holiday gift guide — vermont edition 2019

Last Christmas, everybody on my list got a bottle of pure Vermont maple syrup. But Vermont has lot’s of locally made goods worthy of gift-giving. Here are my top picks for the 2019 holiday season.

Clockwise from upper left:  Simon Pearce Burlington Moss Glen serving bowl. 10.5 inches. $125   |   17″ Solid Oak French Paddle by Vermont Farm Table  $115      Hand made French Ticking Half Apron by Red House Vermont  $98     A Vermont twist on the classic s’more  — Shelburne Farms S’mores gift basket contains their 2-year waxed cheddar, local liquid honey and locally produced salted maple crackers. No fire required.   $33      Stacked Shape Butter Dish with antique wooden handle, hand made by Sugar House Ceramic Company   $58   |    Waxed Canvas Weekender Bag in true black. Also available in red, brown, green and grey by Red house Vermont  $268     Jam made with all local fruits and honey (instead of cane sugar) in the cutest little 2 oz jars so you can try lots of flavors.  $6.99 each at V. Smiley Preserves

 

look who’s back

In case anyone was wondering, I’ve spent the past year living on a lake in a small Vermont hamlet. When I tell that to most folk, their jaw drops. “Aren’t you a city girl?” Maybe. But to wake up to the spectacular view of rolling green hills dropping off over a vast lake, surrounded by mountains in the distance. Let’s just say, it’s been special. For the few months of the year it was green, anyway. Today the ground is snow covered. It’s c-c-c-cold outside. And I’m reconsidering this journey. But that’s for another day .  .  .

In the meantime, I’m hoping to get back to posting about my travels and more on a semi-regular basis. What do you say, we start with a little day trip to the Northeast Kingdom here in Vermont:

It’s about a two hour drive to the NEK from the general Burlington area. Through the Stowe resort town and beyond into seemingly nowheresville. Miles of winding roads and endless trees — take the drive in the Fall and you won’t be disappointed!  Know where you are going and there are treasures to be found .  .  .

STOP 1:  The Museum of Everyday Life, 3482 Drypond Road, Glover, VT

IMG_0060This place is a one of a kind marvel. A self-service celebration of the mundane things you and I might, otherwise, not give a second thought to — everything from lowly dust, to safety pins, to scissors — the main exhibition during my visit.

Turn on the lights, view, read and listen your way through a selection of items from the permanent collection and highlights from past exhibitions into a series of spaces dedicated to a single subject. Objects, activities, artworks and uniquely curated experiences await. Above all, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. One curious girl in my crew saw a record player behind what we thought was a curtain of netting to keep onlookers away from objects on display. Only her willingness to crawl under this fragile barrier revealed it was actually a musical curtain of bells powered by said spinning turntable. Magical!

Give yourself a good hour here. There’s a gift shop in the corner with an honor box for cash payment. And don’t forget to turn the lights out as you leave.

 

STOP 2:  Bread & Puppet Theater Barn, 753 Heights Road, Glover, VT

This carefully organized warehouse of giant papier mâché puppets, is far more impressive than the theater they are made for. The Bread & Puppet theater is a traveling troop of performers putting on political & historical puppet shows around the country. I personally found one of the cult-like shows extremely difficult to sit through but was truly mesmerized by this barn housing 55 years of puppets, so carefully arranged on the walls and ceilings that they beg you to create your own stories to match their grandeur.

The Bread & Puppet “Family” also supports themselves through the sale of printed posters, cards and books based on the founder’s original works. Affordable, colorful and powerful artworks that make nice souvenirs if your into that sort of thing. And don’t miss the bus full of crafty treasures for sale parked along the road across the street. It’s hippy-ville Vermont at it’s finest.

Note: Stops 1 & 2 are just down the road from one another and it’s no coincidence — they share minds & resources.

STOP 3: Parker Pie Company, 161 Country Road West Glover, VT

Pie as in pizza pie with a selection of local craft beers on tap for lunch. The local watering hole/general store/gallery. But you are going to have to stop and ask directions because it doesn’t show up on any GPS — if you can even get one working up here — and is far off the main drag. Worth the detour, however, and chances are it will be packed to the gills.

