Sunday, March 25, 2012

Family Adventures: The Cost of an Early Spring

After a glorious week of sunny days and temperatures in the 70s, we got back to more typical early spring weather this weekend: rainy and chilly. Due to our mild winter in Vermont, there are already buds on the trees - about a month earlier than usual. It will be nice to see green soon but, as we will address shortly, the early spring has come at a cost. On to the highlights of a busy weekend...

Maple Open House Weekend

Early spring, a.k.a. Mud Season, is arguably the most miserable time of year in Vermont. As the snow melts, all of our charmingly rustic dirt roads turn to goop. Winter's beautiful white is gone and the glorious green of seasons to come has not yet taken hold. Instead, there's wet, brown muck.

Photo via Elsie's Daughter

The annual payoff for this gloomy time of year is an awfully good one: maple syrup, a substance for which Vermont is justifiably well-known and very proud. This weekend was the official open house weekend for the sugar shacks statewide. Unfortunately, everything I wrote last week about this being a good year for maple sugaring was completely wrong. Once the trees bud, the sap stops running. It's all over. Last year, they were able to tap the trees until mid-April - brutal.

Undeterred, we dutifully visited our closest sugaring house, owned and operated by the family of one of Our Girl's good friends. They didn't have any grade B, our favorite, and are unlikely to given the weak harvest. We got some grade A medium amber and also some maple sugar for toast and such - a perfectly respectable haul but one hopes for better next year for their sake more than ours.


Lost again, 1-0. It's a distressing pattern. I do feel like we get better each week and I think we can be particularly proud of how we played in the first period as most of the action was in our opponents' end of the ice. I'm working on being a better passer and that was going well - for a while.

What's killing us is a lack of subs. There were only six of us on Saturday night, just enough to field a team. For next season, we need to find people who will show up. Those of us who've been playing regularly have improved and others would, too. Playing thirty minutes with barely a chance to catch your breath between periods is just too much. It was my own errant pass that started the other team on their breakaway for their only goal. I take full responsibility. But, if I hadn't been exhausted, it might not have happened.

Green Mountain Film Festival

Focus on Film is currently in the midst of the 15th Annual Green Mountain Film Festival. Most of the festival takes place in Montpelier but there will also be screenings in St. Johnsbury next weekend. We went to see A Cat in Paris this morning. The film was shown at the City Hall Arts Center, a fairly large space that I was sure couldn't be filled on a Sunday morning. Boy, was I wrong! This was the festival's big kid-friendly feature but there were plenty of all age groups in attendance. Everyone applauded at the end, too. I love it when people clap at the end of a movie.

Image via Unseen Films

The film is very charming, well-deserving of its Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. The story is pretty straight-forward: a mute girl living with a single mom and a cat who goes on nightly adventures. There's more, of course, but I won't spoil the fun for anyone interested in seeing it. The animation was very nice, mostly cell-animation, I think. The plot is simple, easy to follow and moves along at a fair clip. My Wife didn't like the Olive Oilish chests on the women and I didn't care for the lines on the faces - looked like whiskers on the men and freckles on the women but they just made everyone look untidy. But overall, all three of us enjoyed the film very much. Four out of five stars from me.

Editorial Note: Suze's comment below made me think that perhaps one might get the wrong idea from my previous paragraph. There's not a thing wrong with freckles on women or whiskers on men. But they were drawn similarly so it looked like the women had whiskers high on their cheekbones. It just didn't look right.

My Wife commented that perhaps next year, we'll see nominated movies before the Oscars. I think she may have been a little embarrassed at the Oscar party that we hadn't seen more of the films. Seeing as Our Girl has come to terms with the fear of the dark element, our cinema attendance has increased dramatically over the past several months. I think we'll be in respectable shape in time for next year's party.

Coffee Corner
“I went into a restaurant. The menu said, ‘Breakfast anytime.’ So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance.” - Steven Wright
In my opinion, the three most beautiful words in the English language are "Breakfast Served Anytime." Such is the promise at Coffee Corner, just down the street from City Hall. Our wait for a table was a bit long and I was more than a little grumpy by the time we were seated but all turned out fine in the end. I had a half-stack with a side of corned-beef hash. I initially ordered the full stack but our waitress advised against. "Most people don't finish the full stack," she said, "I don't want you to waste your money." So, I ordered the half and she promised to bring me more if I was still hungry. Fair enough.

