Sunday, February 7, 2016

Wilbur Wright, a local Pittsfield artist crafts didgeridoos

The didgeridoo is thought to be the world’s oldest wind instrument. It was originally made and played by Australian Aborigines to imitate the sounds of nature. Recently, the didgeridoo has made its way from old world to new age music.

Jeffrey “Wilbur” Wright, a Pittsfield artist, was intrigued by the sound of the didgeridoo, after watching the 2008 movie “Surfer, Dude.” The musical score was written by Australian musician and surfer Xavier Rudd. Two years ago, Wright saw Rudd live in concert at a small theatre in Seattle, Wash. Rudd played the didgeridoo accompanied by a drummer and bass player. The music had a raw, tribal, rhythmic quality that stirred something inside Wright. After the concert, he was inspired to learn to play the didgeridoo.

Traditional wooden Aboriginal didgeridoos are naturally made from pipe-like eucalyptus branches that are hollowed out by the termites nesting in them. The branch is cleaned out, and a mouth piece is formed from beeswax. The wind instrument is usually about five feet long, and it has the sound of a low drone, reminiscent of the sounds of nature. A type of circular breathing is used to play the instrument. Aboriginal Australia Art & Culture Centre - Alice Springs website is a good source to learn more about the history of didgeridoos.

Wright started making his own didgeridoo after not being satisfied with the ones he found for sale. He experimented using different materials and decided on PVC pipes as the base material for his didgeridoos. He heats and shapes various size pipes until the desired sound is created. His instruments are either in the key of E or F, and the longer the instrument, the lower the tones. After, he creates the desired sound, he coats the pipes with a shaping material and paints a faux wooden finish on the instruments that are accented with aboriginal designs. Each one is a unique work of art. 

Wright says he initially made the didgeridoo for his own pleasure, but other musicians were interested and have wanted to buy them. He is now selling them on a very limited basis at Fire on the Mountainin Killington.

Wilbur working in his Pittsfield studio

Finished didgeridoo

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Students of all abilities included in Killington Elementary School’s Trailblazer program

            After lunch on Thursday, January 21, 2016, two busloads of students of all abilities departed from Killington Elementary School (KES).  They were going to Killington Mountain to participate in the second week of the Trailblazers 2016 ski/ride program.  The program has run most Thursday afternoons from mid-January thru mid-March since the early 1960’s.  
Volunteer instructors from Vermont Adaptive arrived early to prepare ski/board lessons for three of the Trailblazer students who have emotional behavioral, cognitive, and/or developmental disabilities.  They discuss the students prior skiing experiences, teaching strategies, and trail conditions to come up with individualized lessons for their students.   The instructors greet the three students as they arrived.  As they booted up, the Trailblazers voiced their readiness and excitement to get out on the snow.
Sharon Nelb, a Vermont Adaptive volunteer said; “it’s a wonderful opportunity to bring my love of skiing to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.”  She shared a story to explain why she loves teaching skiing with Vermont Adaptive students; she skied with a 4 year old student who had autism, who was also non-communicative, about a half dozen times.  At the end of their last lesson together, the girl’s father came up to her with tears in his eyes.  He and the girl’s brother had followed them during the lesson.  He told Nelb, the girl’s brother exclaimed how proud he was of his sister skiing so well.  Since then they skied together as a family.   Bob Boothroy and Wendy Paterson, two other Vermont Adaptive volunteers involved with Trailblazers, said they volunteer as a way to give back to their community and share their love of skiing, What they get back from their students is priceless.
Lisa Laird a KES second grade teacher thought the impact of Vermont Adaptive with the Trailblazers was “a blessing to be given a lifetime experience-sport…  It gives them exposure that they might not have otherwise, taking advantage of what’s right here in our backyard…  It allows all students to be included in what is a way of life.   To people who live in Killington, skiing is a way of life.”  Laird said, there has been a ski program at KES, since she started working at the school in the early ‘90’s.  It has always been the school's goal to be inclusive of all students. 
Skiing is part of the KES school curriculum.  Originally the program was run by the Killington Mountain Ski School.  Now the program is run by twenty four parent and community volunteers, along with KES staff.  A private pre-school housed in the school, has started including their students in a ski program at Killington Mountain on Thursday afternoons.
Tom Alcorn, the Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports Southern Program Coordinator, says Vermont Adaptive has been “working with KES for 4 years.”  The goal is the “integration of differing ability students into an existing ski program.”  Alcorn went on to say, “It gives them a chance to recreate with teachers, counselors and support people…   a chance to develop a deeper connection which facilitates a better learning environment.”   He feels the “ultimate goal is to get kids out skiing with their family members.  Not just school.”  Vermont Adaptive volunteers also works locally with ski/ride school programs at Suicide 6 with Zack’s Place, and at Pico Mountain with Mill River Union High School and East Valley Academy. 

