Have you noticed that the sun is setting much earlier? “It’s just about winter” says my husband. It’s not quite winter, but it is Back to School season! This year it stings a bit more to wrap up summer and head into fall. We had a great summer exploring Vermont (and beyond!). Take a look:
To celebrate kids and teachers going BACK TO SCHOOL we’ve collected a variety of gifts for one lucky winner! Note: Each prize will be directly sent from the VT business. Our winner can choose to have the prizes directly sent to them-self or to a number or friends/family members/teachers! Here are the prizes that will be sent to our winner:
Vermont Village Applesauce is the only applesauce we buy! They will send our winner two cases of applesauce pouches. Perfect for lunchboxes, field trips, after school snacks and more!
My 7 year old feels famous when he wears his Eat More Kale tshirt. Everyone stops him to say “Eat More Kale!”. Your child will be sent their very own Eat More Kale shirt to proudly wear!
Kat’s Paw is going to send our winner a colorful multi use lanyard. Check out this Etsy shop for many different quilted items including bibs, dresses, crayon rolls, coasters, wallets and more.
Real Sticks get packed in my son’s lunch often! Win a pack of 24 Real Sticks from Vermont Smoke and Cure. There are six different Real Sticks including Turkey Ancho, Beef BBQ, and Turkey Pepperoni.
Vermont Custom Works will personalize a Frozen themed car bag for our winner. Choice of blue or purple. Vermont Custom Works can print a special back to school or birthday shirt for you!
Is your child’s school Nut Free? Ours is! Send our favorite nut free granola bars: Tanabars from Vermont Nut Free! Our winner will receive an assorted pack of Tanabars.
Sarita’s Bagita’s will send our winner a set of three reusable lunch bags. These are all we use to pack snacks and lunches. They are easy to use, easy to clean, eco friendly and come in really fun patterns.
Marsh Hollow will keep your day sweet with their mouth watering jam. Our winner will receive one jar. My son’s favorite is Christmas Jam (all year!).
Alaina’s Mosaics has sold close to 500 of Alaina’s self published books to families and schools across the country. Our winner will get two books, one to keep and one to share with their classroom.
Time Out For Whoopie is one of our favorite Vermont treats!! Send them to your teacher or share in celebration of surviving the first week back to school! Our winner will receive a Sampler Pack of 6 pies.
Teachers have countless notes to send home. Pen to Paper Designs will personalize a set of beautiful Orchid note cards for your child’s teacher. Lucky teacher!
Good luck (with the giveaway AND school!),
I recently asked Claire Georges of Montpelier’s Butterfly Bakery how many different products she makes. It’s an ever changing number and product list. There are 17 different sweets and 30-40 different hot sauces and mustards a year. Because this bakery is continuously coming up with new wonderful products I encourage you to LIKE their Facebook page and find them at a Farmer’s Market near you!
Now let me tell you more!
Butterfly Bakery opened in 2003 when Claire started inventing recipes to work around her dietary restrictions. Claire shares: “I started with sweets, since sugar is my main nemesis. Then I got into vegan and whole grain baking, because treats should taste like treats, even if you have a restricted diet.”
After selling at farmer’s markets and seeing such great local produce around her Claire decided to create a line of hot sauce and mustards. I first met Claire years ago when shopping for hot sauces. I picked up two that day: Vermont Maple Sriracha and Vermont Dill Sauce. Both were full of their own distinct flavor and were used up quickly. Currently Claire works directly with The Alchemist, Stillmeadow Gardens, Eastman Long and Sons maple syrup, Seedfolks Farm and many more.
What are buyers liking best? “My most popular items are our Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunks and our Mighty Tasty Granola. My personal favorite are our Chocolate Peppermint Snap and our Sugar Shack Sriracha.” -Claire
Claire sent us a few of her newest projects which both have Heady Topper (beer) as an ingredient. Here is more info from Claire: “Our Heady Pepper hot sauce is so well loved that its garnered both international distribution and love from the Alchemist itself. We pride ourselves on being able to truly bring out the World Famous IPA flavors in our products.“
The mustard was strong and rich in flavor without being overwhelming and compliments hot dogs, Italian sausage, or a ham sandwich well by adding a touch of excellence.
I first tried this hot sauce on a spoon and my initial response was “BOOM!” It was powerful! Spicy, of course, but full of complex flavors.
