There’s a Sap Sucker Born Every Minute

May 15, 2013  
Filed under Places I’ve Played

By Bill Skiff

P.T. Barnum had it right when he said there’s one born every minute.

Now, I don’t mean the ones that hang around on the bottom of the Lamoille River or the ones who didn’t believe that Lance Armstrong was doping. Or even those that still don’t believe the first ingredient in some peanut butter is sugar.

I mean the ones who believe that thick sweet syrup comes from a tree ready to eat. Or the ones that believe that sap comes from a tree and makes syrup—but they are not sure what kind of a tree it comes from or where these trees grow. One of this latter type came into my office during sugaring one year—and I saw her coming.

I have been known to consider a practical joke once in a while. That spring I pulled off my best effort ever.

It started by my cutting down a maple sapling four inches in diameter and 10 feet tall, with branches going every which way. I strapped it to the top of my car and headed for my office at Mount Mansfield Union High School, where I was a guidance counselor.

I arrived early and cut the tree so I could wedge the trunk against the tile floor and the top against the ceiling tile. Next, I trimmed the branches so they spread out on both sides of the trunk, and left one near the top so it hung over the top of the office door. It looked quite natural standing there.

I then drilled a hole through the tree—and on through the wall into my office at the same height.

I attached a metal spout to one end of a small rubber tube and hammered the spout into the tree. The other end of the tube I invisibly threaded through the tree and through the wall into my office. Next I ran the remaining tube up the office wall and hung it on a nail.

I dangled a water-filled quart bottle from the ceiling and attached it to the tube. Our chemistry teacher provided me with a metal clamp; this enabled me to control the flow through the tube. None of this background apparatus was easily visible looking at the tree.

Next I hung a metal bucket on the spout embedded in the tree. Now I was ready.

Before any students arrived, I adjusted the clamp so it allowed a small amount of water to run down through the wall, through the tree and out the spout. Drip, drip, drip it began. Ping, ping, ping it sounded as it hit the bottom of the metal bucket.

As students began filtering into the office they were amazed to see sap running in the guidance office. They pointed out that it wasn’t running very well. I told them to come back at noon when the sun was out and it would be running better. At 11:45 I loosened the clamp to allow more water to enter the tube—the sap ran faster. They laughed and went out to tell their friends. Soon, kids were stopping by the office just to see how the sap was running each day.

Then it happened. One morning we had a visitor from a college admission office. She was so excited to see the way sap ran from a tree and wanted to learn more about the sugaring process. I explained the process—as only a Vermonter could. As she left to visit classes, I encouraged her to come back at noon when the sap would really be running. She did—and so my lesson continued.

At the end of the day when she came back to my office she stood in front of the tree looking at it with questions in her eyes. Finally, she realized the tree was just sitting on the floor. When total realization set in, her thoughts teetered between embarrassment and revenge.

We later became friends but, even now, when we get together, she takes me to task over the time I gave her my “sugaring lesson.”

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at

FIT TO EAT: Please Don’t Pass the Salt

May 15, 2013  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer

I think you would agree if I were to tell you there is an easy way to reduce your risk of dying and improving your quality of life you would say “bring it on.”

A recent report from the Institute of Medicine states, “high blood pressure is responsible for one in six deaths in the United States.”

It may surprise you to learn hypertension (high blood pressure) increases your risk of dying of heart attack or stroke more than smoking, high cholesterol, obesity or any other risk factor. Excess salt in our diets is a major cause of high blood pressure. Beyond high blood pressure, and to make matters worse, excess salt may damage the tissues of our heart, kidneys and other organs while contributing to osteoporosis. Also troubling is the growing evidence that hypertension raises the risk of dementia.

You’re probably thinking “Great, I’ll just toss the salt shaker and problem solved.”

Unfortunately, reducing your salt is easy, but not that easy. The reason is 75 to 80 percent of the sodium we consume is added to food before we open a package from the store or sit down in a restaurant. Although packaged foods are very high in sodium, they pale in comparison to restaurant foods. So, unless you make all of your food from scratch, it will take some thinking and planning to get the job done, but it is so worth the effort.

