Vermont Fall Scene

Mad River Valley Cross Country Skiing

January 31st, 2015 by Corey A. Edwards

Mad River Valley Cross Country SkiingWhen old man winter blows his snows, the only thing to do is grab your hat and mittens and head out into it and enjoy it while it lasts. Vermont is a winter-sports wonderland and the Mad River Valley cross country skiing options are excellent!

Take a look:

Ole’s Cross Country Ski Center
2355 Airport Road, Warren, VT
www.olesxc.com
Ole’s Cross Country Center offers some of the best Mad River Valley cross country skiing and snowshoeing. With 30 miles of moderately rolling groomed trails, skiers of all abilities can comfortably ski and enjoy both panoramic views and the rare quiet of the deep woods.

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Mad River Valley Valentine’s Day Getaway

January 17th, 2015 by Corey A. Edwards

Mad River Valley Valentine's Day

With February just around the corner, love is in the air and now is the time to plan your West Hill House B&B, Mad River Valley Valentine’s Day Getaway!

February is for lovers, as they say, and we here at West Hill House B&B in Warren, VT are not immune to affairs of the heart. On the contrary, we truly enjoy helping you to express and celebrate your love. With that in mind, we have created a number of specials, packages, and add-ons designed to make your Mad River Valley Valentine’s Day getaway the best it can possibly be!

To help you celebrate this special date we are offering a Valentine’s Weekend Special.  It includes our Romance package, dinner at The Common Man, and more for a three-night weekend at an all inclusive price. (SOLD OUT! However we would be delighted to work with you to customize a similar getaway at some other time.)

Or you can choose the West Hill House B&B Romance Package, for only $75 in addition to the cost of the room of your choice, which includes:

  • Six Roses in your room, awaiting your arrival
  • A Bottle of Bubbly for two
  • Two Champagne Flutes
  • and some delectable Lake Champlain Chocolates

You are more than welcome to take the roses and flutes home with you. The champagne flutes make a nice keepsake, reminding you of the wonderful Mad River Valley Valentine’s Day you spent together!

A romantic dinner may be one of the most universal ways of enjoying time together with that special someone in your life – and we have a special with just that in mind:

Add Dinner to your Mad River Valley Valentine’s Day getaway for one or more evenings and enjoy the reward of fine dining AND savings. We’ve teamed up with two of the best restaurants in the area to give you a fantastic, 3-course dining experience that wont break the bank. Taxes and gratuities for dinner are included in the price while beverages are additional.

Seating is still available at The Common Man for Valentine’s Day evening, but will doubtless sell out soon. It features a wide range of selections on their menu for you to choose your three courses from – and the romantic ambiance of an historic barn will go a long way towards making your evening the best it can be. The Common Man is just a few minutes drive from West Hill House B&B, adding convenience into the mix.

West Hill House B&B also has a number of delightful add-ons for your Mad River Valley Valentine’s Day:

You can have a Bouquet of Flowers awaiting you in your room. We’re also more than happy to wrap them up for you to take home, should you so desire.

How about some champagne? Our Champagne on Ice Package nets you a bottle of our house French bubbly on ice, in your room and ready to serve in two, beautiful champagne flutes that are yours to keep. Upgrades from our house champagne to Duval-Leroy or Moet et Chandon are also available.

For pricing and more details about our Mad River Valley Valentine’s Day getaway specials, please visit our specials page. Be sure to mention the special, package, or add-ons you’re interested in at time of booking and, if there’s something else you’d like, please don’t hesitate to inquire!

Icelandic Vínarterta – A Shortbread Style Cake

January 14th, 2015 by Susan

At breakfast on January first I presented our guests with my variation of  the Icelandic dessert Vínarterta, a Shortbread and Prune Jam Layer Cake. If you want to learn more about our amazing Icelandic Experience check our January 5, 2015 blog.

