Grace and the Baron

September 13, 2013  
Filed under Places I’ve Played

By Bill Skiff

“America has lost it’s love affair with cars,” according to a recent New York Times article. I don’t believe it for one minute. Ever since we traded our horses for cars, the love affair has continued. Horses took us where we wanted to go. We enjoyed grooming them and took pride in how they looked. We groom our cars today, make sure they are full of fuel, and take them for rides into the sunset. Yes, I have always loved my cars.

When I was 10 years old, I learned to drive by standing on the running board of my Dad’s 1939 Ford truck. My legs were too short to reach the clutch, but I could still steer it around the meadow as we picked up hay. Dad started the truck, put it in gear, pulled out the throttle, then jumped up on the load while I drove.

The first time I drove legally was in our 1948 family Ford. I was 16 and my license had just arrived in the mail. As I sat in the kitchen fondling it, Dad said,” Bill, I am all out of cigarettes, would you mind going to the village to get me a new pack?”

Are you kidding?! I was out the door and on the road in nothing flat. As I was cruising along, thinking how great it was to be finally liberated, I entered the narrow bridge going into Jeffersonville. Right in the middle of the bridge, I met a Vermont Transit bus. When we passed, it was only by inches. That was when I realized driving was fun, but it was also serious business.

I learned other disadvantages to driving. It was much more fun sitting in the back seat with my girlfriend while Dad drove us home from a dance than in was driving her home myself. I guess today we would call it multitasking. While having one hand on the wheel and one around her shoulders, I still had to operate the clutch and shift gears. Staying on my side of the road took skill. Thank the Lord for my necker’s nob.

I never had a car until I was married. My wife came with a 1949 Plymouth. It was powder blue and drove like a dream. It was the first car I ever half-owned.

The first car we chose together was a 1958 VW Bug. One summer, we drove it from Stowe to Mexico City. I fixed it up so we could sleep in it. Yes, it was tight quarters, but who cared — we were newlyweds. It did not have a gas gauge, so I filled its 10-gallon tank every 300 miles. I once got 41 miles a gallon.

When our four children came along, we bought a VW bus. We could cruise down the road with every one of them lying down sleeping in the back. It made many long trips shorter.

A few year ago, I finally bought my toy — a 1995 Chrysler LeBaron convertible, fire engine red with a white top. I groom it every chance I get, keep it full of fuel and love driving it into the sunset.

A couple of weeks ago, my 16-year-old granddaughter Grace sent me a text: “Papa, I am taking driver education now; I also just passed my driver’s permit. When I come up next week to visit, do you think we could take the Baron out for a drive?”

When she arrived, I had it parked out front with a sign that read, “Grace, I have been waiting for you.”

When the weather finally cleared, we put the top down and took it out for Grace’s inaugural drive. I told her it had been a long time since I had ridden in a convertible with a beautiful blond. She smiled.

As we drove along, she had her hands at the standard driver’s ed position of 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. I said, “Grace, if you won’t tell your mother, I will show you how to really enjoy driving a convertible—place your right hand on top of the wheel. Now, put your left elbow on the top of the door and your left hand, grasp the side of the windshield support. She did remarking, “This is cool!” We agree it’s not as safe, but it is way more cool.

Bill Skiff and his granddaughter Grace enjoy a ‘cool’ drive in Skiff’s LeBaron. (Courtesy photo)

When we arrived back home, she parked it so she could see it from our porch. Later, as I was sitting on the porch with my youngest grandson, he looked at the Baron with a long sad face and said, “Papa did you give the Baron to Grace?”

I replied that I had not given it to anyone. When he looked back at me, he was wearing a big grin when he said, “Yet!” Hope springs eternal.

In my family at least, America’s love affair with cars is far from over.

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

Enough Already, Too Much Eating Out

September 13, 2013  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer

There are lyrics to a song “These Are the Good Ole Days.” While I may agree with this about many things, there is one thing I truly do not agree with and that is eating out. I remember as a kid and young adult eating out was reserved for special occasions, celebrations and when we wanted to indulge ourselves. Fast forward to today and it seems almost everyone is eating out most days of the week. Don’t get me wrong, I get it; we are so busy, stressed out and wired up we just don’t have the time or energy to shop, prepare, eat and then clean up after meals at home. The bottom line is most of us are eating out way too much. Although eating out is lots of fun, there are many traps.

