It’s summer vacation time and no matter where your travels may take you, it is nice to be given a warm welcome upon arrival at your destination.
Fredericksburg Texas, now there’s a town that knows how to welcome folks!
Some years ago, I went on a girls-weekend to A Place In Time B&B in Fredericksburg, TX. We chose the Ruby Bell Suite on the second floor as it was perfect for the three of us. We received a warm greeting from Jon (innkeeper/owner) as well as from the local shopkeepers and restaurant staff we met as we explored the area. In the intervening years I have continued to receive their newsletter, which highlights events going on at the B&B as well as festivals and activities in the town. The newsletter makes me feel welcomed all over again. While visiting this delightful town may not be in your immediate plans, I highly recommend a visit to Fredericksburg, TX because it’s a friendly and welcoming.
And why is this such a friendly and welcoming place? Because as the town points out…
Isn’t this a wonderfully creative idea? Now we can’t all rename the streets in our towns but we can all give a warm welcome to visitors. Hospitality always gives visitors and guests feel a warm feeling. Whether you are greeted in your own language; Welcome! !Hola! Aloha! Bienvenue! Willkommen! Ciao! Välkomnde! or perhaps Witja!, or you meet with helpful folks when you need directions, receive excellent service in a shop, are greeted with a cheery smile from a local or are welcomed by the names of the streets, it’s a good feeling.
In the 10 years we have owned West Hill House B&B we have welcomed guests from every continent (we counted the scientist who had been stationed for a number of months in Antarctica). Whether you come for romance, relaxation or recreation, we will be delighted to say “Welcome!” and extend the hospitality of West Hill House B&B to you. Come visit us and teach us to say “welcome” in your mother tongue!
Maple syrup and Vermont go together like, well, maple syrup and pancakes! Forty years are required to grow a sugar maple tree large enough to tap. A tree ten inches (25 cm) in diameter is considered minimum trappable size for one tap. A grove of sugar maples is called a sugar bush or sometimes a maple orchard. It takes 4-5 taps to produce enough maple sap (40 gallons – 150 liters) to produce one gallon of syrup. And right now the sap is being boiled down to make the world famous Vermont Maple Syrup with Maple Festivals happening here in the Mad River Valley as well as across the state.
Vermont has strict Maple Laws governing the production of maple syrup to ensure that you get the highest quality maple syrup. For such a deliciously complex flavor, maple syrup is surprisingly simple to make. Seeping spring-time sap from a maple tree is collected and boiled down to a golden syrup. Nothing is added in the entire process and only water is removed, leaving one of nature’s remarkably culinary gifts.
For years, Vermont maple syrup has been divided into one of four grades based on color and flavor. As consumer preference has changed over the past century, so too has the grading system evolved to provide a more accurate description based on consumer preference. The names of each grade, however, did not necessarily provide a meaningful description of the syrup. With the old system of grading, Grade B was often mistaken for being a lower quality than Grade A, when in fact the quality was just the same it just had a stronger taste.
Beginning in 2014, Vermont maple syrup producers started using a newly developed “Vermont” grading system that provides a better description of each grade, or class, of syrup. Each grade will state a color and a flavor descriptor:
Some interesting facts about this most luscious sweetener:
*it contains an abundant amount of naturally ocurring minerals such as calcium, manganese, potassium and magnesium
* it is a natural source of beneficial antioxidants
* it is more nutritious than all other common sweeteners
* it contains one of the lowest calorie levels
* it has been shown to have healthy glycemic qualities
* maple syrup and maple sugar can be used in all your cooking and baking
All 4 grades of maple syrup are of equal quality, density and sugar content so it’s just a matter of personal preference – what’s yours?
The Native Peoples of the Northeast were the first to discover that the sap of the maple tree could be boiled down to provide an addition to their diet. Vermont produces about 3.5 million gallons (about 13 million liters) of maple syrup annually, providing 40% of the US supply. Several other states produce maple syrup on a smaller scale. In comparison, Canada produces about 10 million gallons ( about 38 million liters) per year supplying the domestic market and providing about 75% of the world supply.
All that luscious maple syrup would look after a Paul Bunyan sized stack of pancakes with some maple syrup left over for your pancakes!
For more information check out vermontmaple.org, and to experience Maple Sugaring first hand come to the Mad River Valley Maple Festival weekend on April 1st through 3rd 2016—we have a special package just for you!
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.
2. Sugarbush Ski Resort – As 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.
4. Olé’s Cross-Country Center – Offering 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.
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?
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.
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!
Skiing 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!
