Map Your Past: Explore a Genealogy Tour

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Travel

TRAVEL-tad102415cdAP_3By Victor Block

Planning a visit to Poland, where his ancestors had lived, Bernard Janicki went online and tracked down the parish priest in the village where his mother had been born. When he arrived in that small town, the pastor helped him examine church records dating back to the early 20th century.

Using the information he gathered, plus additional data he got on the Internet, Janicki was able to trace his grandfather’s lineage to 1819 and the maternal side of his family all the way back to 1751. Thus, he became one of an increasing number of people who have made genealogy tourism — combining travel with research to trace their family roots — one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry.

Many people use the wealth of records and information available online to begin their trip down memory lane without having to leave home. A few strokes on a computer keyboard can unearth census records, ship passenger lists, immigration documents and a treasure-trove of other data.

The National Archives contains a mother lode of information. The Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the world’s largest depository, with records from more than 100 countries.

More than 2 million people have subscribed to its website,, which claims the title of world’s largest online resource for family history information. It has digitized, indexed and put billions of historical records on its 18 separate websites, and its users have created more than 70 million family trees. A number of other sources can add to the avalanche of facts and figures.

But no amount of knowledge can compete with the thrill of making personal contact with relatives you might not have known existed or visiting places where your forebears lived and your family roots were planted. For those who seek that experience, there’s a choice of tour companies that offer both organized group trips and individual visits to states and countries where birth, marriage, death and other sources of information await discovery. There even are genealogy cruises for people who prefer to combine a learning experience with the opportunity to take to the high seas.

Family Tree Tours takes small groups of travelers to Germany, Poland and Ireland, where they stay in one place as home base and explore by train. The company obtains research information from tour members in advance, which is forwarded to researchers on the scene who make contacts and arrange meetings in each family’s village. Family Tree also offers private tours.

Several firms arrange visits to Salt Lake City, where participants have access to the voluminous records available at the Family History Center. When not poring over records or seated before a computer, visitors may spend free time enjoying extra-curricular activities such as attending a rehearsal of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir and touring the magnificent Temple Square Garden, which sprawls across 35 acres. Among tour companies that offer research visits to Salt Lake City are Ancestor Seekers and Ann-Mar Genealogy Trips.

A one-stop-shopping website for an international inventory of genealogy research tour providers is It offers direct links to the websites of the companies that are listed.

Another must-see website is, a free categorized and cross-referenced list of more than 335,000 links to helpful resources. Categories include localities, ethnic groups, religions and more. This can help people planning a trip to locate archives, courthouses, cemeteries and other places where they can seek family history information before they leave home.

Those seeking the ultimate in a personalized tour may find what they’re looking for at A researcher accompanies clients throughout their journey to places where their ancestors lived, attended school, worked and worshipped. Its luxury offerings might even include travel by private jet and a chauffeur-driven car.

Roots researchers who prefer to combine the pleasures of a cruise with their family exploration also can find inviting alternatives. For example, Legacy Family Tree cruises combine daily genealogy classes taught by experts in the field with itineraries that range from the Caribbean and Panama Canal to Alaska and Australia.

When not getting valuable information and assistance relating to their family history hunt, passengers can enjoy the usual cruise ship amenities and activities, plus some surprises such as an ice-skating rink, miniature golf and classes in wine-tasting, jewelry-making and other pursuits.

People who sign up with Cruise Everything for a genealogy voyage get to help plan the subjects that experts in the field will discuss. Passengers receive a questionnaire several months in advance that allows the speakers to cover the topics of greatest interest.


Family Tree Tours:

Ancestor Seekers:

Ann-Mar Genealogy Trips:

Legacy Family Tree cruises:

Tips for Great Style

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Blogs

FASHION - smo112415adAPIf you find yourself standing in front of your mirror and thinking you really don’t have anything to wear to the party tonight, it’s time to upgrade the glam factor of your wardrobe. Take a cue from Jenny Levin one of the editors of ‘Harper’s Bazaar.’