That being said, there are times I do want to go out to eat and indulge and have a nutritional disaster, just not day after day.

Whether you find yourself in the drive-thru or the local sushi den, use these rules to navigate the many nutritional land mines waiting for you in the restaurant world.

Front-Load with Protein: A study published in Physiology & Behavior showed that people who ate a protein-heavy appetizer consumed an average of 16 percent fewer calories in their entrée than those who loaded up with carbohydrates. The effect is spoiled, though, if you wolf down a bunch of greasy chicken strips. Look for something like shrimp cocktail, which hasn’t been deep-fried or slathered with cheese.

Avoid Handouts: Just because it doesn’t cost money doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a price. Munch on a couple of Olive Garden’s bread sticks or Texas Roadhouse dinner rolls and you’ve just put down 300 calories before your meal arrives. A basket of chips at the Mexican joint? Expect a dietary price tag around 500 calories, which can easily double the impact of an entrée. Not so free now, is it?

Don’t Fall for Combos: At every fast-food restaurant, as soon as you decide on an entrée, expect to face some variation of this question: “Would you like to make it a combo meal?” Of course, you’re tempted. This is the modern-day equivalent of supersizing, wherein you get an average of 55 percent more calories for 17 percent more money. Just say “No.”

Drink Responsibly: Sure, sure, you know all about the dangers of soda, but here’s something you might not realize: A cup of sweet tea is only marginally better than Pepsi. Each glass you drink with dinner adds about 120 calories to your meal, and the same goes for juice. In fact, America’s love affair with flavored drinks adds 450 calories to our daily diet.

Personalize Your Order: Think of the menu as a list of starting points. Any respectable joint in the country, even fast-food purveyors, will tailor to your wants, but only if you voice them. The caloric savings are as big as your imagination. Ask for mustard instead of mayo, broiled instead of fried. Order whole-grain bread for your sandwich, whole wheat pasta and request light oil with your omelet.

Think Thin: Want to know the easiest way to make a portly pizza? Here’s a hint: it has nothing to do with toppings. Nope, the biggest problem facing your pie is the massive boat of oily crust hunkering along the bottom. Your best defense is to order it as thin as you can. Rather than a deep dish, downsize to a thin crust and you just burned hundreds of calories without lifting a finger.

Order It To Go: How many times have you finished your plate just because there wasn’t enough to take home? Well, next time, make sure there’s enough. Every time you order a full-size dinner entrée, ask the server to deliver a to-go box with your food. The food is easier to divide before you start eating, and you won’t have to fight the temptation of a half-eaten manicotti in your face.

Be a Dessert Dodger: The average dessert at T.G.I. Friday’s, for instance, packs 819 calories. So rather than order your own massive dessert, ask for an extra spoon and take a few bites from your tablemates’. You’ll be doing everyone a favor.

If time is an issue for you, try this fast, healthy and delish dish.

Shrimp & Mango Lettuce Wraps

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

8 large Bibb lettuce leaves

1 mango, sliced

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint

lime wedges and Sriracha or Asian chili-garlic sauce, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and garlic and cook until the shrimp are opaque, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the fish sauce and toss to combine.

Top the lettuce leaves with the shrimp mixture, mango, peanuts, and mint. Serve with lime wedges and Sriracha sauce, if desired.

Stuart Offer, DC, CSCS, CLC, is a Wellness Coach & Educator with Hickok & Boardman Group Benefits. He lives in in South Burlington.

Harnessing the Power of the Sun

September 13, 2013  
Filed under Home & Garden

An old Vermont barn with new solar panels. Vermont ranks ninth among states in solar power usage per capita. (Photo by Phyl Newbeck)

By Phyl Newbeck

Vermont isn’t the sunniest state in the country but that doesn’t mean homeowners can’t harness the power of the sun as a way to save money on electric bills. In fact, despite the fact that nobody will ever confuse the Green Mountain State with Arizona or New Mexico, Vermont ranks ninth among states in solar power per capita according to a report by Environment America Research and Policy Center.