A few scary things about hypertension: research shows 90 percent of the people in this country develop this disease; the primary cause is exposure to excess sodium; and hypertension doesn’t make you feel anything so many don’t know they have it.

How much sodium should we be ingesting? The experts are telling us if we are middle aged or older, are black, or already have high blood pressure, we should have no more than 1,500 mg per day. Everyone else should shoot for 2,300 mg per day. The average American woman consumes roughly 3,000 mg and the average man more than 4,000 mg per day.

There are many other ways to lower our blood pressure besides reducing salt. However, for many, cutting sodium is the easiest strategy.

Here are some ideas to get started. When it comes to behavior change, often it is easier to add something rather than take something away. New studies have shown that dietary intake of potassium is linked to lower risk of death from heart disease. Add these potassium powerhouses: sweet potatoes; tomato paste, puree, juice, sauce; potatoes; white beans; low or no fat yogurt; prunes or prune juice; halibut; soybeans; tuna; lima beans; winter squash; bananas and spinach.

Many of the convenience-packaged meals — the heat and serve types such as the ones made by Bertolli, Near East, Tasty Bite, Zatarain’s— could give you one half to a full day’s worth of sodium in one serving. Get in the habit of reading the food facts label on all packaged foods and choose the lower sodium products. In addition, you can reduce the sodium content and get more bang for your buck and more substantial nutrition by adding healthy fillers such as steamed or raw vegetables including broccoli, asparagus or tomatoes, whole grains such as bulgur, quinoa, as well as legumes such as canned beans or lentils.

In my research, I have found in many restaurants such as the Olive Garden, Chili’s, Outback and Chipotle, single entrees could have 2,000 to 4,000 mg of sodium, a real “sodium land mine.”

When going out to eat, look online or ask for the nutritional content of the dishes served. When eating out, do a little research on your own and try to find the dishes that have lower sodium content.  Ask your waitperson if the dish you are ordering could be prepared with less salt.

When eating at home, put the salt shaker in the pantry and leave it there. Instead, try adding some herbs and spices or try one of the commercial products like Ms. Dash. Trust me, this will jazz up your dish so much you will never miss the salt. Once you start cutting back on the salt, your taste buds will naturally become more sensitive to salt and you will find things you were eating in the past will taste much more salty to you.

Stuart Offer, DC, CSCS, CLC, is a Wellness Coach & Educator with Hickok & Boardman Group Benefits.

Easy Ways to Enhance Your Home’s Accessibility

May 15, 2013  
Filed under Home & Garden

As America’s 76 million baby boomers approach retirement age, their home’s accessibility and ease of use becomes just as important as its aesthetic. New products and smart designs are making it easier for the forever-young generation to improve their homes for convenient use, intuitive functionality and comfort—all while maintaining their own sense of style.

When making aging in place updates to your home, here are some considerations to make:

If you’ve ever cut raw chicken or shaped hamburger patties in your hands, you know how inconvenient it is to turn the knobs or levers to your kitchen sink with messy fingers. Thankfully, manufacturers are introducing touchless kitchen sinks to streamline and simplify cooking and cleaning tasks.

Good lighting is critical, especially in the kitchen and bathroom where insufficient lighting can result in accidents. In these spaces, task lighting is key, whether it’s above the vanity in the master bath or where the majority of food prep takes place in the kitchen. Consider swapping standard toggle switches out for paddle switches—the wider surface area provides a simpler way to turn the lights on and off.

The floor can make a huge difference in both comfort and safety. Slip-resistant surfaces are of utmost importance. If new flooring is a part of your home update, be sure to find out the slip-resistance rating for the surface you’re considering. Keep the following in mind: honed stone provides significantly more traction than polished. And for even more traction, consider a smaller tile size—especially in the bathroom. More grout equals more slip-resistance.