Most Butterfly Bakery products can be purchased at www.ButterflyBakeryVT.com and at Vermont coops and independent grocers, but the widest variety can be bought at the Montpelier Farmers Market on Saturdays.
ENTER HERE to win a Heady Topper gift set from Butterfly Bakery –> a Rafflecopter giveaway
Plant the seeds, harvest the grain, grind, blend, package… you may think that I am retelling the classic Little Red Hen story but really I am introducing you to the Nitty Gritty Grain Co located in Charlotte, VT. Sibling owners Tom Kenyon and Cathy Kenyon are helping to not only continue to write their family’s history of farming and land conservation, but they are also putting top quality products on our grocery shelves.
All Nitty Gritty Grains are grown on the family farm. They are milled locally and packaged back at the farm. The final products – grains and baking mixes – can be found around Vermont, can be purchased online and can also be picked up at the farm.
Recipes can be found on the inside of the packaged mixes and on their website. I have a tried and mastered Pumpkin Bread recipe that I make almost weekly. Despite making it weekly the picture above shows what our pumpkin bread usually looks like… almost gone! Here’s the recipe for your family to enjoy:
1/3C vegetable oil
1 C sugar
2 large eggs
2C pumpkin (or use one 15oz can)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 & 1/2C Nitty Gritty unbleached white flour
Mix well and bake at 350 until done (the time will vary based on your muffin/pan size).
My friend Jennifer is a phenomenal baker and because I know she values locally grown products I shared my Nitty Gritty Flour with her.
I love to bake and I love to use local, wholesome ingredients! So, I was extremely excited when I was asked to try this local flour from Nitty Gritty Grain Company of Vermont! I have never heard of this company but loved the idea that everything is grown organically on their farm in VT, overlooking Lake Champlain. I experimented with two of their flours.
The first one I used was the VT White Flour, which is an unbleached all-purpose flour from hard red winter wheat. I was amazed at how silky the texture was of this flour and it had a beautiful light white color to it! I baked muffins, breads, pancakes and cookies. My breads and muffins came out light, moist and fluffy.
Next, I used the pastry flour to make pie crust. This created a nice silky and smooth dough to roll out. It was very pliable and easy to work with. I also added pastry flour to other baked goods, like pancakes, cookies, muffins and scones for a more whole grain, richer and lighter flavor and texture. The pastry flour works well with cakes too.
I can truly taste the difference and feel great knowing that it comes locally, organically grown and minimally processed. This ensures the best flavor and healthiest for me and my family as well as the environment. I look forward to using more if this flour and hopefully find it in my local store to purchase.” ~Jennifer
I love cornbread and was really excited to try the Nitty Gritty Cornbread Mix. The mix combines organic corn and organic wheat flour grown on the farm as well as a few leavening agents. Add an egg, a bit of oil, and water and let bake. Easy! I put mine in the oven and then focused on making the perfect soup to pair with the bread.
The end result was melt in your mouth wonderful. The pan only lasted a day! We ate second and third helpings with our dinner and polished the rest of the following morning for breakfast. It was divine!
Vermont author Grannie Snow is back to introduce you to the third book in The Silas Series: Silas and Opal Meet. We have shared the two previous books in this series with you before and invite you to read about them again: Big Ole Striped Silas, Silas Gets a Sister.
My children started to judge this book by its cover, and were worried that the two cats would not become friends or even be friendly to each other. Rest assured, while I won’t give away the ending, it all ends well.
Each book is so sweet and fun to read. Our family likes to sit down and read all three stories in order to see the full progression of the story.
I asked Grannie Snow what (else) she would like readers to know and this is what she shared: “(These are) wholesome books with many messages/topics you can discuss with your child, i.e. grieving process, hope, animal companionship/endorsement of shelter adoptions, patience, love, etc. (no fighting superheros, etc.)”
It’s also important to know that this book, and the whole series, 100% Vermont made (not sold on Amazon). Grannie Snow encourages her readers to visit local brick and mortar bookstores and gift shops. If you don’t see her books there, or if they are out of stock, ask for them! You can also purchase books anytime on the Silas Series website. I was thrilled to see a woman walking out of an NEK book store with The Silas Series a few weeks ago! My kids spotted the books right away too.
Good news…. illustrations for the fourth book have already begun by Matthew Gauvin! You heard it here first!
Please support this Vermont author and Vermont illustrator by LIKING their Facebook page. Doing so will give you book updates and information about scheduled reading events. Let’s help Grannie Snow reach 500 LIKES this week!
