Mud Season

Snow last week; almost 70 degrees one day this week! So, of course, my kids spent that whole day in the yard. Daddy started doing some spring cleaning (please excuse the piles of recycling). My 2.5 year old went through 3 pairs of pants in as many hours. He later moved on to the surprisingly less wet activity of ice throwing/smashing. And my almost 5 year old came inside with “my friend beetle” in her hair (who later flew away). Goooooood times. :) Here’s my video to commemorate. Welcome to Mud Season in Vermont!!!

How Starbucks Spring Blend Saved My Life – Or, Moving 300 Miles Away

spring stbks collage 2

I’ll always remember what we did this Spring because we moved from New Jersey to Vermont… and we only had 11 days to do it. My husband had applied and interviewed at a few different places and we were waiting to see if any of those jobs would pan out. We had already gotten permission to do a 6 month extension on our lease, just in case, but once we got the offer for this job in Vermont, it was now or never. Eleven days is almost 2 weeks – totally do-able, right? I don’t think any of us actually believed we were going to go through with the move though, because we didn’t pack a single box until that day.

Not only did we wait until the last minute, we also have 2 young children who made packing nearly impossible during daylight hours. I don’t know how many boxes were unpacked while I was distracted elsewhere and how many times children had to be evicted from box houses (and other newly empty structures) before I realized it was much more productive to pack after bedtime (which luckily isn’t too late at 7 pm). Even so, the adults were up until midnight or later on most nights.

It’s probably not surprising that this adventure involved A LOT of coffee. With fortuitous timing, to say the least, I received a bag of Starbucks’ 2014 Spring Blend to sample! But, since images of us drinking the coffee would also include bleary eyes, no make-up, messy hair and ragged, not-afraid-to-get-dirty clothes which just shouldn’t be broadcast online for all of eternity, instead I give you…

Oren in bookcase collage 2

Only because I received my coffee sample right before all this chaos started, I can tell you that Starbucks’ 2014 Spring Blend is delicious. (By the end of the move, all I could have said was that it was hot and caffeinated). I’m not sure I tasted the chocolate or sweet orange undertones, but I was surprised that the few sips I savored were light enough for my palate, even with this blend being described as a medium body (I generally favor breakfast and other blonde blends). My husband, who is drawn to dark roasts, also enjoyed it. Of course – the one coffee we can happily share is only available seasonally, haha. Coffee can be stored for a long time in the freezer, right? (– looking it up now.)

The day we loaded up the rental truck, New Jersey decided to punish us for leaving with monsoon rain all day and all night. (Worst move ever!!). But the following morning, like an omen of a happy future, we were greeted with nothing but sunshine. We fueled up with more coffee for the 6 hour road trip and it was blissfully uneventful. I would have loved to pair my drink with buttery shortbread and early harvest berries as Starbucks suggested, but unfortunately, I was at the mercy of the convenience stores’ inventory, and it was more like peanut M&Ms and cheese sticks. Luckily, the taste of the coffee didn’t suffer from the lack of sophistication. :)
vermont blog collage big
And now we’re in Vermont – getting to know the people and the area. Most of the trees were still bare when we arrived, but it only took about a week before birds were singing and flowers were blooming (tons of dandelions). I don’t know if my kids will remember ever living in New Jersey, but I will. This is the Spring that we moved 300 miles away. And maybe every Spring hereafter, when the snow completely melts and there’s no threat of it coming back, I’ll sit on my front porch with a cup of Starbucks Spring Blend coffee and thank god I won’t have to move again for a long, long time.

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50 Reasons to Move from NJ to Vermont

This list is, in part, courtesy of my sister who started a campaign to get us to leave New Jersey shortly after her arrival in the Green Mountain State with her husband. I’ve linked to proof of my statements and other interesting factoids so click on a few if you’re curious (especially the one about the serious maple syrup pride).