So, with thanks to the Icelandic cooks for the inspiration which I gained from the Vínarterta recipe and apologies to Icelandic cooks for the changes I made to their much enjoyed special occasion cake, as promised, here is my recipe.

The Spread

  • 5 oz dried apricots,  finely chopped
  • 7 oz, dried figs,  finely chopped
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 T. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 3/4 c. cranberry juice

Put these ingredients into a blender and puree. Add a bit of water or more cranberry juice if this seems too thick to puree. The resulting spread should be on the thick side. This will make enough spread for the dessert as well as a good amount which can be kept for toast, muffins or filling for a small genoise cake.

The Cake

  • 3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. ground cardamom
  • 1 c. (two sticks) butter slightly softenedThe West Hill House version of Vínarterta.
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. whole milk

Mix the flour, baking powder and cardamom together in a bowl and set aside.  In a larger bowl, by hand or with a mixer, cream the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and milk alternately, mixing between additions. Transfer the dough to a floured board and knead for about one minute. Break dough into balls about the size of a large walnut. With a floured rolling pin, roll out each ball on the floured board, to a thin circle (about 1/6″ thick) and about 4″ across. Carefully lift the dough and place it on a parchment covered jelly roll pan and chill for at least one hour. I  covered my pans with plastic wrap and chilled them overnight. This dough is not like a cake dough, it is more like we’d call shortbread.

Bake chilled dough on the parchment lined pan in a 375° oven for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it though!

Cool then spread with the fig and apricot jam and top with a slice of pear and enjoy.

Icing  (I didn’t use icing on my presentation)

  • 2 c. icing sugar
  • 1/4 c. brewed coffee, chilled

The traditional method of preparing this cake is to baking circles 7″ across, cooling them then spreading a very thick jam on each layer except the top layer. Stack the jam covered circles and pour the icing over top of the whole thing and chill it until the icing is firm. Slice and serve. Friends in Iceland tell me that using a thick jam between the cake layers should make the cake pretty sturdy and able to be cut neatly. My next try at this will be to make Vínarterta in the traditional way. Wish  me luck!

An Icelandic Experience

January 5th, 2015 by Susan

Iceland , ‘The land of Ice and Fire’. If you have ever dreamed of an Icelandic holiday, stop dreaming and go!

As we have in past years, we kicked of 2015 by watching and listening to, via a live web cam , the midnight fireworks from Reykjavik, Iceland.  The closer it got to midnight the more fireworks lit the dark sky Icelandic. It seemed as though every family in the city was illuminating the sky with their own fireworks display.

Why, you might ask, do we do this? In April of 2002 our family explored Iceland and had an absolutely amazing time; even our teenaged son had a wonderful experience! From the moment we spotted Iceland from the plane till the moment it disappeared from view when we flew home, we were captivated.

In researching travel to this island country I discovered Isafold Travel which operates out of Reykjavík. After correspondence with the owner, Jón Baldur Þorbjörnsson, we booked a private tour and were all set to start out on an Icelandic adventure. The people we met were very friendly and their English was waaaaaay better than our (non-existent) Icelandic! The landscape seemed to change with every kilometer we traveled, the waterfalls were spectacular, the views breathtaking, and, because we were there at the end of winter, every spot of green grass was a sign of spring and greeted with exclamations of joy.

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon was our first stop and shouldn’t be missed by anyone traveling to Iceland. The geothermally heated water is a comforting 38°C (100°F). The turquoise blue colour is a result of  the silica which the water picks up on its way to the surface and the way the sunlight reflects off it. Enjoying the many spa related facilities there or just enjoying the water makes a good start or finish to any Icelandic adventure.

Water from rocks!

Water from rocks!

Of the many waterfalls we stopped to gaze upon, Gullfoss, Skógafoss, and Hraunfossar were our favourites. Each spectacular in its own way and each with a captivating legend. Hraunfossar was perhaps the most geologically interesting as it flows underground from between the layers of lava then spills into the icy Havítá River.