This is a very generous giveaway… Grannie Snow is offering our winner a set of three autographed books as well as a reading at a place of their choice. The last time we offered this prize it was won by a parent at my son’s school. Grannie Snow met and read to over 60 kids during her visit!
ENTER HERE to win this giveaway —–> a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck, happy reading!
Here is another Vermont made product that I am very excited to share with you: the FUNky Wrap! FUNky wrap creator Tricia O’Connor told us that she began this line just one year ago when all she had was a scarf to carry her smartphone during a run. First she created the Waist Wrap. Now don’t think that I am talking about a fanny pack. This product is so much more stylish and comfortable. It’s compact enough to look like a stylish belt, but has enough room to carry your essential items; for me that includes my phone, keys and a few tissues.
Tricia didn’t stop there. She wanted to create more products that could be used by athletes or people just out and about who don’t want a large purse or bag with them. Here is more from Tricia: “During this process I was happy with the creation of the WaistWrap but soon after decided I was not quite ready to finish the product line. This led to the creation of the VersaWrap with came to me while completing of of my long distance training runs. When I returned home I was so excited I immediately started to initiate the creation of this product. This particular wrap enables the user to wear it around the waist, slung over the shoulder, or as a backpack.”
I like to consider myself a casual runner, though more often than not you’ll find me walking! I LOVE my waist wrap and use it all the time! Just this morning I headed out on a 5 mile run with nothing more than my phone in my waist wrap. It’s easy to tie around my waist, hides under my shirt, and is very light weight. I want one in every color! Check out some of Tricia’s colorful fabrics on her Facebook page.
Next Tricia decided to start making headbands in a variety of fabrics, colors, and patterns. She sent me the great headband above and I think that it’s pretty awesome, very cool, and FUN. Note that my seven year old was my photographer of the day when we took these pictures:
Tricia’s motto is “if you can’t sweat in it….you won’t find me selling it”. I say grab a headband, grab a FUNky Wrap, and go see Vermont! Enjoy all that our great state has to offer!
Happy & stylish sweating,
Silly out take of my four year old photo bombing:
Meet Indie. She loves long walks, fast runs, and tennis balls. She is always happy to help us review great Vermont products.
Vermont Dog Eats began in Burlington 3 years ago. Owners Elisa & Vance Kiviranna tell us more about their start: “Naturally, as Vermonters, we like to eat locally, and our dogs do, too (OK, so they don’t really care, but we do!). One day we decided that rather than buying organic dog treats and eats from elsewhere, we would buy local ingredients and make the eats ourselves. The rest, as they say, is history.”
These treats are easily set apart due to the high quality, local, organic, ingredients used. With their “farm to dog bowl” mantra and belief that what dogs eat is vital to their health, Vermont Dog Eats is far surpassing any big batch treats you may find in the store. They are also happy to support local farmers and suppliers including Pete’s Greens, Full Moon Farm, and Farmer Brown.
Currently Vermont Dog Eats makes three different dog treats: Napoleon’s Nibbles – Beef & Vegetable (best seller!), Ginger’s Snaps – Ginger & Molasses, and their latest: Dixie’s Delights – Grain-Free Pork & Beans.
Two friends shared these treats with their pups and here are their reviews:
“Walker is very picky when it comes to dog treats. He will sniff a treat and quickly decide whether it is worth sampling. Walker gobbled up these treats (now I forgot the brand name). As his owner, I love that they are made locally and with high quality ingredients. Two paws up!” ~Julianna
Indie agrees, the treats are great. Indie is a very active dog. We spent a lot of time researching the best food for her and will only buy the best treats for her too: Vermont Dog Eats. She needs the best in order to be her best.
Want another great reason to buy these great VT treats? Here is more from Elisa: “As proud parents of a rescue dog and occasional fosters ourselves, we can’t say enough about the work done by animal rescue groups. And we put our money where our mouth is by donating 5% of our profits to local animal rescue/welfare organizations. Because supporting Vermont Dog Eats means supporting the local community, too.”
So where can you find Vermont Dog Eats? Find them at the Burlington Farmers’ Market, or several local retailers, including Pet Food Warehouse, Healthy Living Market and Guy’s Farm and Yard.
Vermont Dog Eats will send TWO winners each a bag of dog treats, in whatever flavor your pup would like best. ENTER HERE: a Rafflecopter giveaway
From our pup to yours: Good luck!