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Harvesting Happiness One Meal at a Time 

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Health & Wellness

10931062_10208007719736766_1972408052331035871_nBy Karen Sturtevant

Full-time college student and part-time worker Emily Keller has more on her mind than your typical millennial. While sitting in bio-chemistry class, it’s not unusual for the Vermont native to receive an emergency text sent from 3,400 miles away in Central America, asking for guidance on the crisis of the day. Keller’s organization, Cosechando Felicidad (Harvesting Happiness), works with the people of Santa Maria de Jesús in Guatemala, providing food, resources and hope for a better life. She co-founded the organization with her friend Brennan McMillen in June.

Keller began thinking about the less fortunate on volunteering trips she took with her parents to South America when she was in middle school. “My parents thought it was an important experience to have,” Keller said.

Keller and McMillen began taking annual volunteering trips to Santa Maria de Jesús in 2009.

Last year, an elderly villager in Santa Maria de Jesús approached McMillen and asked if she would buy him lunch. He had not eaten in three days. Without hesitation, McMillen treated him to a simple, but satisfying meal. She did so again the next day. In that culture, the elderly are often viewed as unworthy of time or resources, according to Keller. 

That one act of kindness would lead to great things. 

Currently, Harvesting Happiness serves meals to up to 40 people three times a day, including the man McMillen treated to lunch months before. Food and supplies are purchased from open-air markets, helping the local community. If a person can’t make it to the building, the volunteers will bring the meals to them. Each meal costs, on average, a total of 40 cents. 

“We’re like Meals on Wheels, without the wheels,” Keller said. 

Guatemala has a high rate of mortality, malnutrition and gender inequality, Keller said. Many of its residents earn less than $1 a day doing back-breaking field work or manual labor. Domestic abuse and alcoholism are common. 

In addition to providing eggs, tomatoes and tortillas for breakfast, the volunteers also transport people to medical appointments and subsidize the cost of medications. One woman is scheduled for gallbladder surgery thanks to the efforts of Harvesting Happiness—an expense that would typically be beyond her reach.

Harvesting Happiness is run by a hands-on board of directors comprised of Keller, McMillen and four young Guatemalan men, plus one full-time employee (a single mother of three children) and two dozen volunteers. Keller said she considers them family.  

“To us, a successful organization is run by people in the community being served and runs year round, whether Americans are present or not,” the organization’s website,, states. “These are goals we will always strive for. We would be absolutely nothing without our Guatemalan volunteers and cannot thank them enough for what they are doing.”

The organization exists solely on private donations, sometimes found in the most unlikely places. For example, during a recent flight back to the States, Keller was moved from her assigned seat. Her new seatmate was a business executive from Russia. They starting chatting. The woman was so impressed with Keller and her cause that she gave her a check before the plane landed. Later, the donor and her colleague met Keller in Guatemala with food donations from their employer. They spent time with the villagers and were moved to tears, Keller said. So moved, in fact, that they gave Keller enough money, from their personal accounts, to pay rent for a full year for a bigger, more efficient building. 

Keller shares her passion with church and school groups, including a Nov. 11 presentation at Williston Central School.  

“Students were very interested to learn what people’s lives are like around the world,” teacher Deborah Thomsen-Taylor wrote in an email to Vermont Maturity. “Their awareness of extreme poverty is heightened. I also believe they heard a very important message, ‘one person can make a difference in the world.’ Emily is an impressive reminder of how one person can make a difference.” 

At the end of the presentation, students donated spare change or dollar bills. Altogether, the students contributed $96. 

“While this may not seem like much, it is amazing what a little bit of spare change can provide to the individuals who go to Emily’s center,” Thomsen-Taylor wrote. 

“Vermont provides a very tight-knit and welcoming community, and that’s part of the reason this works,” Keller said. “People get behind grassroots efforts and get excited to help. The money donated here goes so far down there.” 