Use color and materials to mark the transition from room to room, inside to outside, to make moving throughout the home safer. A floor with a color similar to carpet in an adjacent room could be a tripping hazard, so reduce risk by using different colors to transition from room to room.

Color contrast is one of the easiest updates to do. Paint a band of contrasting color at the edge of a transition in the floor.

As we age, it becomes more difficult to get in and out of low seating — the toilet is no different. Toilets with a height comparable to standard chairs makes it easier for all of us to sit down or stand up.

Whether your age-in-place update simply includes swapping out your kitchen faucet or embarking on a sizeable renovation, incorporating these smart changes will help you live safely and stylishly in the place you love to call home.

–Info courtesy Kohler Co.

Six Levels of Senior Housing in Vermont

• Independent Housing: private residential units with kitchen and dining areas, bedroom(s), bathroom(s), and living areas; barrier-free with emergency call features, housing management and maintenance services, geared toward independently functioning people. No regular meals, housekeeping, or home health services.

• Congregate Housing: private apartments in a complex that contains central dining and other common areas for those who want or need some supportive services including dining, housekeeping, home health and other assistance.

• Assisted Living: private living units and bathing facilities in a complex; common dining and activity areas; geared toward those who have difficulty functioning independently and who require oversight; provide an array of services, including 24-hour staff, meal plans, transportation services, nursing assessment, care planning/oversight, medication management, organized activities.

• Shared Homes: private bedrooms and either private or shared bathrooms, with common living, dining, and kitchen areas for those wanting a home-like setting; support services such as daily meals, service coordination, and light housekeeping. Residents can bring in hospice care, but these homes are not designed for those with intensive medical needs.

• Residential Care Homes (RCHs): two categories in Vermont – Level III and Level IV; not required to be barrier-free or to offer private accommodations and baths, although many do. Both levels of licensure provide general supervision, personal care assistance, organized activities and transportation services up to three times per month. Level III RCHs also provide nursing oversight, medication management and 24-hour staffing. Level IV RCHs do not.

• Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs): combine independent housing, congregate housing, and assisted living with the availability of nursing home care; require a significant upfront investment, and monthly fees; offer individual residents the benefit of remaining in their community as care-level needs increase.

Compiled by Don Manders with help from Veda Lyon, Manager of the Community Development Unit for the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living

Where Alaskans Go For Vacation

May 15, 2013  
Filed under Travel

The glacier fjords of the Kenai Peninsula are some of the most spectacular in Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Jim Farber)

Exploring The Kenai Peninsula

By Jim Farber

Alaska is so vast that trying to take it all in during a single visit is practically impossible. And while Denali National Park (crowned by Mount McKinley) is certainly the state’s marquee nature attraction, focusing a visit on a less remote, more diverse area of the state — say the Kenai Peninsula — may ultimately prove more rewarding.

Here is a landscape of towering snow-capped peaks, rushing rivers and mighty glaciers that have carved their way to the sea. This is also one of the great wildlife centers of the world, where boisterous rookeries of gulls and puffins nest, colonies of sea lions bask in the sun, and pods of orcas, other whales and dolphins slip gracefully through the waves.

The Kenai Peninsula extends approximately 150 miles into the Gulf of Alaska south of Anchorage, separated from the mainland on the west by the Cook Inlet and on the east by Prince William Sound. The towering Kenai Mountains form its southeast spine. But the region’s crown jewel is the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Getting to the Kenai Peninsula is at least half the fun. Anchorage and the peninsula’s two major cruise ship ports, Seward and Whittier, are connected by the Alaska Railroad, which features some of the most spectacular stretches of track in all of Alaska. The railroad has a package that allows passengers to get off the train, hike to a glacier, then return and board a later train.

Many visitors arrive by way of the Alaska Ferry system or aboard any number of cruise ship lines. Visitors can also take advantage of the state’s ever-popular floatplanes.

Renting a car is another great way to explore the peninsula’s mountainous interior and historic seacoast towns, such as the fishing port of Homer, where, incidentally, the road comes to an end.