Suzanne Elowson of Efficiency Vermont said the most common installations in Vermont used to be for solar hot water but these days, photovoltaic arrays for electricity have surpassed them.

Elowson said solar hot water makes sense for larger families or those with high water use. A typical single family home installs a two-collector system which provides 60 kBtus (British thermal units) per day. A Btu is a measurement of heat energy with one Btu equaling the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. The cost of such a system is just under $9,000 and homeowners can get $900 off the cost thanks to the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund. Elowson said there are additional tax credits through the federal government which vary based on the homeowner’s tax burden, but generally can cover 30 percent of the total installation costs with no cap. Those incentives are scheduled to expire in 2016.

Most solar hot water systems are roof-mounted, although they can be pole-mounted, as well. The advantage to roof-mounting is cost and the fact that energy can be lost as it travels through the pipes of pole-mounted structures. Efficiency Vermont doesn’t have figures for how many systems have been installed in the state because many are off-grid and therefore don’t access the incentive program. Over 1,300 have been installed through the EF program since it began in late 2003, with 61 others in the process of being installed.

Those willing to spend more money can use the sun for their electric appliances and systems. And the advantage of solar electricity is the ability to net meter and bank your excess for later, whereas most hot water systems over-produce in the summer but need to be supplemented by another heat source in the winter.

There are three options for solar electricity: roof-mounted, fixed ground-mounted and trackers. Roof-mounted systems are the most popular and least expensive. Such systems are impractical on shaded roofs or those without southern exposure and since the panels must be removed when the roof is repaired or replaced, homeowners may not want to install them on older roofs. The average roof-mounted solar electric system costs $25,000 and provides 5,700 kWh (kilowatt hours) of energy. A kWh is the amount of power generated in one hour. If you run a 100-watt bulb for ten hours, it will use one kWh of energy.

Fixed pole mounted systems are more expensive than roof-mounted because of the infrastructure required, but Elowson said these systems are becoming more popular.

Tracking panels, which follow the sun, are the most expensive and the most efficient, although they do lose some of the electricity they gain for their movement. AllEarth Renewables of Williston claims GPS-controlled trackers produce roughly 40 percent more electricity than a fixed array, although it should be noted that most fixed systems can be adjusted manually to follow the sun when it is higher in the sky in the summer and lower in the winter with up to five possible settings. There can also be some loss of energy from systems that are a distance from their inverter. Pole mounted systems require a Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board. A permit from the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation is now also required for roof-mounted systems on buildings 50 years of age and older.

The good news is there are incentives for homeowners who install solar systems. Residential customers can get $.45 per watt up to 10kw for a total of $4,500 from Efficiency Vermont.  When the organization first started offering incentives in 2003, only 40 homeowners took advantage of the offer. In 2012, that number was almost 500. Some utilities provide additional incentives.

A number of companies have begun leasing solar panels with the option to buy, making alternative energy more cost-effective. Some leases offer no-money-down installation with a fixed monthly price based on the homeowner’s current energy consumption, while others require a deposit and have variable rates. Elowson said leased systems now constitute roughly half the solar systems in the state and, in general, provide a greater return on a homeowner’s investment.

Warren Coolidge installed a 5.6 kW tracking array at his Colchester home in November 2011. In 2012, he netted 8,593 kWh, but he is slightly behind those numbers this year because of the lack of sunshine. Coolidge’s system is considered a “power purchase agreement.” He is charged a monthly fee based on his production and at the end of five years, he will have the option to purchase the array for either 30 percent of the original price or the current price if that number is lower. Coolidge’s house is completely electric—his heating system runs off three heat pumps powered by electricity, although he supplements occasionally with a woodstove.

“There’s a lot of normalization of solar,” said Elowson. “The more you see it, the more you’re used to it and the more it becomes an option for you. In Vermont, there’s interest in alternative forms of energy and the leasing option has made solar financially accessible.”