Drumroll please…

  1. You can see more than 5 stars from your backyard
  2. Burlington, Vermont was named by Parenting.com as #2 in the Top 10 Best Cities for Families in 2012
  3. Ben & Jerry’s!!! (almost got the #1 spot in my list, haha)
  4. No sales tax in Vermont when ordering online (at least for now from Sephora and Amazon)
  5. Second healthiest state in the US
  6. Sugar on snow in the winter from a maple sugarhouse and…
  7. Serious maple syrup pride statewide
  8. Kid-friendly Shelburne Farms with farm animals and activities
  9. WalletHub ranked Vermont 3rd best in its list of “The Best and Worst States for Working Moms” (NJ was 15th)
  10. Kid-friendly indoor waterpark at Jay Peak Resort (indoor= instant vacation in the middle of winter!)
  11. The Northern Lights!!
  12. The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium (got a Groupon deal for a years family membership for less than the price of regular admission for 1 trip with my family!)
  13. Rated the 5th Happiest State in the nation in 2013
  14. The Stowe Recreation Path
  15. Breweries: Magic Hat, Long Trail, Harpoon
  16. Not one but two Hot Air Balloon Festivals: Quechee and Stoweflake
  17. Montpelier, Vermont is the smallest U.S. state capital and the only one without a McDonalds.
  18. There are more than 100 covered bridges in Vermont
  19. Lake Champlain Ferries (I see the appeal, but I find it terrifying)
  20. Champ, Vermont’s own Loch Ness Monster of Lake Champlain (this is adorable though!)
  21. Billboards are illegal
  22. Vermont is the 5th most educated state of 2013 (ahead of #6 New Jersey)
  23. The Vermont high school graduation rate is roughly 90 percent – one of the highest rates in the nation. And highly rated schools overall.
  24. Leaf Peeping season
  25. Walk the trail to Quechee Gorge
  26. Cleaner air  (Fine. I guess we won’t miss the garbage smell on the way to Newark Airport)
  27. Traffic and rush hour are almost non-existent (especially when compared to NJ/NYC)
  28. About 2 hours from Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  29. Lots of farmers’ markets and artisan/craft fairs
  30. Cutest ever trick or treating event for little kids, Halloween morning on Church St.
  31. Open Community swimming pools (unlike residency-required pools in NJ too full to even accept new membership)
  32. Cut your own Christmas tree farms
  33. Movie theaters where you don’t have to buy tickets in advance
  34. The King Arthur Flour company (the bakers out there will be excited with me!)
  35. The Vermont Solar and Small Wind Incentive Program (cool)
  36. Legal same-sex marriage since Sep. 1, 2009 (I definitely want to live in an open-minded, liberal state)
  37. VT Restaurant week
  38. For my husband: fishing!
  39. No IKEA. :( Which makes anti-materialism the pro here. Kind of.
  40. It’s possible to house livestock in your backyard (my husband has always wanted chickens)
  41. Getting away from the Blue Laws in Bergen County, NJ (practically nothing is open on Sundays)
  42. Just look at these beautiful pictures (from Buzzfeed)
  43. The Green Mountain Reiki Institute (for my mom who had enormous success using Reiki in treating her migraines).
  44. Skirack’s Annual Bike Swap (one person brought in 34 bikes to swap/sell and there were a number of people with 10+!)
  45. For my husband: there IS a Five Guys in South Burlington
  46. You’ll see stories about baby moose roaming around the city in the local newspaper
  47. And the newspapers write stories about helping turtles, frogs and salamanders cross the street, if it’s safe to do so. (FYI to self: look up how to identify a snapping turtle and DO NOT TOUCH!!!)
  48. Mandatory composting
  49. Getting out of a super expensive area! Forbes magazine’s 2012 Most Expensive ZIP Codes in the United States list included 12 Bergen county municipalities in the top 500. (And in 2013, Alpine, NJ, a Bergen county city, was #8). Yikes.
  50. Your husband gets a great job offer…

We’re Moving to Vermont!!!

A Random Question About Chickens and Snow

Ryan-ryan-chickens

The other day I started wondering what you do with your backyard chickens when it starts to snow? Do they just stay in their coop for weeks or months? If so, how do you clean it? Do they need climate control or did nature enable them to withstand the cold on their own? I mean, I do see other birds outside in nature during the winter. So many questions! But first, let me recite the specific train of thought that led me down this particular oddball path…

My husband has always dreamed about having a little farm: some chickens, a goat or two and food crops for personal use. Maybe it’s because he is the one person who took the Garden State nickname of his birthplace to heart or maybe he just EIEIO-verdosed as a kid, but the dream lives on. He’s also just a little obsessed with chickens in general; when we went to the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon, at least a quarter of the photos on our camera were of chickens. Somehow our marriage survived. :)

Ok, fast forward to a few years ago when I read an article that it’s actually totally legal to own backyard chickens in New York City and Brooklyn. That sparked a lot of research, but, in the end, nothing happened – probably because we got pregnant with our first baby (and she was way cuter than a chicken).

Then, my sister & her family moved to Vermont and bought a house with enough acreage to make keeping chickens a serious possibility and, wouldn’t you know it, they’re interested in doing so. Inevitably on visits down there, my husband and brother-in-law get to talking about chickens (and all other outdoorsy, hunting, fishing, blah, blah, stuff). On top of that, my sister has embarked on an eternal crusade to convince us to join them in the Green Mountain State permanently. After months of brainwashing, somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I must have begun to think about what our life would be as Vermonters, which would obviously involve chickens.