Þingvellir was another stop on our adventure. Here marks the meeting of two tectonic plates, the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate, and a rift is clearly visible. In places it is very wide and in other places along the rift anyone with a good wide step can have one foot on each plate. It also marks the location of Althing, Iceland’s original parliament, the oldest parliament in the world, where for hundreds of years people of this nation would gather to discuss issues of concern and make laws to govern.

Icelandic Lobster

Icelandic Lobster

The food was delicious! We enjoyed langoustine (Icelandic lobster), wholesome multigrain breads, thick stews, skyr, bananas—grown in Iceland by the way!—and yes, a taste of rotten shark meat, which wasn’t really that bad.

The country is dotted with sites and sounds which in various ways record the history of Iceland:  historic turf homes, small country churches,  original farmsteads, museums illustrating early domestic life as well as detailing the life of Icelandic folk who emigrated to North America, The Great Geysir, volcanoes, glaciers, music, the list goes on.

Guests at West Hill House B&B have come from all around the world (including from Iceland!) and many have traveled the world bringing back special memories of their adventures. Doubtless there will be a time, perhaps in the morning around the breakfast table or in the evening in the living room, when adventures are recalled and shared. We might hear of driving in Australia with kangaroos hopping across the roadways or a trip to Europe to hike in the Alps, or a journey to China to see the Great Wall and the Terra Cotta Army.  All who listen travel vicariously as a stories unfolds. If asked about a favourite adventure of ours, we are always happy to recount highlights of our wonderful time in Iceland.

At breakfast on January first I presented our guests with my variation of  the Icelandic dessert Vínarterta, a Shortbread and Prune Jam Layer Cake which was enjoyed by all. As promised, you’ll find my recipe if you check West Hill House B&B recipes.

 

Vermont Wineries: Feeling Vine, Doing Grape!

December 28th, 2014 by Corey A. Edwards

Vermont Wineries: Feeling Vine, Doing Grape!

Ice wine – one of Vermont Wineries’ many specialties

Vermont is known for many things – skiing, hiking, beautiful foliage, welcoming inns – but did you know about the state’s burgeoning wine industry? If not, you soon will as their success and fame can only grow – and what better way to get acquainted than with a visit to one or more of the many Vermont wineries?

There’s no stopping the current growth of Vermont’s wineries. Our state’s unique and popular fruit wines have been a regional specialty for decades but the proliferation of Vermont’s fine wines, hard ciders, and meads rival the state’s production of syrup – and that’s saying something!

Some of this success is due to up and coming grape species that work well in Vermont’s shorter growing season. Marquette, Frontenac, and La Crescent grapes thrive in Vermont’s climate and soil to create award-winning wines. Vermont wineries are also some of the only ones in the country producing the sweet and delicious dessert wine made from grapes left on the vine until they freeze: sweet ice wine!

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Scottish Christmas Remembered

December 22nd, 2014 by Susan

At this time of year many of us pause to remember Christmases past. Do you remember receiving a special dress your mother made for you, or a the doll you were wishing for, or a new book by your favourite author (and you still have that book today)?  Perhaps you received a model train or Meccano set. Did you attend a Pantomime or the Nutcracker during the Christmas season? Do you remember hot cocoa with marshmallows and special baked goods on Christmas morning? Or perhaps a big family dinner after the presents were opened, did it feature ham, turkey, tourtière or haggis?

One of the fondest memories people have of this special season is of food, we bake (and eat!) cookies and special cakes, we bring out the eggnog, peppermint candy canes, ribbon candy, and oranges for the stockings. We prepare special meals and we invite friends to join us around the table. Food traditions are a big part of this season.