Coolidge is extremely happy with his panels (which replaced an earlier array which was smaller and less reliable). “On a scale of one to five, “he said, “I’d give them a ten.”

Are You at Risk of Falling?

September 13, 2013  
Filed under Health & Wellness

By Michelle Turner

As we start to age, balance and coordination can affect our overall health. Few people realize, until after the fact, that a risk fall can set a person back for months and can even lead to death.

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries to older people in the United States. More than one-third of adults ages 65 years and older (about 12 million people) fall each year.

Here is a simple checklist to see if you, or someone that you love, is at risk for falling and tips on possible ways to prevent one from happening.

Do you walk with a full gait? This means that your foot should travel behind your pelvis before you lift it to move your foot forward. When you are able to do this, your balance is good. You should be able to stand and dress yourself and go up and down the stairs without much thought.

Do you have a short gait? This means that your feet don’t go past you or your pelvis. This can mean that you might need to hold onto something to fully dress yourself and you need to think about going to go up and down stairs with added support.

Do you shuffle? This means that you no longer pick your feet up to walk. Your balance system is minimal. You may require high blood pressure medication. You can no longer fully dress yourself while standing. You can only go up and down stairs one at a time.

Do you have a death grip? Are you holding onto the steering wheel as if you are going to take it with you? If you have a cane or a walker do you use a full grip with both hands? It’s difficult to get in and out of chairs, a booth or your car.

Are your fingers constantly splayed as if you were drying your nails? If so, this means that you have already fallen or have come very close on several occasions. You system is startled and is already bracing for impact. If your hands are in this position while you are sleeping, this shows that you have fallen, possibly more than once, and you can’t relax, even when you are lying down.

Do you touch the walls or furniture? Do you need to touch something to make sure that you stand up?

Are you a wounded bird?

Do you walk around with one or both arms bent, as if you were carrying around a purse?

If you answered yes to number one then you should have answered no to the rest. Your conscious brain is neither worrying nor has concern for your balance. If you answered no to the first one and yes to one or more of the others consider the following:

• Check your medications: all medications have side effects. Many medications can cause drowsiness, headaches, poor coordination and other symptoms in relation to balance.

• Clear the runway: this is a good time to look at your home from when you step out of the car to going to bed. Is there a brick missing from the front steps? Do you have rugs that curl in the corner? Do you need to navigate around furniture? Even if you are” too young” to fall, you might be putting a visitor at risk.

• Eliminate close calls: do you frequently find yourself thinking about how to get out of the shower? This would be a great time to install a hand-grip to help you.

• Look at your feet: I’m sure that i’m not the first person to recommend a good tie shoe. If your shoes are worn, too high or too loose, it can lead to falls.

• Work with a movement specialist: people think that going to the gym or working out is the best way to keep your balance. It is if your balance is already healthy and you are maintaining that level. If you have suffered a fall or are starting to worry that you might fall, it’s a good time to work with someone who will personally evaluate where your system might be unorganized and in need of assistance.

There will always be a situation that might result in a fall. If you follow these easy steps, it will help keep you walking with ease and stability.

Michelle Turner is the author of articles for active adults.

Lyric Theatre Company Turns 40

September 13, 2013  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

Lyric Theatre’s 1976 production of “My Fair Lady.” In this scene (left to right) Lill Johnson, Judge Thomas Hayes, Jeanette Lascoumes and Harry Lantz. (Courtesy photo)

By Syndi Zook

Lyric Theatre Company is proudly celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. In December of 1973, the late W. Howard Delano invited a few friends to his home on a snowy winter’s night and together they conceived a plan to bring large scale, quality musical theater to Northern Vermont, utilizing local talent and supported by local donors and completely run by volunteers. Howard had served as an usher at the Flynn Theatre when he was a boy and realized that live productions at the Flynn were possible as it had been constructed for Vaudeville shows in the 1920s and all of the rigging and stage equipment was still in place, though unused for decades.

