Armistead’s Samantha Wendel Earns Certification

April 19, 2014  
Filed under News

Armistead Caregiver Services recently announced that Samantha Wendel, Armistead’s Geriatric Care Manager, has earned the distinguished certification of Care Manager Certified (CMC) from the National Academy of Certified Care Managers. As a Geriatric Care Manager, Wendel is able to assist seniors and people living with disabilities in the community by coordinating services of all types. This enables clients with chronic, functional and/or cognitive limitations to obtain the highest level of independence consistent with their capacity and their preferences for care.

Art Off the Beaten Track

April 9, 2014  
Filed under Arts & Entertainment

The Blinking Light Gallery in Plainfield was given its name because it is situated near the only lighted intersection in town. The two-decade-old non-profit is operated by the Central Vermont Artists’ Marketing Cooperative. (Contributed photo)

By Phyl Newbeck

When Vermonters talk about galleries, we generally think of the more populated municipalities like Burlington, Stowe and Montpelier. While there are numerous venues for art lovers in those cities and towns, there are other, smaller areas which have an impressive array of galleries to choose from, just off the beaten track.

Not far from Burlington

Burlington is Vermont’s largest city and home to an abundance of art, but there is plenty to see beyond the Queen City. In the town of Jericho, just fifteen miles away, is the Emile A. Gruppe Gallery. Opened in 2003 by Emilie Alexander and named after her late father, a noted landscape painter from Gloucester, the gallery is in a renovated 1860s English Sheep Barn at the edge of a local farm. There is a standing collection of Gruppe’s work as well as rotating exhibitions of New England artists. Recent exhibits have included artwork by the Vermont Pastel Society and a show featuring three colleagues from Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation who collaborated on a work-related sketchbook and created individual pieces of art.

Alexander said the most popular exhibits are those of landscape painters, most of whom are based in Vermont. Her father’s work continues to be a major draw, pulling in visitors from across New England, Canada and even Florida. Although the gallery has been host to exhibits in a variety of genres including portraiture and folk art, Alexander admits she favors landscape paintings and shies away from the more abstract genres. The gallery is also the site of the annual Jericho Plein Air Festival.

Just 15 minutes south of Burlington, you’ll find the Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery in Shelburne, located in a renovated Queen Anne Victorian home. The gallery features an ongoing group exhibit of more than 40 artists from across the state, as well as a collection of artisans. Owner Joan Furchgott purchased an existing framing business with some fine art in 1991 and revamped it, placing the emphasis on art. The gallery combines traditional art with more contemporary work and features six-week rotating exhibits of one or two artists for most of the year, with a longer exhibit during the winter months.

“We have some of the most well-respected long-time artists in the state,” said Furchgott, “but we also love to showcase new emerging artists. There are so many good artists in Vermont that it hasn’t seemed worth it to go far outside the state.”

While the art may be local, some of the visitors are not. During the summer months, proximity to the Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms means out-of-staters and second home owners often stop by. In addition to art, the gallery is known for its framing and restoration work.

Close to the Capital

Montpelier may be our capital, but it’s not the only venue for art in Washington County. Travel about 15 minutes east and you’ll find the Blinking Light Gallery in Plainfield, so named because it is situated near the only lighted intersection in town. The two-decade-old non-profit is operated by the Central Vermont Artists’ Marketing Cooperative, with a mission to help market and promote the works of members and others from the area as well as to engage the community in the enjoyment of art.

Board President Helen Rabin said the largest portion of the retail gallery is devoted to the work of its 40 members, most of whom are local artists who also double as staff members. There is a juried process for becoming a member. The gallery has additional exhibit space with rotating shows every two months and the art runs the gamut from drawing, painting and printmaking to fiber arts, pottery and jewelry. The gallery also sells the work of local authors and musicians. Rabin’s hope is that people will see Plainfield as more than a bedroom community. “The goal is to have something going on so people don’t just go home at night and shut the door until it’s time to leave again in the morning,” she said.