In Scotland Christmas Day didn’t become a public holiday until 1958, Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) was, and still is, the big public holiday. Today as Christmas approaches, the winter days are short, with sunrise about 8:30 in the morning and dark skies again at about 3:30 in the afternoon so Christmas celebrations help to brighten up the long wintry evenings. A fire is set in the sitting room, the drapes are pulled against the darkness of the evening and in the kitchen a flurry of activity takes place as mincemeat pies are popped into the oven, fruit cake with thick marzipan icing is wrapped for giving to neighbours, and  preparations are made for the Christmas evening feast. Particular consideration is given to pudding (the general name for desserts of all kinds), would it be Sherry Trifle, Clootie Dumpling or perhaps Dundee Cake? Hmmm, this year for a memorable pudding, let’s try Cranachan, a lovely, creamy fruit and oat creation.

At West Hill House B&B this Christmas Dinner our guests will enjoy this scrumptious ‘pudding’ made following recipe I have used and adapted from the BBC Good Food. The number of servings depends on the size of the presentation glass but I’d say about 4 servings. The recipe is fairly happy to be adjusted according to your taste.

Ingredients:

Creamy and crunchy at the same time.

Creamy and crunchy at the same time.

  • 3T  original rolled oats (not instant oatmeal)
  • 1 cup of whole raspberries, blueberries or strawberries,
  • 1 t. white sugar (optional)
  • 1 1/2 c. heavy cream, whipped  or Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 T. good whisky
  • 3 T. honey, lavender honey is especially nice

Putting this together should take about 15 minutes.

Place the oatmeal on a jelly roll pan under the broiler and toast until it smells nutty. This may happen very quickly so keep a careful eye and nose on what’s going on in the oven.

Remove from the oven and cool the oatmeal on the pan.

Take about 1/3 to 1/2 of the berries and puree them, adding the white sugar if needed for sweetness.

Whip the heavy cream while slowly adding the whisky until the cream will hold a peak. Be careful not to over whip. If you are using Greek yogurt instead of cream, carefully stir the whisky into the yogurt.

Fold in the oatmeal until it is nicely mixed.

Present in clear glass dessert dishes alternating layers of the cream mixture with the whole and pureed berries.

Drizzle the top with the honey.

Cool for a few minutes prior to serving.

Where ever you are on Christmas day, what ever your Christmas meal, may you be around a table with special friends and wish them, as we wish you, Merry Christmas and all the best for the coming year.

 

 

 

 

Skiing at its best

December 20th, 2014 by Peter MacLaren

Have you been reading “Top 10″ lists over the last few weeks? If so you will have you see lists of almost everything under the sun, Top 10 Ugliest Cars, Top 10 Best Places to Live, Top 10 Best Companies to Work For, Top 10 Best Universities, and who knows, maybe even a list for the Top 10 Best Top 10 Lists!

Well…  here’s our “Top 4″ list – Four Great Reasons to come Ski in the Mad River Valley this Winter.

1.  Mad River Glen - Mad River Glen – Ski It If You Can. Seriously, don’t miss out on skiing this legendary co-op owned ski area. Ranked by Ski Magazine as one of the most challenging on the east coast of the US, Mad River Glen provides an opportunity for skiers of all levels to ski a variety of trails on natural snow though narrow trails which follow the terrain. Riding the Single Chair, chairlift is an absolute must! Lessons, ski shop and General Stark Pub are hillside amenities. Down hill, telemark, and cross country skiers will love MRG but be warned snowboarders… you will  have to look elsewhere for your downhill excitement as no snowboards are allowed.

Mad River Glen's unique single chair.

Don’t miss this ride to the top of Mad River Glen.

2. Sugarbush Ski ResortAs one of the largest ski areas in the northeastern US, and with two mountains to choose from, Lincoln Peak and Mount Ellen, snowboarders and skiers alike will enjoy the range of it’s 111 trails from beginner slopes to the more challenging black diamond runs. Sugarbush is locally owned and offers lessons, a variety of places for foodies, ski shop and accommodations.

