EPISODE 19: 50 SHADES OF FLANNEL

Over the past couple of weeks it seems you couldn’t go anywhere without being reminded of the most-anticipated event in the world of entertainment in what seems like years. I am referring of course to the February Frolics, a series of concerts held at Montpelier City Hall to the benefit of Lost Nation Theater, Montpelier’s theatrical gem.

In another example of Vermonters finding a way to cope with the winter, the Frolics are a series of three concerts held on cold, dark nights in the middle of February. The middle concert, held last night, featured Vermont’s outstanding Newgrass ensemble Hot Flannel. Continue reading

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EPISODE 18: ARE WE HIBERNATING?

This morning I was paying the bills, one of which is the electric bill. Green Mountain Power helpfully (?) includes the average temperature for the most recent cycle on each bill. The average temperature for our last cycle, which was mostly the month of January, was 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

That sounded kind of cold to me, and in fact it was. The normal average January temperature for Montpelier is 16 degrees. And, as we learned in Episode 16, even that is four degrees colder than Brunswick’s average January temperature.

So we are adjusting, but sometimes having a difficult time doing so. Continue reading

EPISODE 17: OLE’S NORDIC CENTER

Ever since we moved to Vermont and I started to research the state’s Nordic skiing venues, I have been excited to ski at Ole’s Cross Country Center in Warren. Why? Because it’s fun to say. Also because they have a Norway flag in their logo. They seem authentic.

Luckily, Ole’s is located less than an hour from Montpelier. And thanks to Ski Vermont’s Nordic Reciprocal Program, our Morse Farm season’s pass gets us in for free. (What a fantastic benefit!) So just after lunch this afternoon, we packed up the car and headed to Warren. Continue reading

EPISODE 16: SPICE ON SNOW

In Vermont, as with Maine, winter is inevitable. Cold weather is unavoidable. For us, the effect is exacerbated by the fact that we moved from the coast to the mountains. Brunswick’s average annual temperature is a full 2.5 degrees warmer than Montpelier’s. But this comes with seasonal fluctuations – because of the moderating effect of the ocean, Brunswick is a full four degrees warmer (less cold?) in the winter months, while the temps are nearly even in the summer.

Which is a long-winded way of saying we are finding Montpelier to be damn cold this winter!

Because the cold and snow are inevitable, Vermonters have found ways to adapt, even embrace them. Indeed, much of the population seems to have self-selected precisely because snow and ice are abundant here. There are a lot of expatriates who are here for the skiing, as well as hiking during the warmer months. And the natives seem to wear it as a badge of their upbringing. Winter is accepted as fact of life here. Continue reading

EPISODE 15: SKIING AT MORSE FARM

After a day of errands and beginning to obsess about where to live, we decided today would be a good day to initiate our Vermont nordic skiing careers. We are in Vermont, we are committed to embracing the winter. Given the relative lack of snow in recent weeks, with some rain mixed in to boot, I was concerned about the conditions in the area and we were considering heading north. However yesterday we drove by Morse Farm, just a couple of miles up the road in East Montpelier, and saw folks skiing on what looked like pretty nice trails. So we decided to go there instead.

Our last few winters in Maine we made a habit of skiing on free trails around Brunswick – places like The Commons or Crystal Spring Farm. We skied these sites partly because they were free, and therefore attractive for an hour or two of skiing, but primarily because they were close. The fact is that the closest “real” cross-country skiing area to Brunswick was a good 45-minute drive to Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

But despite the fact that I am a cheapskate and love to do things for free, there’s a clear downside to the free skiing. Continue reading

EPISODE 14 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Well, we made it until 2015!

We’re now almost five months into this adventure, and the new year brings new opportunities. The past several months have been filled with basic things like figuring out how to live here. By which I mean, where do you buy stuff? Like clothes, for example. Back in Maine the national chains have come to dominate retail, so we were practically forced to shop at Target and TJ Maxx.

One thing Montpelier does not have in abundance is national chains. That’s a good thing – we are champions of the local retailer. However there is a fair amount of work in figuring out who sells what, and what we can afford on 1.25 incomes. So many weekends over the past few months, especially as we geared up for the holidays, were spent driving around and checking places out. Much of this took us to Burlington, which has malls and outlets that feature (sigh) familiar national retailers.

Compromises sometimes must be made. Continue reading

EPISODE 13: OUR FIRST SKI ADVENTURE

Aside from a great job opportunity, the biggest appeal to me of moving to Montpelier is the proximity to skiing. In Brunswick we were about one and a half hours from Mount Abram, which was the closest decent-sized downhill ski area. Here, I count at least eight within that drive, many much closer.

The closest of which is Bolton Valley, a short 35-minute drive from our front door. The mountain offered an early-season, $29 lift ticket special this week. We’re not usually “hit the slopes the day they open and ski on one trail” people, but the mountains received two feet of fresh snow during the week. The combination turned out to be too good to resist. So Saturday morning – later than we had expected (but who cares, it’s only a half-hour away!) – we packed up the Subaru and headed north for the short drive up I-89. Continue reading

EPISODE 12: White Thanksgiving

One challenge we face in moving to Vermont after living our entire lives in Maine is determining how much we should continue to orient ourselves “back home.” We have made just a couple of friends here while of course we have many friends and most of our family back in Maine. Furthermore, we are only about three hours from our families, which seems close enough to get home with little trouble but far enough to be a pain to do so. A day trip – six hours of driving – sounds pretty exhausting as I approach the end of my 40s.

And then there is weather. We are very used to driving in snow, but “taking it slow” takes on a different meaning for a three hour trip than it does for a thirty minute one. Our families understand that there are times when weather will impact our travel plans. Continue reading

EPISODE 10: ART TOUR

Our desire to see all that Vermont has to offer has been delayed a bit by travel and other responsibilities, but this weekend we were free to set out and explore.  We consulted the weekend events section in Seven Days, and discovered that it was the annual Vermont Open Studio weekend, during which Vermont artists (as the name suggests) open their studios to guests.  Not only is this a great opportunity to meet artists and view their work and learn about their process, but it was also a perfect excuse to See Someplace New.

Late Saturday morning, armed with a printout of the map and guide for Windsor County we pointed the wheels south, toward Woodstock, a town that a colleague of Doreen said we should check out.  We planned to start our tour with a group show at The Collective.  As we drove a drizzle turned to a steady rain, which became a pour for most of the afternoon. Continue reading

EPISODE 9 – APPLE PICKING

Though we are now further away from the great majority of our friends, the move to Vermont has moved us closer to a few others.  Amy and Jeff, who moved to the Upper Valley in New Hampshire a couple years ago, fall into that category.  This weekend we took advantage of the fact that only about 60 miles separate us to have a visit.  So we headed off to Williston to pick apples at Adams Apple Orchard.

Adams Apple Orchard is situated on a hillside with a panoramic view of the Green Mountains in the distance.  (But, then again, aren’t they all in this state.)  Unlike farms I’ve seen in most other parts of the state, Adams suffers (and surely benefits) from its proximity to Burlington and all the chain stores in Williston.  Driving to the orchard, one drives through subdivisions sprawling across the converted farm land.  Though the orchard itself is beautiful, the feel here is distinctly suburban. Continue reading