What does the future look like for Harvesting Happiness? 

Keller will return to Guatemala in January for four months, joining McMillen. She has visions for a day care, after school program, English classes and a dental office (the village of 16,000 has no such luxury). Keller plans to go to dental school after she graduates from UVM’s College of Medicine. 

“Being part of the change in people’s lives is part of what motivates me,” Keller said. 

She said a villager once told her, “When you leave, the hope leaves with you.” If Keller has her way, Harvesting Happiness will not ever let the light of hope dim. 

“I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” Keller said.

For more information or to donate, visit

How to Make Your Kitchen Safer and Easier to Use

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Savvy Senior

savy-srBy Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

What tips can you recommend for making a kitchen senior-friendly? My wife, who loves to cook, has had several kitchen-related accidents over the past year, which is why we would like to modify to make it safer and more practical. 

—Hungry Husband

Dear Hungry,

There are a number of simple modifications and inexpensive add-ons that can make a big difference in making your kitchen more age-friendly. Depending on your wife’s needs, here are some tips for each aspect of the kitchen.

Floors: If you have kitchen throw rugs, to reduce tripping or slipping, replace them with non-skid floor mats or consider gel mats, which are cushiony and more comfortable to stand on for long periods. and offer a nice selection.

Lights: If the lighting in her kitchen is dim, replace the old overhead fixture with a bright new ceiling light, and add under-cabinet task lighting to brighten up her kitchen countertops.

Cabinets and drawers: To reduce bending or reaching, organize your kitchen cabinets and drawers so that the items you most frequently use are within comfortable reach. You can also make your cabinets and pantry easier to access by installing pullout shelves or lazy susans. And D-shaped pull-handles for the cabinets and drawers are also recommended because they’re more comfortable for arthritic hands to grasp than knobs.

Faucet: If you have a twist-handle kitchen faucet, replace it with an ADA compliant single handle faucet. They’re easier to use, especially for seniors with arthritis or limited hand strength. There are also kitchen faucets on the market today (like the Delta Touch20 faucet and Moen MotionSense) that will turn themselves on and off by simply touching the base or moving your hand over a motion sensor. And, for safety purposes, set your hot water tank at 120 degrees to prevent possible water burns.

Microwave and stove: If your microwave is mounted above the stove, consider moving it to a countertop. This makes it safer and easier to reach. And if you’re concerned about your wife remembering to turn the stove off, there are automatic stove shut-off devices you can purchase and install to prevent a fire. See, and for some different options.

If you’re looking to upgrade some of your appliances too, here are some different senior-friendly features you should look for when shopping.

Refrigerator and freezer: Side-by-side doors work well for seniors because the frequently used items can be placed at mid-shelf range for easy access. Pullout adjustable height shelves and a water/ice dispenser on the outside of door are also very convenient.

Stove or cooktop: Look for one with controls in the front so you won’t have to reach over hot burners to turn it off, and make sure the controls are easy to see. Flat surface electric or induction burners, or continuous grates on gas stoves are also great for sliding heavy pots and pans from one burner to the next. And ask about automatic shut off burners.

Oven: Self-cleaning ovens are a plus, and consider a side-swing door model. They’re easier to get into because you don’t have to lean over a hot swing-down door. Also consider a wall-mounted oven to eliminate bending.

Dishwasher: Consider a dishwasher drawer that slides in and out, and is installed on a 6 to 10-inch raised platform. These require less bending to load and unload.

Washer and dryer: Front-load washers and dryers with pedestals that raise the height 10 to 15 inches are also back-savers and easy to access.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Memory Care Communities: One-Size Does Not Fit All

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Aging Parents, Health & Wellness

Memory care communities like Mansfield Place provide a higher staff-to-resident ratio than traditional assisted living facilities.

Memory care communities like Mansfield Place provide a higher staff-to-resident ratio than traditional assisted living facilities.