Howard, his wife Ellie and Charter members, Polly and Red Nulty, Chet Cook, Bill and Terri Kneen, Jeffrey Aronson, Bruce Hewitt, Steve Plumb, Donna Riera and Gib Smith, among others, mounted Lyric’s first show in May 1974—“How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.” It was a creative success, but a financial failure. Costing $15,000 to produce, it lost half that amount. The members of the group personally chipped in and raised enough money to mount one more show. “Gypsy” went up in November of that same year and was a critical and financial success. Lyric never looked back.

Lyric followed “Gypsy” with “Pajama Game,” and then in November 1975, Lyric hit its stride with a production of “My Fair Lady,” which sold 7,000 tickets and set the high standard for costumes and sets that Lyric adheres to to this day. Followed by lauded performances of “Guys and Dolls” and “Oklahoma” in 1976, Lyric cemented its reputation as an amateur, all-volunteer theater company that could produce shows of professional quality.

Those were the days when the Flynn was still a movie house, but all of that changed in 1980 when Lyric led the drive to purchase the Flynn, putting in all the money it had from it’s own bank account and creating the non-profit corporation known as The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. Lyric then gave ownership of the Flynn to the community through that new entity, which has had very important ramifications for our region.

From 1974 to 1980, the only live use of the Flynn stage was by Lyric Theatre Company. This season, the Flynn Center will present over 215 live performances.

Lyric and The Flynn remain two separate entities, but Lyric enjoys the privilege of putting on its shows at the beautiful Flynn Theatre. This has, of course, brought more competition to Lyric Theatre, but through it all, Lyric has been faithful to its mission of providing quality musical theater at affordable prices.

Thirty years later, Lyric has embarked on another capital mission. Though we perform at the Flynn, we do not have a place of our own to rehearse our shows. We have a very small and inadequate warehouse to build and store costumes and sets. We are hoping to raise $1.44 million to purchase a facility that will put all the aspects of building and rehearsing a show under one roof. Just like in 1980, we desperately need to improve conditions for our more than 400 volunteers, so we can continue to meet our mission for another 40 years.

So, 83 productions later, Lyric has certainly emerged as a jewel in the Vermont arts crown, providing creative opportunities for local singers, dancers, theater technicians and musicians, as well as bringing millions of dollars into the regional economy over these many years. The budget for this season’s shows will top $300,000—a far cry from the $15,000 inaugural season in 1974. But with continued support from the community, Lyric will still make these beautiful productions available to the public at affordable prices.

Our spectacular 40th anniversary productions will be “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” Nov. 14–17 and nine performances of “Les Miserables” April 4–13, 2014.

Do you have a favorite Lyric show, or memory of a Lyric production from 30 or 40 years ago? Lyric wants to hear from you. Send your memory to

I hope that you will join us for what is sure to be a fabulous season. Tickets are on sale at

Syndi Zook is the executive director of Lyric Theatre Co.

Imagination Never Dies

September 13, 2013  
Filed under Mature Matters

By Sarah Lemnah

The Flynn Theatre will present Sandglass’s Theater’s production of “D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks” this November. There are two things that make this production stand out—it uses puppets to tell a story and the story was written by and inspired by seniors in late-stage dementia.

Some may question how people with dementia could create this compelling story, others might question how could this possibly be moving and even funny in parts, while others will look for clues on how they can take the technique behind this story to help re-establish relationships with their loved ones living with dementia.

This production used a technique called TimeSlips. Developed in 1996 by Dr. Ann Basting at the University Of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center on Age and Community, this technique allows people with late-stage dementia who have trouble communicating find new ways to re-connect with their loved ones. Many people with dementia feel stressed from being in situations where they are being forced to try to remember. Using the TimeSlips method, they can relax and use their imaginations.

Basting had been using games to try to reach late-stage Alzheimer’s patients, and one day, out of frustration, she tore a picture of the Marlboro man out of a magazine and held it up and asked the seniors to tell a story about the picture. They did.

Since that time, studies have shown that people using TimeSlips become more socially engaged, have better relationships with caregivers, have more self-esteem and are seen differently by their caregivers. Their caregivers and loved ones can once again connect with them. People with advanced dementia can use their imaginations instead of their memory as the social catalyst.