 

STOP 4: Red Sky Trading, 2984 Glover Street, Glover VT

An honor system little barn of a shop with kitchy knick-knacks, local cheeses (pick up some award-winning Jasper Hill cheese — while nearby, they don’t offer tours or have a shop of their own) and home-baked sweets. If it’s a nice day, pull up an Adirondack chair and enjoy a bit of dessert while taking in the scenery. If sweets aren’t your thing, make this stop 3 so you don’t have to back-track after lunch.

Stop 5: Hill Farmstead Brewery, 403 Hill Road, Greensboro Bend, VT

Voted the best brewery in the world five years running, it is a worthy stop to pick up a growler, a bottle or a few cans as it’s not available to purchase in stores — only on tap in select Vermont establishments and here onsite. There are limits to the amount you can buy, especially for limited releases. But the beer is GOOD, you can hang out on the grounds and during the summer, there are often food trucks and music on the property as well.

Note:  The brewery is closed Sun-Tues so plan your travels accordingly. This is not one to be missed. Prepare to queue.

Loaded up with local cheese, beer, artwork and kingdom culture, you are ready to head out of the NEK and back to civilization.

more cool stamps

Suddenly, I wish I wrote more correspondence that required stamps. Because suddenly, the United States Postal Service is producing all kinds of cool stamps.

Here are a few more to add to your collection produced in past years but still available for purchase online:

The Solar Eclipse — a heat sensitive ink that reveals the moon with the touch of your finger. So f-in cool!! Now I wish I’d had an eclipse party. Good news is these are Forever stamps. Buy some now and use them for the next North American solar eclipse in 2024.

How about these round (!) ball stamps. So cute for a kids party invite or just for your favorite sports fan. I so wish you could buy single balls ’cause I’m kinda partial to tennis myself. But the novelty of any of these balls adorning your mail would be charming regardless the sport.

janice

An oldie but a goodie from 2014 still available online. Nothing beats the flower power of Janice Joplin.

succulent

If succulents are more your thing, here’s another round stamp good for international postage or larger envelopes at $1.15 value.

And whether your taste in entertainment leans towards Star Trek or Disney, there are always some great options available in any given year.

These and other cool stamps are available online here.

And what are my favorite stamps I’ve ever purchased?

These Charles and Ray Eames stamps. Issued in 2008 before forever stamps were introduced. But that’s OK. They’re too cool to mail. I framed them instead.

scratch and post

Available today at your local post office — scratch and sniff stamps with the smell of summer frozen treats!

There’s just one scent for all designs, sadly. But regardless, they’re fun, fruity and oh so summery. Post one to a friend today. Perfect for those letters home from camp!

$10 for a book of ten Forever stamps, until sold out.

object of desire

Worth every bit of the $80 price tag. Gorgeous and functional. Which color will you buy? By SimpleHuman

All photos by SimpleHuman

new travel obsession

Right now feels like a luggage revolution out there. You’ve got bags that charge your devices, bags with built in GPS so you know where your bag is (but still doesn’t help much if you’re in Paris and your bag is in Dubai), bags that fold down flat to store, bags with permanent luggage scan tags as long as your airline is an affiliated partner, bags that lock automatically when out of range of your phone, bags that blink at you when they are over the 50 lb limit. In other words, bags that solve a whole lot of individual problems but none that take the entire travel experience into consideration and make it easier to get from point A to point B.

That my friends, is what I’m looking for. And as I started to look around for a good four wheeled suitcase (sadly all the bags I recently wrote about have been swept away by the digital revolution) I stumbled upon what just may be the most amazing suitcase solution  I have ever seen.Bugaboo stack.png

The new Bugaboo Boxer luggage system.

Bugaboo 3.png

I think I’m in love!

Let’s just get this out of the way right from the start — it’s expensive. Very expensive. And there are still a few kinks to work out of the system. But I’m going to say, if you travel a lot this luggage seemingly can make your travel experience that much easier.