Other Side of the Mountain road

Visitors flock to Stowe in droves, but on the other side of the Mountain Road, little Jeffersonville — with a population of less than 1,000 people — draws five times that many people annually to the Bryan Gallery. Founded by celebrated Vermont landscape painter Alden Bryan in honor of his artist wife, Mary, the Bryan Gallery opened in 1984. The gallery shows the work of more than 200 artists annually in a series of revolving exhibitions, with a mission to exhibit and promote American landscape painting with an emphasis on New England. Oil painting is the primary medium, but the gallery recently had exhibitions by watercolor and pastel artists, as well as a photography exhibit. There is often more than one exhibit at a time to take advantage of the three distinct gallery rooms.

Executive Director Mickey Myers said visitors come from as far away as Africa, Australia and Europe. The most popular shows have been the family-friendly ones such as a recent exhibit on trains visited by school groups and later by parents escorted by their newly-art appreciative youngsters. A retrospective of Alden Bryan, featuring works that had never been displayed, was also exceedingly popular. This summer, the gallery will follow up on that with a Mary Bryan retrospective.

Farther North

Travel north a bit further and you’ll hit the town of Craftsbury, known for its outdoor activities, but also home to the Art House Gallery. Executive Director Sarah Mutrux said the gallery opened in 2009 as a non-profit, which offered a bookstore and gallery with art classes. The bookstore eventually closed, but the gallery remains, overseen by a volunteer board of directors.

The Art House Gallery has rotating shows every six to eight weeks. Most are solo painting displays, but the gallery has had ensemble shows, as well as exhibits which included sculpture and other media. A showcase of handmade felted hats was quite popular. The gift shop sells the work of local artists and artisans. Although a café formerly associated with the gallery has closed, they continue to have coffee service to bring members of the community together. Most exhibitors are local, but the gallery has begun to feature the work of artists from across the state.

Think of Your Yard Like a Room in Your House

April 9, 2014  
Filed under Home & Garden

Colorful perennials like bee balm and different varieties of day lilies can enliven the edges of your lawn and play areas, and make areas of plain green foliage more interesting.

By Matt Sutkoski

For some of us, the snow and ice of winter were a convenient mask, hiding our drab, overgrown or just not terribly useful landscapes.

There’s a lot you can do to make your property more functional, beautiful and a place you want to be. Budget-conscious homeowners and big spenders can all get in on the action. The time to start acting, though, is now.

Getting Started

Like almost everything in life, obtaining the landscape that works for you takes some planning. First, think about your needs and your style. Do you have kids or dogs that need big spaces for running and playing? Are you a vegetable junkie who wants lots of fresh produce every summer? Do you like a lot of garden decorations, or would you rather just have leafy plants, flowers and shrubs? Will you do a lot of entertaining in your yard, or would you rather have a beautiful refuge all to yourself?

Think of your yard as another room in the house, one that would suit your lifestyle perfectly, said Vermont master gardener and gardening coach Charlie Nardozzi. That mindset will inform what you buy, and how you alter your property to make it distinctive.

Next, think about how you want to proceed. Are you a do-it-yourselfer? Even if you don’t know the difference between a peony and a daffodil, there are lots of places to learn how to create a stand-out yard, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

A good place to start is the University of Vermont Extension Service Master Gardener, which has a wealth of information and a help line to call.

One important thing gardeners and landscapers should do is submit a soil sample to the UVM Extension Service. That will tell you what kinds of additives and changes you’ll need to make to your soil to make your plants grow well. They’ll recommend the right compost or fertilizer to make your plants grow the best they can in your yard’s soil.

Vermont, for all its tough weather, is something of an gardening and landscaping mecca. Scores of local nurseries, such as Claussen’s Florist & Greenhouse in Colchester or Horsford Gardens & Nursery in Charlotte, are great resources, as is Gardeners Supply, a Vermont-based retailer of garden and landscape tools and supplies. Gardeners Supply’s website has pages of tips to help get the do-it-yourself landscaper get started. The National Gardening Association is also headquartered in Vermont.

Hiring Someone

Maybe the thought of redesigning your yard is too daunting. Or you don’t have time or energy to do all that work. That’s when it’s time to call in a landscape architect or designer. It’s best to interview a few, and get estimates from them as well.

A landscape architect will design a wholesale makeover of your property. But if you want something smaller scale, perhaps some well-thought out flower beds, go with a landscape designer.

Interview a few of them, and make sure they tour your property so everyone understands what’s at stake. Make sure they are insured. Also, if the project is major, you might need permits from your municipality. The landscape designer or architect usually obtains the permits for you. Make sure they do, if such permits are required.