~Honi (& Indie)
That’s how my family feels about going to see Circus Smirkus. It’s one of our favorite days of the summer, and of the whole year. My children “practice” circus all year long and when the flyer comes in the mail announcing the new show there is extra tumbling with excitement.
Last year we hosted a giveaway for Circus Smirkus tickets and that’s exactly what we plan to do again this year!
First let me tell how about how special Circus Smirkus is! This year’s troupe of 29 come from 13 states, and are aged 11-18! They’ll perform 70 shows over 7 weeks in 15 cities and towns around New England and New York. They take their audience to magical and fun places. This show is not just for kids! I not only enjoy the comedy but am in awe of the strength and abilities of these young adults!
Here is a bit about this year’s show: ”
“Dig into another serving of Circus Smirkus! This season, we follow a new recipe to whet your appetite, exploring the culinary arts and food’s fantastic flavors in our Big Top bistro. It’s a multiple course menu with acrobatic hors d’oeuvres, juggling sous chefs, sweet and sour unicycles, and high frying aerialists. Every delicious discovery is freshly baked fun, spiced with excitement, sautéed in silliness, with a pinch of whimsy. Something taste funny? Must be the clowns! So grab your fork and tuck in your napkin for a tasty triumph, as Circus Smirkus proudly presents the 2015 Big Top Tour: Bon Appétit!”
Here’s more that you might not know about Circus Smirkus:
“Circus Smirkus is Vermont’s own non-profit, award-winning, international traveling youth circus founded in Greensboro Vermont in 1987 with the mission of promoting the skills, culture and traditions of the traveling circus and providing a forum for kids to engage in life-enhancing adventures through the circus arts. Our three programs include the Big-Top Tour, the only touring youth circus in the country. Our acclaimed in-school and after-school Ringmaster Residencies, and Smirkus Camp, America’s only residential circus arts training conducted in a traditional summer camp setting. Smirkus Camp serves over 600 kids a summer at our new, freshly built, permanent facility in Greensboro, VT, complete with 30+ acres, a135 year old farmhouse and barn. Smirkus is a 501c3 non-profit with eleven year round employees and 85 seasonal staff, based out of Greensboro, VT.”
Circus Smirkus opens THIS WEEKEND on their home stage in Greensboro! Get your tickets now!
Are you ready for that chance to WIN I mentioned earlier? The winner of this giveaway will win a family four pack of tickets to any of the following shows:
Hanover NH – July 11-13
Keene, NH July 15-16
Sandwich MA July 21-22
Waltham, MA july 24-26
Montpelier, August 9-12
CLICK HERE TO ENTER: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Best wishes, safe travels, and happy performance wishes to this year’s Circus Smirkus troupe!
~Honi (and your biggest fans Henry and Stella)
Mark your calendar now for the Spirits of Vermont taking place on Sunday, July 5th, 2015, 3:00-6:00pm at the Joe’s Pond Pavilion, West Danville Vermont.
Spirits of Vermont 2015 is a fundraiser to benefit the Pope Memorial Library in Danville, Vermont. This event showcases unique and remarkable wine, beer, and distilled spirits made in Vermont. Bailiwick’s Fine Restaurant is the featured caterer and will provide delicious food to accompany the spirits. Representatives will be available to dispense tastings and will have additional products for sale.
Here are a few of the Vermont vendors who will be part of Spirits of Vermont:
Tickets are $30.00. Advance ticket purchase is available at the Pope Memorial Library on the Danville Green. Tickets will also be available at the door. Door prizes, raffle items, and live music add to the festivities.
For more information about Spirits of Vermont, please contact the library at or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ENTER HERE to win tickets to this great event: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Are you a man with an out of control scruffy beard? Or do you know someone fitting this description? Here to help tame the mane is Feared Beard VT. I asked owner Kyle Donovan why he started this business and this is what he shared: “My good friend Matt was not able to find a beard oil he liked. I’m a UVM chemistry graduate. I’ve worked as a pharmaceutical chemist for 4 or 5 years, but over the past 3 years I’ve been working as a formulation chemist at a local soap factory. So I’ve become a sort of raw material nerd from all the bar soap formulas I’ve developed over the years and was able to really learn and understand what components work best. Matt reached out to me one day and basically tasked me with developing a beard oil that was highly effective and completely natural. After a bunch of iterations, we came to the conclusion that what I finally generated was really effective and better than most products out on the market. I decided to start a little side hobby of developing a brand, and well, here we are.”