For people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, the simplest elements of everyday life can become huge stressors. A cheerful flower print on an area rug turns into dropped petals they’re trying to pick up. A shadow cast by an easy chair becomes a hole in the floor they’re afraid to fall into. Even bright sunlight streaming through a patio door can cause them to freeze in their tracks, disoriented and agitated. Specialized assisted living establishments are working hard to address these issues in what are now known as Memory Care Communities. Read more

New Year’s Exercise Resolution Solutions

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Holiday - NetflixBy Jack Newcombe

Rotten Tomatoes has changed the way that we watch movies.

Founded in 1998, the website aggregates audience and professional reviews, giving each film a score based on an average, from zero to 100. Scores from zero to 59 receive the “rotten” label, whereas anything above 60 is deemed “fresh.”

And these numbers matter.

A fresh score can encourage more people to see the film, whereas a rotten score might turn away potential viewers. Before Rotten Tomatoes, patrons went to the movies blindly, hoping that they would be entertained. Now they have access to more information and are able to make better decisions.

Except when it comes to airplanes.

Airline travel can be an exhausting, expensive, degrading experience. The seats are usually small, and the legroom is nonexistent. As a result, while up in the air, we look for reasons to feel better, to be entertained or to be distracted from the trauma we are enduring.

While our palates might be discerning on the ground when sitting in a movie theater, we are much more forgiving when we watch movies up in the air. Our surrounding environment is so bad that even a mildly entertaining film will receive a positive bump in our minds.

Similarly, when exercising, people tend to search for some sort of stimulus that either distracts them from what they’re doing or enthuses them to work harder. Also, just like the case with flying, our media consumption tastes differ when we’re working out versus when we are not working out. For example, one might love a top 40 pop song blaring at full volume while in a cycling class, but might never listen to that same song while cooking dinner on a Tuesday.

Music is a typical first choice. Music is special in that it can elicit emotions quickly and can be perfect for getting you through a difficult workout. You can download your favorite singles into one playlist or listen to an entire album. Genre and artist depend on personal preference. Some people love rap and hip-hop. Others favor electronic dance music, and some crank Led Zeppelin or Guns N’ Roses. No choice is a bad choice.

However, listening to the same songs over and over again can get repetitive. While streaming services — such as Pandora, Spotify and Apple Radio — have increased the number of songs we can listen to, music, like anything, can get stale. Enter podcasts.

Podcasts have gained popularity in recent years for two reasons: They’re free, and the quality is high. For example, President Obama did an interview on comedian Marc Maron’s podcast in 2015. Unlike music, which comes in short bursts, podcasts are typically long in format and are great for long runs or any extended cardio.

That said, some people cannot listen to podcasts while they work out. Either they don’t like people talking to them and should stick to music or they are looking for something of even higher quality. For those people, we bring you audiobooks.

Audiobooks are even longer than podcasts. Also great for long-distance cardio, audiobooks can be truly distracting. Genre, author, fiction, nonfiction — it’s all personal preference. But getting entrenched in an audiobook while working out can truly take your mind away from any pain you might be enduring. However, listening to audiobooks while exercising is definitely an acquired taste and not for everybody.

Finally, we conclude with another player that revolutionized the way we watch movies: Netflix. As Wi-Fi has become ubiquitous in gyms and homes, people are turning to Netflix as their preferred distraction during workouts. You can binge-watch shows you normally wouldn’t watch on the couch. Again, this is in line with the way our tastes change while we’re working out. On the other hand, some people save their favorite shows for when they work out. The shows become an incentive for them to work out and a reward at the same time.

There is no  “watched-this-movie-on-an-airplane” discount applied to Rotten Tomatoes scores, and there is no way to know what distraction will be best for a specific workout, so the only way to know for sure is to try different things.