Last winter Vermont Adaptive statewide gave over 1300 snow sport lessons. With the help of over 400 volunteers in their year round sport and recreational programs, they gave over 2500 total lessons to individuals with mental, cognitive and physical disabilities.  It is their belief that “sports and recreation provide a physical, mental and social experience that is immeasurable in promoting self-confidence and independence in an individual.  More information about Vermont Adaptive can be found at

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Online Dating Success

It's been over a year since I have written an entry to this blog.  Things are pretty much the same, but everything has changed.  I still love wandering near and far to experience the wonder of new places, people and things, but I am no longer alone in my journeys.

I am engaged to a wonderful man, who I met almost two years ago, Mitch.  You may have noticed him in some of my earlier posts.  We met through, an online dating service, in December of 2011.  I tried different online dating services (eHarmony, FitnessSingles, JustLunch, and Match) for a couple of years.  I met a number of interesting people, some good and some well, um... lets just stay with interesting, in search for Mr. Right.  Mitch on the other hand, only dated one person he met online, me.

Its difficult to meet eligible men with common interests and values.  Online dating was an efficient way to meet someone.  I found success once I was willing to be honest not only about who I was and what I wanted, but also, what I was willing to give in a relationship.  It took me a while to figure out what this meant for me.  I couldn't do this until I had had a better understanding of me.  The people I met, good or bad helped me with this process. 

If you do try online dating, be safe.  Don't give too much personal information about where you live, and your real identity.   Your first meeting should be somewhere public, and have a plan to end the meeting if things don't go well.  Always tell a friend who, where, and when you are meeting. 

Up to date photos help in getting to know a potential date.  You know the old saying a picture is worth a thousand words.  Its true.  In fact, my cover photo on this blog was also on my dating profile.  It's what hooked Mitch.  In the background of the uncropped photo is Tuckerman's Ravine at Mt. Washington.  It's one of his favorite hikes as well as mine.  It gave us a common point of interest to begin our conversation.

I'll give you my review of 4 different dating sites I tried: 

FitnessSingles is set up to help individuals find someone who share a common sport or hobby.  You specify if you are just looking for someone from a training partner to a spouse.  You do the search for a partner who meets your criteria.

Just Lunch is a matchmaking service, with real people help you find Mr./Ms. Right.  My experience; I spoke with a someone on the phone who acted like they would be my matchmaker.  After an incredible sales pitch, I signed up and paid an expensive fee.  A few days later, a 2nd person called to interview me.  She set up an in-person meeting with a 3rd Just Lunch person authenticate my identity.  They also did a criminal.  Finally a 4th Just Lunch person was my telephone based matchmaker.   This 4th person, never interviewed me and lived in another state.  It seemed like she was doing the search for me from a very small pool of potential candidates on their own computer network.  They sent me on 3 blind dates at specified restaurants for not lunch, but dinner.  I had little in common with any of the 3 men.  The positive things I can say about this service; anonymity was maintained, and my dates were screened for a criminal record.

eHarmony offered computer selected dates based on a compatibility profile screen.  Only men the computer determined were compatible saw my dating profile.  The computer generated dates didn't place enough significance on some of the areas that were important to me, like fitness, healthy lifestyle, activity level, my sports and hobbies.

Match seemed somewhere in between.  They suggested potential partners based on a shorter compatibility profile, and offered options to search for partners based own my own criteria, or just browse all profiles.  They have the largest number of members, and the greatest public exposure.  I rarely found their "matches" helpful. 

In fact, Mitch found me doing his own search.  We chatted online a few times, then met for coffee.  We enjoyed each others company and set up a ski date later that week.  I bet you can never guess where.....  Yes Killington.  He drove up for the day to ski with me and we clicked.  We have only dated each other ever since.  This summer he proposed to me on the K-1 Gondola. Who knows, maybe we will get married there as well?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Killington Wanders: Killington Peak

Last weekend I finally felt up to hiking around Killington.  I'd like to say I hiked all the way to the top of Killington (I have in the past), but I rode the gondola 1.25 miles and hiked up the last 500 feet to the peak at 4241 feet. It is a beautiful view, especially on a beautiful summer afternoon.

While up there, I checked out the progress of the new K1 Peak Lodge.  The foundation is finally laid.  The weather and landscape offer extra challenges to the rebuilding progress.  First Hurricane Irene last year, then pounding through rock before they could lay the foundation.  Blasting the rock wasn't an option, since that could have compromised the K1 Gondola.