Also, get as detailed a cost estimate as you can before any work begins. Most landscape architects and designers will do free estimates for you.

The cost of a full master plan by a designer can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to $1,500 depending upon the size and ambition of the project, said Sarah Stradtner, a landscape designer at Distinctive Landscaping at Horsford Garden & Nursery.

Having the designer come in and install the landscape design can cost another few thousand dollars for an elaborate set-up, Stradtner said.

The investment may be worth it, though.

Virginia Tech horticulturist Alex X. Niemiera has said his research shows a well-landscaped yard can add 5.5 to 12.7 percent value to a residential property. He said that could mean adding as much as $38,000 in value to a $300,000 home.

What to Plant

If you’ve decided to go with a landscape designer, they’ll know which plants work best where in your yard.

Once you decide the basic design of your landscape, select your plants carefully, or work with your landscape designer to do so. There are lots of things to consider. Is the climate right for the plants? Are you planting in a shady or sunny area? Is the spot where you’re planting well drained? Are the plants fragile, or do you need something that can withstand blows from errant kids or dogs?

That’s actually easier and less complicated than it sounds. People who have been gardening for awhile can offer easy recommendations. “Talk to your neighbors, friends and family,” Nardozzi said. Sometimes, if a few of their plants need thinning, they might give some cuttings to you to plant.

Also, think about the seasonal progression of flowering plants so there is color from early spring into the fall. Again, plant nurseries can help you select plants that bloom at about the time of year you want them to.

Think about mixing and matching color, and textures, too. In general, put taller plants toward the back of a garden bed and shorter ones to the front. But vary the arrangement, as a too-uniform look can seem too boring.

The Family Landscape

Nardozzi suggests that if you need wide open spaces as a backyard play area, that doesn’t mean you can’t have luxurious plants and interesting features in the yard. The “We can’t have nice things” speech too often heard in active families doesn’t necessarily apply to landscaping.

Just be judicious about what you plant. You can border your play areas with durable perennials. Try bee balm and phlox around the edges of the play area to add some color. More tender perennials, such as peonies, might not be as good an option, Nardozzi said.

You can also fence off areas you worry about being trampled when the kids, grandkids or the dog chase a ball.

Shade trees are nice refuges for an active family as well. Varieties such as maples can spread a beautiful leafy canopy where the family can gather for a lemonade break.

It’s also nice to have some edibles at the ready for an active family. Elderberries are a good choice. They attract wildlife, they create a nice hedge and you can eat the berries, Stradtner said. You can also put in some blueberry and raspberry bushes for easy summertime garden snacking, she noted.

Don’t forget vegetable gardens. As in flowering landscapes, vegetable gardens can be as elaborate or simple, large or small as you want, Nardozzi said. You can stick to the basics for veggies, or you can try exotic varieties. There are even cultivated varieties of dandelion greens that are marvelous additions to salads, Nardozzi said.

Making it Easy and Year-Round

Perennials are in general easier for a homeowner to manage than annuals, Nardozzi said. After all, they come up on their own every season. They’re a great option if you don’t have the time or the funds to buy annuals every spring.

Be ready to treat gardens against pests and diseases, such as grubs, Japanese beetles and powdery mold, which can damage the looks of the landscape. Gardening stores have a variety of products to combat these problems. Many of the products are organic or largely so, minimizing or eliminating the risks to children and pets.

The nice thing about landscaping is that nothing has to be permanent — if an idea didn’t work, the plants don’t look great where they are, or they’ve just gotten too unruly in that spot, just remove or transplant them.

It’s never too late to start thinking about next winter, either. There are ways to make the garden and landscape look interesting even on below zero days.

Decorative features, stones and walls can add nice wintertime touches and patterns to the landscape. “There are all kinds of things that will give your yard bones,” Nardozzi said, referring to basics that set a year round tone and style for a landscape

Try planting contrasting colors, such as some evergreens, with some shrubs that retain red or other colorful berries though much of the winter. Also try shrubs that have a peeling bark, or ornamental grasses to help give a winter garden some texture, Nardozzi suggested.

Landscapes are almost always works in progress. Many homeowners find as they get more experienced in the garden, they get bolder and try new things.

You might find yourself becoming the top horticulturist on the block.

