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!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Morning Muse: The Road Not Taken

Last week at the end of yoga class my instructor, Jules Wolman at Sacred Movement Yoga in West Hartford, CT, read the famous poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. I had heard the poem before and not given it much thought, but at that moment it seemed a reflection of my own life.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost (via

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Connecticut Wander: Rattlesnake Mountain

Yesterday, Kathy and I hiked to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain from Plainville CT.  I have seen the mountain many times when I drove down Route 6 in Farmington.  It looked interesting, but I could never figure out the location of the trail head.  Kathy did a little investigating, and she found directions for the trail head beginning in Plainville on the left side near the end of Metacomet Road.

Standing upon Pinnacle Rock at the offers a beautiful view of downtown Hartford.

To the rolling hills in Meridan.

We kept hiking north on the trail and came to a rock formation with a cave.  The sign said it was once Will Warren's Den.  Legend has it that 300 years ago he was flogged for missing church and steeling sheep.  He then tried to burn down the town and fled to the cave on Rattlesnake Mountain.  He was aided by 2 Native American women to avoid capture, and lived the rest of his life on the mountain with the cave as his home.

We hiked to the Farmington side of the mountain and then backtracked on the trail to return to our car, about 2.6 miles round trip.  The hike is fairly strenuous and it is part of the Metacomet Trail.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Hampshire Wander: Wantastiquet State Forest

Last Sunday I drove through four states to get to Wantastiquet Mountain State Forest to hike Mt. Wantastiquet.  Wantastiquet is just over the the Vermont border in Hinsdale NH, across the Connecticut River from Brattleboro VT.  Mitch, a Brattleboro native, suggested the hike.

The 2 hour hike was a moderate pitch up to the 1335 peak.  The reward was the outlook from Mine Ledge offering an unobstructive view of Brattleboro, the Connecticut River and beyond.  We could see Mt. Snow and Bromley in the distance.  We debated if one of the distant peaks was the back side of Killington.

Trail head off Rte 119 between the Bridge and the Walmart Entrance

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

S.B. 445, "An Act Concerning Liability for the Recreational Use of Land."

I thought I would make you aware of a this bill that will be voted on very soon by the State Legislature that could restrict your use of public lands.  If this is important to you, please contact your state legislators and ask them to vote against S.B. 445, "An Act Concerning Liability for the Recreational Use of Land."
The only public hearing on this bill will be held by the Judiciary Committee this Thursday, March 29th starting at 10:00 a.m., so please send your emails, letters, and/or make your calls ASAP
You might be wondering, "Didn't the CT General Assembly take care of this recreational liability issue last year?" In fact, they did, through the passage of P.L. 11-211 which restored protection to municipalities, with limited exceptions which we agreed to.

However, S.B. 445 proposes to make the following important areas on municipal lands ineligible for protection under the Recreational Liability Statute:

* boardwalks
* public beaches
* paved sidewalks (could include the Greenways)

I have to wonder why the State Legislature is even considering making these negative modifications to the protection they offered municipalities just last year.  Use of this open space is good for the health of our state's residents, business and communities.  If anyone has a clue, please let me know.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Killington Muse: Holiday Week And Where Is Everyone?

Today was a beautiful ski day.  I took my first run at 8 AM under a blue sky, no wind, temp around 20*F, with out another skier on a run of fresh corduroy.  Now I'm not complaining, but all morning there was hardly anyone on the trails.  It is a holiday week.  I expected crowds, but found a lighter then average Tuesday.

Well, maybe I'm complaining just a little.  I ended up skiing alone, except for an occassional chat with someone on a chair lift or gondola.  Many of my local friends have black out passes which aren't valid during holiday weeks.  It gets lonely skiing alone.  If you love to ski and you are looking for the best ski conditions in the east, come join me this week at Killington.  I would love the company.