When I returned to the K1 base, I stopped at the Umbrella Bar for a little music and a nice cold brew.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Connecticut Wanders: Mark's Classic Cruise Night

Monday I discovered Mark's Classic Cruise Night.  Every Monday evening from May - September hundreds of people gather at a 25 acre field in East Granby for a free family friendly cruise.  It is fun to watch the vehicles stream onto the field, until it is filled with hundreds of classic and antique cars and special interest vehicles. There is a smaller side parking lot for those of us who drive ordinary cars. The event is completely run by volunteers, and proceeds earned from food sales are donated to support local charities. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Mother's Gift: Living Kidney Donation

This spring I was fortunate enough to give my son a gift that gives him another chance for a healthy life.  I became a living kidney donor.

Iggy, my 26 year old son, a recent college grad with a great job, a wonderful girlfriend, and a promising future - was in kidney failure.  He needed to spend 12 hours a week on dialysis to stay alive.  His condition would continue to deteriorate until he could get a new kidney.  I found it heart breaking. 

We were informed there are 114,000  candidates in the USA waiting for a kidney from a deceased donor with a wait time of 2-4 years (  He had fought so many health battles in the past it just didn't seem fair.  I volunteered to donate my kidney to him.  We were disheartened to find out I wasn't a match.

Our hope was restored when the transplant team at The Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told us a paired exchange donation could be facilitated by entering the National Kidney Registry.  I would offer to donate my kidney to another individual in need of a kidney who wasn't a match with their potential donor. 

The NKR uses a computer program to match incompatible pairs of kidney donor- recipients with other incompatible kidney donor-recipients until compatible matches are found.  The wait time is usually only a few months for compatible pairs to be found.  In our case it took 5 months, a chain of  5 donors recipients and two hospitals to make it work. 

All the surgeries happened simultaneously to ensure all the recipients were provided the promised kidney.  Eric received the kidney from a 43 year old wife of a kidney recipient.  My kidney went to a 55 year old husband and father. 

Well that was 2 months ago.  I am pretty much recovered and feeling well. I have even started riding my bike again. I have one more month of activity restrictions before I can resume all my usual activities.  Iggy now has a bright future.  He looks the healthiest and happiest I have seen him in years.  I am grateful to his donor, to the NKR, B&W and Mass General Transplant Teams, and everyone else who made this life changing gift possible.

Jo, Iggy, and Sue

Monday, May 21, 2012

Adventure in the Kitchen: the Bluebird Brewery

I really do enjoy a good beer after a fun day on the slopes, bike ride, hike, or just about any other activity.  When I travel, I like to taste local microbrews - another way to experience local culture.  This spring I decided to try my hand at making beer.  I had help from my friend Mitch, who had made beer before, and he also had the equipment for the project.  The process took about 5 weeks from brewing to a finished beer ready to drink.

We ordered the ingredients on line from DIY Brewing Supply and used their recipe to make the American Brown Ale.  It is recommended for beginners, and we used the extract kit to save a few steps in the brewing process.

Beer Supplies

We sterilized all our buckets, bottles and utensils prior to starting our brew.  Keeping the beer free from contamination (bacteria, mold etc.) is critical for a good quality beer.  We started brewing on Sunday, April 15th, following the directions that came with the kit. 

We boiled 2 gallons of water, added the ingredients in the amounts and timing per the instructions while the brew boiled on the stove.  The smell of the grains and hops were nice as we added them into the pot.  We filled the sink with ice and placed the hot pot of concentrated brew into the ice to cool it.  We then added the concentrated brew to the 3 gallons of cool water we had boiled and refrigerated the day before.  When the temperature of the concentrated brew was around room temp we added the yeast.  Covered the white bucket and waited as the fermentation process began. 

On the 4th day we transferred the brew into another sanitized white bucket.  We used a siphon careful not to disturb or transfer the residue on the bottom of the initial bucket into the new bucket.  Our crude way of filtering the beer.  We again covered the bucket and waited as the beer fermented. 

On the 6th day we added corn sugar, siphoned the beer into a bucket special spigot for bottling,  again using a siphon, careful not to disturb the residue on the bottom of the bucket.  We then bottled and capped the beer.

The Bottling Process

Capping the Beer

We came up with a name for our beer, and I made the labels for our new brew and brewery.  I printed the labels at Staples using their laser printer, since I thought it was less likely the ink would run then with my inkjet printer.  We dipped the backs of the backs of the labels in milk, instead of using glue, to stick the labels to the bottles.

Blue Bird Brewery
Tough Mudder American Brown Ale

We tasted the beer at one week intervals, until it had the right carbonation. It took about 3 weeks before it was ready.  The beer is some of the best beer I ever tasted.  Smooth and refreshing.  The only problem is we only have 2 cases of it, well after this weekend 1 1/2 cases, and it is going fast.

Mmmm Good!