aarp.org/readyforretirement and www.aarp.org/money for more information on retirement and other financial security issues.

Jean C. Setzfand is Vice President of the Financial Security Team in the Education and Outreach group at AARP. She leads AARP’s educational and outreach efforts aimed at helping Americans have a financial ‘peace of mind’ in retirement.

Around the Block: His and Her Fashion Favorites from Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony

September 22, 2011  
Filed under Blogs

By Sharon Mosley, CNS

Jennifer Lopez's fall fashion favorites include sequined tops and faux fur jackets. Available at Kohl's and Kohls. Photo courtesy of Kohls.com.

Want to know what the rich and famous are going to be wearing this fall? Want to know that yes, you can afford their favorite looks too? That’s the intention behind the new collections from Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony debuting at Kohl’s this September.

The folks at Kohl’s say Lopez’s clothes are “all about elegant and refined styles” that are “chic yet playful and offer sexy, glamorous pieces for any occasion.” Now what else would you expect from one of the sexiest fashion icons around?

Here’s a sneak preview of the star’s “favorite” pieces for fall — coming soon to a Kohl’s near you and Kohl’s.com. Check these trends out — all for under $100:

— Wide-Leg Pants — This flattering fit replaces the skinny jean this season. Incorporate a high-waisted, wide-leg pant with a soft, draped top to give this classic piece a fresh, of-the-moment look.

— Winter Shorts — No longer just a summer staple, shorts can be worn with either a bare leg or with tights and are a great way to add new style to an evening look.

— Blouses — As tuxedo suiting is a big trend for women’s wear this fall, look for the perfect way to top it all off with an open-back charmeuse top or pleat-sleeved blouse to pair with a tuxedo pant, jacket, jean or skirt. This versatile must-have is sophisticated, feminine and easily transitions from an office look into an evening ensemble.

— Winter White and Midnight Blue — Shades of white and ivory create clean, soft lines that stand apart in a sea of darker fall colors. Midnight blue is the color for the season and matches almost everything.

— Shimmer / Liquid Shine — A touch of shimmer adds interest to the darker tones of fall. Subtle sparkle and metallic fabrics give any look just the right boost of star power. Try a sequined top or shiny one-shoulder dress.

— Shearling and Faux Fur — The glamorous feel of the Jennifer Lopez collection is easily attained with luxe fabrics like faux-fur and shearling. To incorporate a touch of glamour into any fall ensemble, find the trend in vests, sweaters and handbags.

— Layering — Time to layer up for cooler days ahead! Look for a variety of foundational pieces such as sophisticated cardigans, jackets, sweaters and vests.

FOR THE GUYS

Entertainer and fashion icon Marc Anthony is also launching an exclusive lifestyle brand at Kohl’s and Kohls.com this September. The Marc Anthony collection, according to style experts at Kohl’s is “inspired by Marc Anthony’s musical roots and world travels” and “recalls the elegance of an earlier era with a look that speaks to a timeless style with a modern vibe.” Here are some of Anthony’s fall favorites:

— Moto Chic — The classic motorcycle look is an easy way to add edge to a fall wardrobe. Pair a motorcycle leather jacket with jeans and lace-up boots to get the quintessential look.

— Retro — Form-fitting suits, crisp collar shirts and skinny ties all pay homage to the elegance of an earlier era. Embrace the retro style with a patterned button-down and a skinny tie, just like Marc does on the red carpet!

— Military Inspiration — Masculine, structured and rough, it’s no wonder that the military trend is returning this fall. The pea coat and military trench are outerwear must-haves for men to easily transition summer tees into stylish fall looks.

— External Pockets — With men’s fashion, it’s all about the detail. The external pocket is a unique and fresh take on casual tailoring. Pair these detailed outerwear pieces with jeans for a look that is modern and utilitarian.

–Textured Fabric — This fall, men are adding soft textures into their wardrobes for a look that is both cozy and fashion-forward. Worn with either jeans or a suit coat, cashmere sweaters and fur-lined coats are must-have pieces for every man’s closet.

–Light Gray — Sophisticated and functional, this season’s “it” color for men is light gray. As a color that can be worn year-round and for any occasion, this neutral is perfect for outerwear, suiting and wardrobe basics.

Little Known Treasures in Central Vermont

September 8, 2011  
Filed under Things to do

The Big Picture Theatre and Café in Waitsfield is famous for its very small maple glazed donuts. (Photo by Barrie Fisher Photography)

By Phyl Newbeck

Sure, you think you know all about the sites of importance in Central Vermont. There’s the Vermont Historical Society Museum in Montpelier, the Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, and downhill skiing at Mad River Glen and Sugarbush in the Mad River Valley. But you may not know some of the smaller, hidden treasures like Morse Farm, the Red Hen Bakery and the Waterbury Station and Green Mountain Coffee Visitor Center. Whether you want to eat, shop, or just have fun, there are plenty of things to do in Central Vermont.

Those looking to learn more about the environment can visit the North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier. This 28-acre reserve along the North Branch of the Winooski River has trails and nature programs. If you want to combine a number of activities, you can’t go wrong with Morse Farm. Sam Anderson of the Central Vermont Economic Development Corporation insists the farm has the world’s best maple creemees. In addition to tours of the sugar house, Morse Farm features multimedia displays in a woodshed theater, a nature trail, country store and an outdoor Vermont farm life museum complete with whimsical carved folk life characters created by Burr Morse. “It’s a real slice of the region,” said Anderson.