Excerpts on the Sandglass Theater website are haunting, thought-provoking and humorous. This group did an amazing job of presenting information in a way that is gripping and will affect how you see dementia and how you interact with those living with it. At times, it provokes thought or sadness, but then a wave of laughter as you see the human spirit cannot be destroyed even when a person has late-stage dementia.

It is hard to believe these stories were written by people who many feel are no longer able to communicate. The imagination allows them the freedom not to worry about being right or wrong or of having to remember. Their imagination is their truth, there is no judgment.

One caregiver in the play talks about his experience working with a lady named Mary. “For a brief moment, it is like the light will go on and our eyes meet and she smiles and I smile and she laughs.”

TimeSlips allows them to use their imaginations to gain their freedom, something that is a rare commodity for someone who has become the one taken care of instead of being able to make their own decisions. However, it is not all hearts and flowers and the hard truth about living with dementia does come up—one character says she is “afraid of fading away.”

However, it is clear that the late-stage Alzheimer’s patients that wrote this play are not fading away. Their imaginations continue to soar and through it they can be connected to those they love. For more information about “D-Generation: An Exaltation of Larks” or to purchase tickets, call the Flynn at 86-Flynn or visit

Sarah Lemnah writes on senior issues for CVAA. If you have questions on senior issues, call the Senior HelpLine at 1-800-642-5119 or visit

A Garden Hackle Hike

September 9, 2013  
Filed under Places I’ve Played

By Bill Skiff

My dad taught me how to trout fish. He was not a fly fisherman. In fact, the only thing he knew about fly fishing was that a Garden Hackle was the best fly.

Every Lamoille County kid knew that a Garden Hackle was a fancy term for a worm. They were easily found and dirt cheap. They came in various sizes and lengths. Dad’s favorites came from under a few rotten boards by the manure sink.

When we first started fishing, I would carry the worms in an old tomato soup can with some dirt and grass on top. I left the top on so the Hackles wouldn’t fly out. Later on, Dad bought me a container with a belt holder so I could carry them on the front of my belt, making them ready for easy access.

Dad and I loved the small brooks that wound their way down the Vermont mountains. It was exciting to come upon a series of clear pools formed by water falling over the rocks and ridges. We had a gentleman’s agreement as to how to fish those pools. When we arrived at a series of pools, Dad let me fish the first one. He would then start at the pool above. When I finished at my pool, I would move to the one above Dad. This way each of us had the opportunity to be the first one at a new pool. I did notice that Dad seemed to always arrange it so I came to the best pools first.

I enjoyed Dad’s fishing technique. There was no playing with the trout or gracefully bringing them in to lift them out with your finger hooked through their gills. Dad taught the “hook ‘em, throw them out on the bank and jump on them.” It worked great. Many times as I was throwing a trout up onto the bank, it would come unhooked and fall to the ground. That’s when the jump on them part was real useful. It prevented them from falling back into the brook.

Our favorite brook was up in Pleasant Valley. We drove along Upper Pleasant Valley Road until we saw a cow path. We then walked our way up the path until we reached the bottom of Mount Mansfield. After walking in the woods for a distance, a brook would appear. There was no better sight than to see that brook in the early morning sunshine with the diamonds of light falling over its crystal clear water.

They say you can never go home, but recently I wondered if you can go to your brook. I wanted my grandson to experience the joy I felt so many years ago. I decided to see if he and I could find that brook again. After a few false starts on Upper Pleasant Valley Road, I spotted what I felt was the right turn toward the mountain. Instead of a cow path, we found a dirt road with houses on both sides. Then the trail became a sugar road with plastic pipes running alongside. Finally, we walked into the woods and shortly we arrived at that wonderful old brook. It seemed smaller than I remember but just as beautiful and pure.

After explaining Dad’s gentleman’s agreement for fishing mountain pools, off we went. The fish were as small as I remembered them and the experience was just as rewarding. After frying our catch and adding some pancakes and fried potatoes, we completed our Hackle Hike.

Now another Vermont boy knows where there is a mountain brook where he can find peace, solitude and some small brookies when he needs them.

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. He now lives in Williston. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at