3. Blueberry Lake Cross-Country Center- Is a cross country skiers’ delight. Designed for the average skiers,  outdoor enthusiast can enjoy the classic or skating style of skiing or can snowshoe on the 11 trails which includes 30km of groomed trails. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available as are lessons. Pre-skiing age children can also enjoy the outdoors in the comfort of a pulk which can also be rented. And for dog lovers, your well behaved dog is welcome and please, remember to clean up after your pooch.

Skiing at Olé's.

Skiers at Olé’s.

4. Olé’s Cross-Country CenterOffering about 40km of groomed trails, lessons, rentals of both skis and snowshoes, a deli and friendly staff, Olé’s beckons to cross-country skiers of all ages to come and enjoy winter. With relatively flat terrain skiers can explore the trails while getting great mountain views and if quiet woodland trails are your choice you’ll find them here too. There are about 15km reserved for snowshoeing only and today’s modern snowshoes are a lot easier to walk in that the old, oversized ‘tennis rackets’ and you don’t need special boots, your regular winter boots fit these snowshoes nicely.

Ready. Set. Visit!

The Mad River Valley offers skiing of all sorts, comfortable B&Bs and slope-side accommodations, friendly folks, great food, beautiful shops, gorgeous mountains, stately trees, as well as wonderful snow, more mountains, more trees, more snow and lots of fresh, crisp mountain air.

Get your mittens and scarf ready and consider this your invitation to visit Vermont, winter in its natural state. Come experience skiing at its best. We’re ready and waiting for you…what are you waiting for?

Beds, Electrons & Breakfasts; ready for Tesla!

December 17th, 2014 by Peter MacLaren

The Times They Are A-Changin’. Bob Dylan’s words were written over 50 years ago in 1963 and they continue true today. The changes we are talking about here though are not political, but environmental and technical!

On December 16th 2014 West Hill House B&B launched a new accommodation category, which we are calling a “BEB”, or Beds, Electrons & Breakfasts! Read on for details…

Interestingly our approach of providing fuel for your transportation has strong historical roots in the accommodation business.  Think back.  In the 19th century when personal transportation was still largely by horse, providing hay for your steed was an important part of the service provided by Inns and Guest Houses. Susan has some personal experience here.  When we lived in Edmonton she volunteered as an interpreter at Fort Edmonton historic park as the proprietor of Mrs Egge’s Stopping House, a reconstruction of a property from the 1880s located in its day about a day’s travel by horse north of Edmonton. Green Hotel logoLooking after your horse at Mrs Egge’s was just as important, perhaps even more so, than breakfast for its rider. (See 1885 Street on the Fort Edmonton Park site.)

Here in Vermont, the Green Mountain State, we are at the leading edge of environmental practices. Electricity used in Vermont has probably the lowest carbon footprint of any state, with a major proportion coming from hydro-electric generators and now an increasing proportion from solar arrays. And the approach to green practices is very comprehensive, including encouraging energy efficiency, recycling, composting and using environmental sound practices for agriculture and domestic needs. As part of this effort, West Hill House B&B has been a Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State since 2008 and we have continued to invest in and utilize green practices both before and since that date.

Ribbon Cutting by Megan SmithOn the transportation side, Vermont residents have been leaders in moving to plug-in hybrid and all electric (EV) cars to reduce their carbon footprint when traveling. The use of electricity as a source of power is particularly environmentally friendly in Vermont given the low carbon footprint of the power sources. In additional to a large number of plug-in hybrids, like West Hill House B&B’s own plug-in Prius, there are now over 800 EVs registered in the state of Vermont.

So back to December 16th. Over a year ago we installed a 240V 20A Level 2 charging point for EVs of overnight guests, which we also use for the B&B’s plug-in Prius. A few guests have used it, however we realized that most EVs on the road today simply can’t drive here from home if they are out of state—as the vast majority of our guests are—because of the limited battery range.

Not so for Tesla owners; when fully charged their vehicles have a range of around 250 miles. We thus took the opportunity offered by Tesla Motors to work with them to install two high power 240V 80A chargers specifically for Tesla vehicles. Tesla ChargingEach of these can fully charge a suitably equipped Tesla Model S in about 4 hours.