Farmers and consumers both benefit from the CSA scenario. Farmers have time to market their food before the start of their long days in the fields, they receive payment for their produce early in the season which helps with their cash flow, and they have the opportunity to meet the people who purchase the results of their labors.
Consumers benefit as well with absolutely fresh food full of vitamins and flavor, they learn about new foods and new recipes, they know where their food is coming from, and they develop a relationship with “their farmer(s)”.
Here in the Mad River Valley there are several CSA programs underway and we recently bought a “share” in Muddy Boots, a CSA collaborative effort between three organic farms, Kingsbury Market Garden, Wood’s Market Garden and Burnt Rock Farm. Other smaller producers will also be involved so we will have the option of also receiving fresh bread, butter, sunflower oil, dry beans and a variety of other wonderful items.
Muddy Boots recently had an open house where we met one of “our farmers”, Aaron of Kingsbury Market Garden, who was getting his tractor ready for onion planting, and Marisa of Bragg Farm in Fayston, one of the smaller producers, who will be providing butter and cheese products.
Not only did we meet these two, we met a new-to-us food, Claytonia, which is quite delicate in appearance, tastes somewhat sweet, is full of vitamin C and will make a lovely addition to a salad of fresh greens.
This year at West Hill House B&B we will be incorporating items from our CSA share into our breakfasts so you, our guests, will be able to taste fresh, farm-to-tummy produce from our neighbors.
Yes, a Red Chair is traveling throughout New England and having a great time visiting B&Bs, historic sites, museums, gardens and beaches.
Keep your eyes open, it may be coming to a B&B near you!
The 3rd annual Stars and Stripes Air Show on June 30 will bring excitement to the Sugarbush Airport in Warren with vintage planes, stunt flying by both planes and gliders, glider rides, classic motorcycles, food and fun for children and adults alike. Tickets may be purchased on line or at the gate. Check out the air show website for more information and some video of last year’s show. Sorry but dogs and coolers must be left at home.
If cooking is your delight, you can learn to impress your family and friends at the cooking classes at The Kitchen at The Store in Waitsfield. Chef John shares his wisdom and makes learning in the kitchen most enjoyable.
On Saturday, Chef’s Table-Aound the World offers participants not only the opportunity to create food from 4 different countries but to eat it too!
July 2 and 3 will have you creating scrumptious pies at the Butter, Sugar & Sin-Pies class and the Easy Entertaining-Soups and Paninis classes. The best thing is you don’t have to be an expert cook to take these classes, they are fun for all skill levels.
Of course on the 4th of July is the world famous, wild and wacky, 4th of July Parade which makes its way down the main street of Warren to the delight of thousands, yes thousands, of spectators. Family fun, kids games, music, food an more follow the parade in the town as well as up at Sugarbush. The parade starts at 10AM but be there early, no cars are allowed in town but buses will be making the circuit from various parking places to town. The day closes with a bang a fireworks will light the sky over Sugarbush starting shortly after 9PM.
As well as all these activities, don’t forget there are mountain walks, energetic hikes, river and lake kayaking, refreshing swimming holes, eclectic shopping, golf and plenty of relaxing to be had here in the valley.
Join the residents of the Mad River Valley and celebrate the 4th of July Vermont style. With the many lodging opportunities here in the Valley, from welcoming B&Bs to condos and rental houses, there will surely be something perfect for you.
See you soon!
Local farmers bring a vast array of items including seedling plants, freshly harvested vegetables and fruits, cheeses, local meats, maple syrup, honey, eggs, jams and fresh baking–ummm I can almost smell the fresh pies! When you are at the market, be sure to visit the artisans’ booths where you’ll see beautiful intricate blown glass, colorful woven goods, hand crafted wooden items, finely turned pottery pieces and much more. Everything’s super and everything’s for sale.
If you are visiting the valley and had to leave your canine baby at home you’ll especially love the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market as dogs are invited to attend as long as they promise to stay on their leash and be polite and friendly to everyone they meet.
What’s on your bucket list?
There are so many wonderful places to visit and things to do in Vermont that we have created none other than our own Vermont Sap-Bucket list!
In the 6 years we have been in Vermont we have taken the opportunity explore this wonderful Green Mountain state. We’re excited when our guests ask “What’s there to do in Vermont?” because we are more than happy to fill them in on what’s what.
As our guests at West Hill House B&B, we will help you to plan your itinerary and activities by providing you with ideas based on your interests and driving routes that will show off the beautiful scenery.
So we invite you watch this space for our Sap-bucket list.
After a busy day at Sugarbush and Mad River Glen, guests’ boots rest by the fireside while their humans enjoy their steam showers and jacuzzis.