If fishing is on your itinerary, the Kenai River offers a yearly salmon run that is world-famous.

From fish camps to luxury resorts, the Kenai Peninsula offers a wide range of accommodations for visitors. One of the most unusual of these getaway spots is the Tutka Bay Lodge. Accessible by small boat from Homer or by floatplane, the lodge is located on the piney wooded shore of Kachemak Bay.

In contrast, the town of Seward (named for U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, who fought for the purchase of Alaska in 1867) bustles with visitors. The city is located at the picturesque end of Resurrection Bay and is the primary port for the fleet of day boats that ferry visitors to the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Seward is also home to the Windsong Lodge. Located close to town but secluded in a woodland setting, the lodge is the gateway to Exit Glacier, one of the few easily accessible glaciers in Alaska and ideal for hiking.

For those who are seeking a different form of escape, however, few experiences can match a two-night, three-day stay at the Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge on Fox Island. Dropped off by boat, overnight visitors stay in one of nine rustic cabins that line the pine-fringed, rocky beach.

Mount McKinley is one heck of a mountain and a must-see for anyone’s first trip to Alaska. But the Kenai Peninsula offers a whole other experience, which is why it is where Alaskans go to spend their vacations.

For general information:  

Proposed Federal Budget Plan Caps Retirement Savings

May 15, 2013  
Filed under Money

By Terry Savage

The government wants to limit how much money you can save in a tax-deferred retirement account, saying too many people are taking tax deductions for saving more money than they are likely to need.

That’s a proposal in the president’s much-delayed budget plan — a proposal the administration figures will generate an additional $9 billion in revenue over the next decade, by capping total retirement savings for individuals.

But at what cost? The budget gap might be narrowed now — but this limitation would leave a huge swath of baby boomers without enough savings to fund a 30-year retirement, and offset the impact of inflation.

The irony is that this is “IRA season,” when financial services firms are focused on getting people to put the allowable limit of $5,000 into their IRA as they pay their taxes. The limit rises to $5,500 for 2013 contributions and $6,500 for those 50 and older who need to catch up — in recognition of the need for more, not less, retirement savings.

The budget proposal would prohibit workers from having more than $3 million in a retirement account. But that math simply won’t work for the middle class.

If an individual starts an IRA in her 20s and contributes only $2,000 a year for 50 years, and earns the historic average return of nearly 10 percent annually in an IRA, she would have a retirement account worth $2.5 million at retirement age.

The Ibbotson historical average return for a diversified portfolio of large company American stocks with dividends reinvested over the past 70 years is 9.8 percent.

But will even $2.5 million be enough to support your lifestyle over a presumed 30-year retirement period?

Most financial analysis says you could withdraw about 4 percent of your diversified retirement account every year and make your money last your lifetime. So having a $3 million portfolio the day you stop working means you could take out about $125,000 per year — pretax, of course. And assuming tax rates will be higher, not lower, you would have about $90,000 per year to spend.

That sounds great, until you realize that at even Ibbotson’s historic average inflation rate of 3 percent annually, the buying power of your money would be cut in half in less than 25 years of your retirement.

Is it better for our nation to have a generation living on the equivalent of $45,000 a year in retirement? What cars or health care will they be able to buy? How much money will they be able to leave in their investments — funding capital growth for newly created businesses? Or helping their grandchildren pay for college? Or buying Treasury bills to help fund our national debt?

The sad fact is that most Americans won’t have anywhere near that $3 million amount saved when they retire. They will be dependent on a Social Security program that, under the new budget plan, will give less adequate cost-of-living increases.

This proposal to lower the cap on total retirement savings is designed to make everyone share this dependence — or force them to work (if they can find jobs) until they die.

Limiting incentives to save for retirement is the last thing this country needs. Since our politicians — both parties — can’t figure out how to make our government more solvent, they should at least keep encouraging us to build our own savings for the future. — CNS

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is the author of the new book, “The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?”