The half stack was plenty - and glorious. I love a good pancake - a spongy one that melts in your mouth. In truth, I probably could have had more but it seemed silly to do so just to prove a point. I was happy with my meal.

Phoenix Books

Image via Essex Shoppes & Cinema

Our final stop on the way home was our local independent book store, Phoenix Books in Essex. Business must be going well as they're opening a second location in Burlington. The reason for our visit today, however, was an art display by Our Girl's after-school art program. We got to see animal paintings by Our Girl and her friends - impressive work by all, especially considering the age. She loves art and I'm very pleased that we've found such a meaningful outlet.


  1. Never been to a movie with peeps clapping at the end :(

  2. Hello, Squid. This was a lovely post for a number of reasons but I wish to know, what is so bad about freckles on women?

    Also, I don't know if you're a fan of Steven Wright or if you just happened to find an apt quote to go with the dandy recounting of your culinary adventures at Coffee Corner but here are a few to add to the collection.


    I came out of my room and saw that everything in the apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact replica. I turned to my roommate and said, 'Did you see this?' And he said, 'Who are you?'


    What if everything were suddenly 10% larger. How would we know?

    1. There's not a thing wrong with freckles on women or whiskers on men. But they were drawn similarly so it looked like the women had whiskers high on their cheekbones. It just didn't look right.

      I'm a HUGE Steven Wright fan. Glad you are, too. I like "I'm not afraid of heights. I'm afraid of widths. So I walk my dog on the ledge."

  3. This one's from a movie (So I Married an Axe Murderer) but it's still ace:

    'Whoa. I just had this crazy dream I was born eight and a half months premature.'

    I especially like the one you quoted in this post. If you've heard him, you can appreciate all of 'em, though -- mostly because of the delivery. So much rides on the delivery.

    Are you an illustrator?

    1. An illustrator? My goodness, no. I have no talent in that area whatsoever. Looking for one?

    2. No. I just found it notable that you mentioned the placement of the whiskers/freckles (high on the cheekbones.) It made me think that perhaps you'd studied grids of the human face for illustration purposes.

      Squid, I have another seemingly random question which I feel appropriate to pose to you. Have you ever feared the ocean?

    3. I love the ocean. Seacoast is the one thing Vermont lacks that I miss. Fear it? I have to admit that, as much as I enjoyed it, scuba diving did make me a bit nervous. All of that water could kill you pretty quickly if something went wrong. The sea is an awe-inspiring entity. I'd say my feelings are reverent more than fearful. You?

      I had pretty meager art instruction as a kid and really nothing since the sixth grade. I regret it now as I feel my knowledge of visual arts lags far beyond music, literature and film for me. I like to think it's not too late to fix that.

    4. My dad was a sailor and that's what he says, you have to respect the ocean -- and never give it your back.

      'All of that water could kill you pretty quickly if something went wrong.'


      I used to swim in the sea off the shores of Tampico (Mexico) every summer as a kid. I wasn't afraid of nothin.' Loved to body surf. Then I swam across my hometown throughout adolescence in pools crisscrossing all the surrounding neighborhoods, including my own. But as an adult, I've been extremely landlocked (and extremely bookish) and as a result, I've grown a little rigid with fear. Well, more than a little. I'm frightened of flying over the ocean and staying on a tiny mass of land in the middle of the ocean and in the coming month, I've been presented with the opportunity to do just that (Oahu.) At first, I declined.

      As to your own adventures in the visual arts, 'Never too late to be what you might have been.' (George Eliot)

      Do you play an instrument?

    5. I'm primarily a singer but out of professional necessity, I dabble in various instruments as well: piano, guitar, recorder, saxophone, etc.

    6. etc. -- funny thing to throw in at the end, there. That's a wonderful list of accomplishments, especially if they're a part of your profession.

      I wrote a novel about a vocalist. Set in the '80s, in fact.