So crank up the music or download the podcast or load the audiobook or fire up Netflix the next time it’s time to work out. And when you’re done, you can Netflix and chill. – CNS

Armistead Senior Care Awards Caregivers

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Feature Stories

Sandra Hennessey

Armistead Senior Care commemorated its 16th anniversary on Nov. 5 at the Catamount Country Club in Williston with a Sweet Sixteen Celebration honoring its caregivers: the Rachel Lee Cummings Award for Excellence was awarded to Sherry Russell of New Hampshire; Sandra Hennessey was named Vermont Caregiver of the Year; and Ann Howard was named New Hampshire Caregiver of the Year.

Caregivers with three or more years of service were presented with special gifts and the Longevity Award was presented to Shirley Weaver for 16 years of service.

Signature Drinks at Holiday Parties

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Feature Stories

Santa's Spritzer PICBy Sharon Naylor

Add some flair to your holiday party bar by giving your cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks creative names tailored to the holidays or the hosts. For example, a classic martini could be called a “Mistletoe Martini,” or spiked eggnog could be called “Jim’s Knockout Nog.” Naming your drinks adds a touch of fun to your bar offerings and energizes your holiday party’s theme. Your attention to detail will impress your guests, and you’ll stand out as an excellent party host. Cheers!

Put Your Signature Drinks on Display Read more

Green Smoothies and Grateful Readers

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Blogs


kiwi juiceBY MARY HUNT

Some days I can’t believe how lucky I am. Not only do I get to communicate with this growing audience of readers, but many of you also reciprocate with lovely responses. Every single day I open my mailbox and out spills wonderful notes, letters — even an occasional multiple-page tome. Mostly, you send me questions, but now and then it’s just a wonderful thank you note. Always, I’m grateful for your feedback.

Dear Mary: I am marching in your army of green smoothie breakfasters! Is your recipe (see previous column, “Turns Out It IS Easy Being Green”) for one or two people? (Asked as she obligingly drinks the whole thing, which seems quite adequate!) — Christine

Dear Christine: You just made me laugh out loud envisioning you marching in your green uniform, smoothie in hand. It is a recipe for one single 16-ounce smoothie, and yes, it makes for a very adequate, healthy smoothie. You could easily divide this to make two smaller servings, but I do like your style. Happy to have you in the army, by the way.

Dear Mary: I just have to say Thank You! I recently purchased the Shark Navigator Life-Away Professional vacuum that you have written about — even though I have a good vacuum and am trying to minimize my possessions. Oh my! I have been vacuuming for a week straight and am still getting dirt out of my family room carpeting. What’s more, it even feels like new carpeting under our feet. Not to mention that this machine is also beautiful — white and silver! This is just indicative of the numerous ways your wisdom and insight has blessed my family and me. Hope I get to see you in person again sometime (I was in the audience when you spoke in Naperville, Ill., several years ago). — Nancy

Dear Nancy: Yours is the ninth message I’ve received just this week from readers who are also ecstatic over their Shark vacuums. I know the feeling — I get it every time I put my Sharky to work. I have moved from being embarrassed by what he gets out of the carpet to feeling kinda’ self-righteous, knowing that finally my carpeting is really clean. Now it’s easy to keep it that way. I try to stay on top of even the smallest spot so it doesn’t become a stain, using the spot treatment Spot Shot.

It was great to hear from you and to recall that evening in Naperville. When I walked to the podium, I was shocked nearly to tears to see my college music professor, Wilbur David Ellsworth and his wife Jean, sitting front and center. I had not seen them since graduation day. Knowing that you were there as well makes that memory extra special.


Congrats to the winners of the “Hunt for Hundreds” contest

December 21, 2015  
Filed under News

Bundle of 100 US dollars 2013 edition banknotesCongratulations to the two winners of the “Hunt for Hundreds” contest.

Patricia Bouchard of Williston won a $250 gift card to Argento Laraine Fine Jewelry.

Lisa Elder of South Burlington won a $250 gift card to the Windjammer restaurant.

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