We were delighted to welcome Vermont Commissioner of Tourism and Marketing Megan Smith who cut the ribbon on December 16th to formally launch this capability, the first B&B in Vermont to offer dedicated Tesla charging for guests. (Two larger hotels in the state also offer this service.)

Now Tesla owners, for example from the metro areas around Boston (190 miles), Montreal (140 miles) and New York (300 miles with a top-up en-route from the complimentary Tesla Supercharger in Albany), can drive their Tesla to Vermont’s beautiful Mad River Valley and enjoy all the area’s attractions, including Sugarbush next door to us, one of the premier ski and golf resorts in the north-east, while enjoying our hospitality at the top rated B&B accommodation in the area as per Trip Advisor. (Future Tesla Superchargers are planned for Vermont and New Hampshire.)

And, of course, the electrons are on us! We shall hope to see you and your Tesla here soon.

 

Dreaming of a White Christmas?

December 15th, 2014 by Susan

MV5BMjA0Mzg0OTU0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTM4MjY5._V1_SY317_CR5,0,214,317_AL_Dreaming of a White Christmas but live where there isn’t any snow? Stop dreaming and come live your dream. Come to Vermont!

The movie White Christmas is indeed a classic and a must see Christmas movie in our family and perhaps yours too. The holidays are not complete without a visit, via DVD, to the the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont.

Starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as successful broadway producers, and Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as a sister, singing act, a twist of fate brings the foursome to The Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, in late December. Dreaming of a white Christmas and that “Vermont should be beautiful this time of year, all that snow” the four arrive and find, to their great disappointment, that there is no snow at all. The sisters find, with few registered guests, their singing contract is to be cancelled. Meanwhile, the two men discover that the innkeeper is their former commanding general.

Despite the lack of guests and the challenge of the weather, the four decide to stay and the story develops as a light-hearted romance suitable for family viewing. With songs sung by Crosby and Clooney and beautiful dancing by Vera-Ellen and Kaye, the movie is a good way to spend a winter evening.

WHH_Winter_Logo

While there is no Columbia Inn, there is West Hill House B&B in Warren, Vermont, a place to enjoy a white Christmas and winter in all its glory.

We can predict with some degree of certainty that we will have a white Christmas and we most certainly have a copy of the movie for you to watch!

Ski Catamount Trail - the Length of VermontSkiing at  Mad River Glen  and Sugarbush will be in full swing with people from around the world enjoying the opportunity to ski some of New England’s best slopes. On the Sugarbush golf course just behind our Handsome Red Barn, is a perfect hill for sledding on one of the Mad River Rocket Sleds created here in Warren. If your pace is slower, there are miles of cross-country skiing at Olé’s and  Blueberry Lake only 10 minutes from West Hill House B&B. If skiing isn’t for you, our snowshoes are perfect for exploring around our property or farther afield.

If you’re not an outdoors type or your skiing days are past, there are numerous artisan shops, small stores and coffee shops to visit but that will have to wait for another blog.

If  a white Christmas to you means looking at snow through a window,  how about curling up in a big chair by the fireplace and losing yourself in a good book, or playing a board game with your special someone.

If you are dreaming of a white Christmas look no further than Vermont in winter. Winter in its natural state!

Sugarbush’s Tour de Moon!

December 13th, 2014 by Corey A. Edwards

Sugarbush's Tour de MoonWhat do snowshoeing, skiing, Mad River Valley’s Sugarbush resort, and winter’s beautiful, moon-lit, night sky have in common? Tour de Moon, of course!

Tour De Moon is the brainchild of Sugarbush resort and involves a snowshoe hike up Mount Ellen to Glen House – the mid-mountain lodge – for a hearty, skier’s drinks and dinner, then strap on the skis and glide back down the mountain – and all of it under the beautiful, warm glow of winter’s full moon!

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