Just down the road in Barre, you can visit the Vermont Granite Museum, located in an old granite manufacturing plant. The interactive museum provides information on Vermont’s history, geology and industrial heritage. For more examples of fine granite craftsmanship, a trip to the Hope Cemetery in Barre is also in order. The 65-acre cemetery dates back to 1895.

The town of Middlesex doesn’t often come to mind as a tourist mecca, but it would be wrong to drive from the Montpelier/Barre area to Waterbury without stopping. If you did, you’d miss out on Red Hen Bakery, where visitors can watch bread being baked through a glass window and then sit down for a great localvore lunch. Dessert is next door at Nutty Steph’s Chocolate Shop, but other area attractions include Montpelier Mud, a pottery studio, school and gallery, and Ann’s Weavery, featuring handcrafted clothing, accessories and gifts.

Up the road in Waterbury is the Waterbury Station and Green Mountain Coffee Visitor Center, a restored 1875 train station (still serving the Amtrak line) with interactive displays, hands-on exhibits and coffee to drink or purchase. At the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, also in Waterbury, visitors can watch cider and honey being made and purchase baked goods and other Vermont products. Other outlet stores on the Stowe Road include Danforth Pewter, Lake Champlain Chocolates and Cabot Cheese. Of course, if it’s cheese you’re after, you’re best off going straight to the source and taking the Cabot Cheese factory tour at the plant in Cabot.

Recreational opportunities abound, including two in Montpelier: The East Montpelier Trail Network, which consists of seven interconnecting trails, each roughly two to three miles, and Hubbard Park which boasts 194 acres and includes seven miles of trails, two picnic shelters, a small pond and a 54-foot tall stone observation tower.

If you’re looking for water sports, visit the Waterbury Center State Park or Little River State Park. The former is a 90-acre day use park with 22 picnic sites, a swimming beach, nature trails, boat rentals and concession, while the latter is suitable for overnight trips in its campground with 81 tent/trailer sites, 20 lean-tos, three cabins, swimming beaches, boat launch and rentals, baseball field, and a nature museum.

The Mad River Valley is known for its outdoor recreation opportunities, but not all involve ski slopes. The historical society has a self-guided walking tour in Historic Waitsfield Village which includes a variety of remarkable buildings in the traditional New England settlement pattern of multi-use structures. The tour also passes by the Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design and provides the opportunity to view local artisans at work. Another walking opportunity is the two-mile long Mad River Greenway, with its view of the mountains. The Greenway provides a great opportunity for birders, as well.

Since walking can make a person hungry, the Mad River Valley features a number of eateries including the Green Cup Café, which grows much of its own food, and the Big Picture Theatre & Café, which is famous for its very small maple glazed donuts. The Big Picture is a multi-purpose community-use facility. Other options are the Easy Street Café and the Warren Store. Susan Klein, Director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, said no trip to the Mad River Valley is complete without visiting the three covered bridges (two in Waitsfield and two in Warren) and the two waterfalls. Warren Falls is 1.8 miles south of town and somewhat hidden from view, while Moss Glens Falls in Granville has a boardwalk which allowing visitors to get closer to the action.

In Montpelier and Waitsfield, the farmers’ markets sell more than just produce. Both markets, which take place on Saturdays, feature the best of the local artisan community. The Capital City Farmers’ Market is on the corner of State and Elm streets, while the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market is located on the Mad River Green. Both markets start at 9 a.m. and last until 1 p.m.

David Cassidy: C’mon Get Happy at Upcoming Concert

September 8, 2011  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Forty years later, Cassidy’s love of music as strong as ever

By Adam White

David Cassidy fan Diana Paris enjoys the personal attention David gives his fans during his concerts. (Contributed photo.)


From television star to teen idol and beyond, David Cassidy’s life has been what he calls “an amazing journey” – with music as his constant companion.

Cassidy will aim to take audience members on a similar journey when he takes the stage at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston as part of the New England Boomers and Seniors EXPO on Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. Cassidy said fans can expect a high-energy act, which he says is his way of paying them back for four decades of support.

“I put everything I have in my body into every show,” Cassidy said. “I would be cheating all of them – and myself – if I didn’t put all my heart into my performances.”

The set list for the Boston show will feature not only showcase Cassidy’s best-known songs, but also covers that spotlight the many influences that helped shape him as an entertainer.

Cassidy is looking forward to the concert at the Boomers and Seniors EXPO because of the makeup of the audience it will likely draw.

“These are people who have grown up with me,” he said.

Now 60 years old, Cassidy also recognizes that his age group makes up the largest single segment of the population, and that he has an opportunity not only to entertain them, but to address an age-related issue that hits close to home. “My mother suffers from severe dementia, and has been under constant care for the last eight years,” Cassidy said. “I am her only living relative, and it is something that is very painful for me. I know that a lot of other people are dealing with similar things, so part of my message is that we’re all in this together.”

Tickets for David Cassidy’s concert at the New England Boomers and Seniors EXPO in Boston on Oct. 29 can be obtained online at www.boomersandseniorsexpo.com or by calling (802) 872-9000, ext. 18.