Photos taken around 10:45 AM

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vermont Wonder: The Harris Hill Ski Jump

Saturday, I joined Mitch, a Brattleboro, VT native, at the Harris Hill Ski Jump in Brattleboro.   Harris Hill was the vision of and founded by Fred Harris in 1922.  The only 90 meter ski jump in New England.  It has been hosting first class national ski jump events since 1923.

We had a great time watching the US and international competitors in the annual Fred Harris Memorial Tournament and Pepsi Challenge. It was the only US stop in the 9 event International Skiing Federation (FIS) competition schedule.

As we wandered around we met competitor Alex Madden, from Lake Placid, NY.  He jumps for the New York Ski Ed Foundation.  Currently he is attending the University of Colorado.  He was competing in the Pepsi Challenge

The size of his skis and the equipment fascinated me. The skis are made specifically for ski jumping, with a maximum length of 146% of the competitors body height (weight is also taken into consideration).  Alex told me his height and weight is measured prior to every competion to assure his skis are in compliance with international guidelines.

Shortly after meeting Alex, the opening ceremonies began.  An impressive list of national and international athletes competing in the weekends event were introduced to the crowd. 

The ski lift for the competitors was a pickup truck they sat in the back of with their equipment.  The truck only took them up the first half of the run, past the 189 stairs the spectators climbed to get a better view of the competion. 

They climbed up steep stairs the rest of the way starting at the point of the jumping platform.

These athletes sored through the air up to an incredible 97 meters before landing on the snow again.  Interestingly, when I stood midway up the lower part of the run, I could actually hear them whizz by me as they sored through the air. 

I am glad I had the opportunity to witness the Harris Hill Ski Jump Competion, and I hope to witness all over again next President's Weekend.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Young Enough To Know Better Muse

I heard this song on the radio today, and I thought to myself Wade Hayes has the lyrics backwards.  At this point in my life my children children are grown, and they are getting wiser by the day.  I seek there counsel almost as often as they seek mine.  It is time for me to cut loose and have a little fun.

If I were to rewrite the lyrics they would be "Young Enough To Know Better, But A Little To Old To Care".

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Bluebird Day at Killington

I thought I would share photos from my bluebird day at Killington. 

No I wasn’t crazy enough to ski the bumps of Outer Limits.  I don’t think anyone did.  They were tempting until I realized they were very shiny.  I am hoping they groom OL for tomorrow. 

The photos are from the backside of the top of the Superstar Lift, if you look very closely you can see Stratton in the distance.  I could also see Okemo, Mount Snow, Magic Mtn, and Ascutney.  I don’t think they show up in the photos.

Killington's Biggest Fan

What can I say, I am one of Killington's biggest fans.  Killington has done a great job making and maintaining snow regardless of what MN (that's mother nature) has thrown at the Beast this ski season.  If you look at national snow reports, you can see most the country is lacking in the white stuff. It has been an odd winter. In fact most people I talk to are still waiting for winter to really begin. 

The conditions yesterday at Killington were wonderful. I skied from 9 AM until 3 PM with only one short break, and I don't think I skied the exact same run combination twice. Yes I stayed on mostly groomers, but those groomers had a nice layer of corduroy in the morning, and they stayed pretty much snow covered all day long. I even found a couple little bump runs that had some nice snow to turn on.

I left my home mountain twice this year, due to peer pressure, to ski with friends at Mount Snow and Okemo.  I had fun both days hanging out with my friends, but the conditions and available terrain were marginal.  I went home at the end of each day with my love for the Beast reaffirmed, and with an even greater appreciation of our available terrain and snow quality.  It will take a lot to pry me off my home mountain again this season, but go ahead and try.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Adventure in the Kitchen: Arugula, Apple, Fennel and Cheddar Salad

I was playing around in the kitchen this past weekend and came up with fresh new salad.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

In a large bowl add:
2 oz of Arugula
1 Apple, pealed, cored and chopped
1/2 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup Chopped Walnuts
1/4 cup Shredded Fennel Root

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar
1 Teaspoon of Cranberry Honey Mustard (or if you don't have it use a little honey mustard, mixed with horseradish and honey)

Serves 2 as a dinner salad or 4 as a side salad.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Connecticut Wander: A Little Bit of Peru in Hartford

Last night Lori suggested La Kerencya for dinner.  I was a bit leery about what to expect.  I browsed the online menu, and I noticed many of the dishes were served with rice and french fries.  She assured me the food was excellent.  I decided what the heck, it was a good night for a culinary adventure.