Just exactly what is The System?

  • One set of wheels that allow you to pull or push your bags with ease
  • Multiple size bags that “click” in and onto each other
  • Bags within bags (that can get all your unexpected purchases home)
  • A handy laptop/magazine/important document organizer at the ready without opening another bag
  • Sleek leather add-ons that go from airport to street with ease

This was me on my last trip — large roller bag with two wheels pulled along by a single shaft handle. Over the shoulder carry on with a change of clothes, toiletries, jewelry, medication, easy to reach cash, travel documents, chargers — the things I want to keep near me —  that while it has a pocket to pass over suitcase handles for easy stacking, doesn’t work well with a single shaft handle. Large cross body purse filled with just my flight essentials — travel pillow, cashmere shawl, headphones, kindle, snacks, water and magazines. It all seems very manageable and organized until I’ve stood in passport control for over an hour and walked 2 miles to the gate wishing i had wheels to take the load. But I just can’t get past the notion that I don’t need two wheeled suitcases for any trip, even if one is very small.

But what if those suitcases stacked onto each other and had just one set of wheels between them? Drop the big bag at luggage check (sans wheels) and walk away with small bag attached to those wheels and a leather tote pinned on, along for the ride. Nothing across your body, nothing over a shoulder, documents easily reachable in a zippered compartment that also holds your laptop, magazines, toiletries and easily separates to go through security? And did I mention it glides with the touch of a finger? I’d happily give up charging capability, GPS, auto locks and auto weigh for this ease of travel.

bugaboo 1.jpg

OK, the system is not without its faults:

  • The hard sided (not my favorite) suitcases in cabin and checked sizes, are super light (4 and 8 lbs, respectively) but the wheels themselves are over 7 lbs. So you are at 11+ lbs without being loaded to lift overhead when you get on board.
  • No locks on the wheels can make for runaway luggage if you don’t hold on at all times.
  • People complain that unlike Bugaboo strollers, the wheels are not terrain or even escalator friendly. But I say, that is when you have to put the wheels in pull mode. Then it acts like any other suitcase that goes over a curb or down an escalator. Two wheel pull mode still offers counter balancing (partially why the chassis is so weighty) that helps make the load feel lighter than a typical two wheeled suitcase.
  • You can’t (or shouldn’t) check the wheels attached to the suitcase. So if you check all your bags, you will look a little silly wheeling around just the built in document case.
  • There’s a bungie system built into the wide spread handle intended to keep things you want to balance atop your suitcase from falling through like a purse, a coat or a travel pillow. Seems a bit flimsy and a bit of an afterthought. One thing I have learned the hard way, there is something to be said about the standard double shaft handle on a suitcase.
  • The large bag is 31″ — larger than any suitcase I currently own. The small bag is an international carry on size — rather small for a long weekend I find. And while they make a more standard domestic carry on instead, I doubt I would ever have need for that much combined space which kind of defeats the purpose. I’d hope to see more sizes in the future that provide true mix and match customization. Although when I inquired about this, I was told there are no plans for additional sizes currently.

All that said, a system like this might just be the ticket to easy, less stressful travel. It’s very very tempting . . .

give the gift of experience

Shy of sending someone of a fully paid vacation somewhere in the world (wouldn’t that be nice!) for friends & family who like to travel, you can enhance any vacation they take with an experience to remember this holiday season.

1)  Priced from $79-279 you can gift a travel experience in over 100 countries. Just pick a theme, write a note and the recipient will receive the below box with 24 months to redeem their choice of experiences.  A nicely packaged, no fuss, no research selection of curated travel experiences. From Tinggly2)  New to Air BnB are the addition of experiences. One of which I recently tried out in Lisbon and loved. It seems a natural progression to connect travelers with experiences to pair with lodgings just about anywhere in the world. And you can really find just about anything which is what I love about this platform — not only are there organized tours and experienced tour operators but also individuals just wanting to share their passion and make a buck. Book a specific event on a specific date or give a gift certificate. They never expire and can be used to book lodgings or experiences. You choose the dollar amount. My kind of gift.