So, to answer the questions you didn’t know you had, apparently chickens do need heating if their coop will get below freezing. According to this article at BackyardChickens.com, if you’re on a shoestring budget, you can fill the coop with straw for hens to burrow into when it gets cold, or set up an electric heater for a small coop. They recommend at least partially covering the chicken run too to provide protection against the elements.

I also read that tolerance for snow really just depends on the personality of the hens in your flock. In this forum post, also on BackyardChickens.com (great site!), some people said their chickens walked around in 5 inches of snow with no complaints and others said their flock flat out refused to leave the coop. Really interesting!

There you have it. I hope this one day aids someone in a bar trivia game or a Jeopardy question. And for that, you are welcome. :)

beware the chickens

Future birthday gift for my husband?

Happy Family Summer Bucket List – Week 7 and 8

Firefly Collage 2

1. Go on a Firefly walk – We planned to go out on July 7th for our town’s fireworks show but were stopped in the front yard by O’s first experience with fireflies this year (she’d seen them last year but probably doesn’t remember). She was so happy running around chasing them (and we were running a little late anyway due to a cranky Number 2 needing to nurse) that we decided to skip the trip and just play. Turns out it was a very fortunate decision because not 10 minutes later I asked Daddy if that was fireworks or lightning and began to feel rain drops (it was lightning). A few minutes after getting inside, cue super downpour! And check one off of the bucket list.

vermont 188

2. Trip to Vermont – A 6 hour drive in perfect conditions, we made it to Vermont in about 8 hours, especially amazing because we didn’t drive in the middle of the night this time with the babies asleep. We left early in the morning and, like magic, only needed to make 3 stops. We semi-cheated because Mimi was in the backseat entertaining the kids but I was still really proud of both of them – actually of all of us! At the first rest stop we got strawberry banana jelly from a farm stand and O finally used an automatic hand dryer without fear (probably because it wasn’t one of the turbo-powered, blow-the-skin-off-your-hands versions that we usually see). And at our third stop we got chocolate creemees (Vermonter for soft serve). Once we were there, my sister and her family treated us to the 27th Annual Stoweflake Balloon Festival, a trip to Shelburne Farms (an amazing castle of a farm with newborn goats, cow milking demonstrations, cheese sampling and a ride to the farm being pulled by a tractor), and a trip to Jay Peak (indoor (!!!) water park with an awesome kids area).

3. Watch a Sunrise – Sunrise sunset, same thing. We saw it while driving but unfortunately I was in no state to remember to take a picture. But I realized we should have put on our bucket list was looking at the stars when we could actually see some stars. My sister lives out in rural Vermont where there is no light pollution (very unlike the city that never sleeps) and the view was spectacular. But I was so sad I couldn’t wake up the kids to enjoy it with their sleep schedules being so messed up already. Luckily (?) there were a lot more wake-ups on the drive home (which was at night) and O got to see the celestial wonders at a dark scenic turn-off (much better than a lit-up rest stop).

balloon festival Collage

4. Hot Air Balloons – We attended the 27th Annual Stoweflake Balloon Festival in Vermont with 18 month old cousin Wolverine (don’t worry, it’s just my blog nickname for him). They had launches twice a day for the weekend but the night launches were accompanied by vendors, rides, gift shops, food and live music. Luckily this made the morning launches, which didn’t have any activities, free to attend. Bonus! So we got up before the crack of dawn and walked out into a field to watch all the brightly colored balloons slowly fill with hot air. The sunrise launch lasted long enough to be worth the hour drive but short enough to keep anyone from getting cranky or bored (especially when someone awesome started handing out helium balloons for the kids). As if this event wasn’t already amazing enough, they had a Keurig machine set up with free Green Mountain Coffee – and they had decaf for me. Heaven.

Jay Peak Collage

5. Go Swimming (1st time!) – When we were in Vermont, we also drove up to Jay Peak. Originally a ski resort, they recently built the indoor Pump House Waterpark to attract summertime visitors. As an almost vampire-like sun avoider, the idea of an indoor waterpark had me drooling and Jay Peak didn’t disappoint. Sorry no camera this time either, felt it probably wasn’t the best thing for a klutz to bring to a water park but above are some pics from their website. They had 2 water slides for double or single raft riders and 2 tube slides to ride without rafts, one of which throws you in a 360 degree loop (terrifying!). The park also has a Flowriding (like faux surfing) area, a lazy river, hot tubs, an adorable kids area with lots of water spouts and small slides, free towels (woot!), an arcade and food. The kids play area was even shallow enough for Number 2 to sit with us and splash safely while we watched O play on a slide and there were lifeguards everywhere. But I took O in a life jacket into the lazy river with me and we bobbed up and down in the 3ft waves – she had a blast!

6. Watch Fireworks – The fireflies above got in the way of seeing real ones but at least we watched the Macy’s show on TV. Check!

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