The restaurant was warm and inviting - the owners attentive, gracious and delightful. Willie the chef and his wife Mona, our the hostess and server. She guided us through the many menu choices. Mona translated La Kerncya for us, which means "passionate knowing" in Peruvian. I like that.  

I was delightfully surprised by the quality and quantity of food.  There were five in our party.  We all ordered something different and we all shared.  My first course, the Saltado de Vegetables, a classic Peruvian dish, stir fry sautéed with tomatoes, red onions, peppers, peas, corn, carrots, and seasoned with “Kerencya’s” style sauce served and white rice.  It was large enough for an entire meal.  My second course was the Pescado Al Ajo, a pan fried sole fillet over a butter-garlic La Kerencya sauce.  Both were very tasty.  Although the fish was pan fried, it didn't seem heavy.  The breading was light and the fish tender and flakey.

My friends ordered an assortment of the Ceviche, diced fresh fish/seafood dishes marinated in lime juice seasoned in a variety of ways.  Someone ordered the Arroz con Mariscos, a Peruvian Paella, another ordered Anticuchos Skewered, grilled chicken kabobs served over grilled sliced potatoes and Peruvian corn, the last dish was Lomo Saltado a classic Peruvian dish, Stir fried beef tenderloin strips sautéed with tomatoes, red onions, and seasoned with “ Kerencya’s” style sauce served with white rice and French fries .  Oh lets not forget dessert, flan. 

There is something for everyone on the menu. Every dish was fresh and well prepared.  Needless to say our eyes were bigger than our stomach, and we  were happy to take the extras home to enjoy later.  La Kerencya is on Franklin Avenue in Hartford. They have Peruvian or Latin based music some Sunday afternoons, Thursday and Friday evenings starting at 8pm.  I will definitely be back. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Killington: Winter Has Finally Arrived

What an interesting ski day.  The snow started to accumulate around 6 AM this morning, by 8:30 AM there was 4 inches on my car.  It kept coming down at a steady pace all day long.  We ended up with around 8 inches.  The southeast winds blew the snow around in some unusual spots.  A few areas were scoured.  The snow had to blow somewhere. and I found lots of it. 

My favorite run was after lunch on Outer Limits when it opened for the first time this season.  Big whales from the snow guns that had been blowing snow on it for the past few days, and all that fresh powder made a perfect end to a fun day.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Killington Wonder: Learn to Ski Program

Last week I was lucky enough to have both my niece and nephew visit me in Killington.  They live in NC and don't see snow very often.  My nephew Jimmy snow boards, not often but after a day on the slopes he is riding like a pro again.  He even followed me onto a few black runs and under the snow guns to catch a little man-made powder.

My niece Hayley was new to snow sports, and she wanted to learn how to ski.  Killington has an awesome Learn to Ski Program.  She was a confident skier able to enjoy a few blue trails by the end of day 3.  I can't imagine why more people don't take advantage of the program.

The 3 day Learn to Ski Program is an incredible bargain for $199, considering a single lift ticket is $86.  The package included: 3 days of rental equipment, 3 half day beginner lessons, 2 beginner area lift tickets and 2 all mountain lift tickets, and a Learner's Permit Card offering discounts on lessons, lift tickets, and rental equipment for the rest of the season.  On top of all that, there was a bonus promotion.  I recieved a free lift ticket for bringing a friend to learn to ski.  

The weather was wicked cold, hovering in the single digits, the first 2 days.  The weather slowly warmed by Friday reaching a high of 36*F.  They were both troopers and we stayed out all day, every day, with just a couple breaks.  My mission was accomplished by the end of the week.  They didn't want to leave, and they were already planning their next ski/board vacation.