See the Central Vermont 50+ EXPO Prizewinners

May 15, 2013  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Hundreds of baby boomers, seniors and visitors of all ages took in live music, informative seminars and dozens of interactive booths at the Central Vermont 50+ EXPO, held April 27 in Rutland. Many exhibitors gave away prizes—see if you’re one of the winners!

Looking for Love and Companionship Online

May 15, 2013  
Filed under Savvy Senior

savy-srBy Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

What can you tell me about online dating for older people? My daughter has been urging me to give it a try, but at age 62, I’m a little hesitant.

—Lonely Senior

Dear Lonely,

Dating sites have become enormously popular among the older generation in recent years. In fact, boomers and seniors make up about 20 percent of online daters today, and the numbers keeps growing. Here’s what you should know.

Meeting Online

If you’re interested in dating again or are just looking for a friend to spend time with, dating websites are an easy way to meet hundreds of new single people without ever having to leave home.

If you’re feeling hesitant, a good way to ease into it is to visit a few dating sites and look around. Most services allow you to check out their members at no cost or obligation. Then, if you like what you see, you can sign up (fees typically range between $15 and $60 per month, however some sites are free) and start emailing members you’re interested in or they can email you. Here are some other tips to help you get started.

Choose a site

With over 1,000 matchmaking sites on the Internet today, choosing can be a bit overwhelming. Depending on your preferences, here are some popular options to look into.

If you don’t want to spend any money, free sites like and are good places to start, but beware that these sites have a lot of ads.

If you’re interested in lots of choices, consider mainstream sites like and which have huge memberships in all demographics.

Or, if you are looking to find a specific type of person, there are hundreds of niche sites like and for those 50 and older, for book lovers, for animal lovers, for vegetarians, for Jewish singles, for African Americans, and whose slogan is “Find God’s Match for You.” Or, check out AARP’s new dating website partner

Create a profile

When you join a dating site, you’ll need to create a personality profile that reflects who you are including recent photos, hobbies, interests, activities and more. If you need some help, sites like or can write one for you for a fee.

Use caution

When you register with a dating site, you remain anonymous. No one gets access to your full name, address, phone number or email until you decide to give it out. So be very prudent who you give your information to, and before meeting, chat on the phone a few times or video chat online, and when you do meet in person for the first time, meet in a public place or bring a friend along. If you want to be extra cautious, you can do a quick background check on your date for a few dollars at sites like and

Don’t be naive

In an effort to get more responses, many people will exaggerate or flat out lie in their profiles, or post pictures that are 10 years old or 20 pounds lighter. So don’t believe everything you see or read.

Make an effort

A lot of times, people – especially women – sit back and let others come to them. Don’t be afraid to make the first move. When you find someone you like, send a short note that says, “I really enjoyed your profile. I think we have some things in common.” Keep it simple.

Don’t get discouraged

If you don’t get a response from someone, don’t let it bother you. Just move on. There are many others that will be interested in you and it only takes one person to make Internet dating worthwhile.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Shelburne Museum’s Center for Art and Education to Open Aug. 18

May 14, 2013  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Opening day for Shelburne Museum’s new Center for Art and Education is set for Aug. 18, Shelburne Museum Director Thomas Denenberg recently announced.

The opening marks a milestone for the museum of art, design and Americana. For the first time in the museum’s 66-year history, Shelburne Museum will be open year-round.

“The Center for Art and Education allows the museum to broaden its educational and cultural offerings by being accessible year-round with an expanded range of exhibitions and a variety of new and enriching programming,” Denenberg said. “We envision the center as a cultural hub for the community with an array of lectures and events, music and film along with changing exhibitions of fine art, folk art and design.”

The 18,000-square-foot center was designed by Ann Beha Architects, a Boston-based firm with extensive expertise in museum and sustainable building design. The center includes galleries, an auditorium and a classroom.

The Center’s design meets the LEED certification standards of the U.S. Green Building Council including use of local materials to reduce required transportation of materials and to support the local economy. For more information, visit