Currently their best seller is Natural Balm and Frosted Wood Oil. When your beard is feeling a bit more out of control/frizzy/needing extra maintenance try the thicker beard balm.
I asked Kyle what makes his products stand out from others. Here is his response: “Our products are 100% natural and are formulated to have no fillers or junk. Everything in our formulations have a purpose. I’ve designed these formulations to be kind of a blend of new world and old world components. We take organic jojoba oil (desert plant in the southwest) and blend it with African oils that have been used for generations in hair care. We also utilize Champlain Apiary beeswax for our balms. There are a lot of brands out there and its hard for people to understand what the differences are. I make every bottle by hand and every single order matters to me. I’ve built my career on developing formulations and I’m not just some knucklehead putting a bunch of oils in a bottle and pretending it works. OK, so maybe the knucklehead part is true…”
I needed a bit of help reviewing these products and found the perfect person for the job. Read his review below:
Feared Beard – Lifted Lavender Beard Oil Review for TVF.
First, a disclaimer. I’m not a beard guy – I’m a guy with a beard. I don’t wear skinny jeans, vests, or ironic tee shirts. I’m a Vermonter, not a hipster. When I want a great local burger, I go to the Shopping Bag, not the Farmhouse. In other words, I’m probably not in the key market demographic for beard products. What I am, however, is a guy who loves girls. My two girls, in particular – who both love my beard, but when it gets big and scratchy, it is just no good for bedtime cuddles with my daughter, or special snuggles with my fiancee.
In other words, I was a man on a mission. To keep my beard and my ladies happy. Enter Try Vermont First and an awesome goodie bag containing a little bottle of beard oil. I was ecstatic. Great logo, the bottle is well made of a heavy glass with a screw top my oft broken crooked fingers could open without having to grab a pair of pliers.
I was less psyched to discover that it was Lavender. I’m a guy, and guys don’t wear lavender, at least not from where I come from. But I promised Honi and TVF a review, and I was willing to take one for the team.
Application was easy. The few drops per application as indicated on the label didn’t cut it (my beard must be a bit more feared than most) , but after a few extra shakes of the thin, light oil into my palm it massaged easily into my ginger whiskers. Important note: Keep it off your lips and out of your mouth. REALLY. Unless you want to do your own impersonation of Will Ferrell in Elf when he took a Binaca shot of perfume! It only took a few times for me to learn my lesson, but I’m a guy – so you gotta cut me some slack, we just aren’t as smart as the ladies. It isn’t the product’s fault, I’m just a meat-head.
The results – I immediately noticed an improved shine and the red color of my beard went from standard to High-Def. That alone wasn’t going to make up for smelling like lavender all day, but I’m no quitter. After a few days repeated use, I noticed a definite improvement in the softness and mane-manageability. My beard doesn’t feel heavy or weighted down, or slicked together like I hit it with some old school Palmade (I’m no Dapper-Dan Man). As an extra bonus, the oil doesn’t make my face all greasy or shiny – but right after I apply it, there is just enough on my skin to shave my neck without any pain or pulling from my razor.
Honi asked for a review after a week or so of continued use, but I was determined to give it a real shot -really commit to a marathon test. Plus, I’m a procrastinator, and an extended test meant I could put off writing a review for a bit. And perhaps for a few extra bits. (Sorry Honi!). After a full month of use, only a handful of people at work have made fun of the fact I smell like lavender (both my girls love it, but I’m still not sold) but I get many compliments on how good my beard looks, and it is much easier to maintain and keep in check. The results from my extended test – my beard gets softer with each use. Skip a day or two and I’m heading back to brillo, but a hot shower and a healthy application and things are back on track.
I’ll definitely seek out more of Feared Beard’s products. My tiny little bottle of beard oil is almost empty, so I’ll hit their website www.fearedbeardvt.com to find a great local retailer to buy more. I’ll probably try another scent though – although who knows. I could become a Lavender man after all. A note to all my friends out there in the 802 – anyone see me sporting a stupid hat or skinny jeans, please drag me behind a tractor until I come back to my senses! Feared Beard may have sold me on using beard care products, but every guy has his limits.
ENTER HERE to win a gift pack from Feared Beard –> a Rafflecopter giveaway
Go Sox! (Beards make me think of the Red Sox!)