FIT TO EAT: Manage Your Food, Manage Your Energy

April 9, 2014  
Filed under Food

By Dr. Stuart Offer

There is an energy crisis in the USA. I am not talking about oil and gas, I am talking about human energy. This is the energy needed to wake up in the morning refreshed, get through your work or play day and get home without feeling burned out and exhausted.

Having great energy means being able to maintain a comfortable level of energy throughout the day without having your energy level “rollercoaster,” going through wide swings of big highs only to be followed shortly after with equally dramatic crashes. Having great energy is also being able to call on short bursts of high energy during a crisis without exhausting all of your energy reserves.

One of the best ways to manage your energy is to manage your body’s blood sugar. If you have Type-1 or Type-2 diabetes, you are all too familiar with blood sugar. If you do not have diabetes, this could be new information. Your blood sugar is simply how much sugar is contained in your blood vessels. Our body likes to have a medium level of blood sugar to feel best and too much or too little will have negative effects.

The foods that have the most negative effects on our blood sugar level are those with added sugars of any type, or eating refined grains, such as non-whole grain wheat, white rice, white pasta, etc. Refined grains are called fast carbs because they are digested very rapidly, converted to sugars and then quickly absorbed into your blood vessels. High blood sugar can make you feel energetic, awake and pretty good for a very short time. However, this comes at a stiff price in the dreaded quick blood sugar crash. Just as a temperature thermostat in your house works to control the room temperature by turning on the air conditioning when the temps get high, your pancreas does something similar to control your blood sugar. When the pancreas senses a rapid rise in blood sugar, it will over-release the hormone insulin, causing an equally quick and severe crash in your blood sugar.

Low blood sugar has a number of negative effects on you. When your blood sugar is low, your body instinctively thinks food is scarce and in response releases other hormones. Two of these hormones are glucagon, the hormone that gives you a strong hunger drive, and cortisol, your primary stress hormone (think fight or flight). The end result is that you feel sluggish, moody, irritable, agitated, jittery, hungry and generally stressed out. These types of feelings are not helpful when you need to get things done and deal with people and demanding situations. The time frame from blood sugar peak to valley is about 1.5 to 2 hours. When in a blood sugar low, we often grab the first thing we see to eat, usually some sugary drink, refined carb snack such as a donut, bagel, snack bar or meal such as pasta — repeating the same cycle all day long.

What I have described for you is what makes up a typical American’s eating plan. At the end of the day, this type of eating takes more energy out of you than it puts into you. The way to avoid and make this better is to eat foods that maintain an even, slow release of sugars over a long period of time, four to five hours. The best way to do this is to eat whole grains and to avoid as much added sugars as possible. In addition, eating protein and or fiber with meals and snacks will slow down the absorption of sugars. If you feel like something sweet, try a fruit. Although high in sugar, the fiber will slow down the absorption of sugar.

Another common issue I see that puts you on a blood sugar rollercoaster is skipping meals. Often people skip breakfast thinking this is a good way to lose some weight. This strategy backfires in a number of ways. First, you maintain a low blood sugar state for a long period of time, making you feel cranky and hungry. Next, it will slow your metabolism, allowing your body to burn even fewer calories. If you just need to have something sweet, try a low calorie sweetener. I have found xylitol with the brand name Xyla to be the healthiest and best tasting low calorie sweetener. Xylitol will not raise your blood sugar and release insulin.

When nutritionists talk about anti-aging foods, they’re referring to foods that help prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, inflammation and cancer. This smoothie is loaded with long-term-health boosters. The berries and green tea are potent sources of antioxidants, and the ground flaxseed is full of inflammation-fighting omega-3s. It also contains yogurt, a source of bone-strengthening calcium and immune-supporting probiotics. Blend it for breakfast, and the vitamins, protein and fiber will provide lasting energy for whatever comes your way.

Energy Smoothie

Makes one 14-ounce smoothie

1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries

1/2 cup frozen organic strawberries

1/2 cup chilled green tea, unsweetened

3/4 cup plain low-fat organic Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed or chia seeds (no need to grind these)

Natural sweetener or Xylitol to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on medium speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Garnish with fresh berries and serve. Note: For a nondairy alternative, you can substitute cultured soy for the yogurt. You can also substitute other fruit.

Dr. Stuart Offer is a Wellness Coach & Educator.