Tis’ the Season for Maple Venison Chili!

Tis’ the season for Christmas music, holiday shopping (or rushing) and frankly, little to no time for making a hearty & warm meal after our busiest of days. UNLESS you have this recipe in your back pocket & some venison in your freezer from a successful hunting season!

Years ago, I fell in love with The Lobby’s award winning chili from Vermont Chili Festival. And finally last year, I decided to try my hand at making my own Maple Venison Chili. So with a base recipe for chili from a friend, some venison from a local hunter, Lazy J’s homegrown bacon and Bread Loaf View’s Maple Syrup, my first attempt was a success! The boys (Ben and his coworkers) LOVED IT! They said it filled them right up and requested throughout the entire winter (and even into the summer).

With each batch made, I tried something new, one without bacon, one with cubed venison steak pieces and so on. The recipe below was everyone’s favorite out of everything I’ve tried. It easy, filling & delicious. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas & Happy Slow Cooking everyone!

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Dear Nicholas Andrew Warren,

Happy 21st Birthday Buddy! What I would give to buy you your first legal drink, be your designated driver and make sure you got home safe.

Today you’d be your own person, your own man, with your own path in life, yet I have no clue who you’d actually be. I try my best not to grieve after this many years, but no matter how much time passes I can still hear your laughter, see your bright smile and feel your little arms hugging me.

While I don’t know exactly who you’d be today, I know exactly who you’d be proud of…

Your Brothers:

18192659_10154251736980876_5315260040339956704_oI’m sure you’re looking down on him from heaven and thinking “Wow”. Nate is now 18-years-old and a freshman at Paul Smith’s College. He’s tall as a tree, gives the best hugs, drives a truck, works hard, smart yet humble, takes care of the family and most importantly, he has a heart of gold.

He inspires me to be a better person every time we talk, comes home to be with the family almost every weekend, holds the family together like glue and makes me proud to call him my little-big cousin.

SamWarren_flagfootball-2017-9976While you may not have gotten the chance to meet Sam, but I know you love him as much as I do. He is smart, he is a great athlete, a caring friend, a silly brother, a little ladies man and oh so much more (OH, and he’s already taller than me). He is kind, loving, intuitive, adventurous and big-hearted as well. It’s been so wonderful to watch him grow into his own, I hope you’ve been watching too.

I love both of these boys (my cousins) as if they were my own brothers and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Your Parents:

img_3895Not only are they amazing parents, but they are amazing god-parents as well. They are my home, they’ve welcomed Ben with open arms (and your father’s ridiculous sense of humor), they are always at the 30-yard-line cheering on the Tigers, they are my Saturday mornings at Flag Football, and they keep me grounded and humble. I’m not sure I could ever thank them enough for the countless things they’ve done for me over the years, without them, I don’t know who or where I’d be right now.

 

SamWarren_flagfootball-2017-0047You would be proud of your father for finding a career he loves. He’s the Facilities Maintenance Manager for ACSU and loves helping the teachers and children around Addison County. He also just finished his last year as a flag football coach and what a phenomenal coach he was! And not only does he love his job and still work harder than anyone I know, but the job allows him to spend more time with the family too!

SamWarren_flagfootball-2017-0073You would be proud of your mother for so many things. She’s always there for us, always puts family first, works hard and is one hell of a Zumba dancer! From football, to basketball, to lacrosse and any other sport your brother’s play, she’s always on the sidelines cheering them on and encouraging them to do better and never give up. Your mom is an inspiration to me as a person, a mom and a woman.

I’ll be checking in once-a-year with this letter and updating you about what’s new with our incredible family. I hope you know how much we miss you and how much we love you. I hope you’re proud of all of us and you still watch over from time to time. Cheers to you in heaven on your 21st Birthday!

Love You Always,
Andrea (your favorite cousin)

Archive:

Thankful for Change

Many people fear change, and at one point, I thought I was afraid of it too. But within a year I’ve learned that the best kind of change happens while you’re not looking.

Exactly a year ago, I had just been laid off from my job, was in an unhealthy relationship and just wasn’t happy. I couldn’t afford to gift very much for the Holiday’s (let alone my own Mother’s 50th Birthday) and I barely spent any time with my horse.

A few days before my Birthday in December, I ended said unhealthy relationship and while I knew it was the right thing to do, the downward spiral somehow continued. Next, I applied for unemployment (something I had never had to do since starting work at the age of 14), continue the endless search for another job and make due with what I could. Then, I walked away from a once valuable friendship (and to this day, I don’t think he realized how much it hurt me). So, I spent about 2 months job hunting, binge watching Netflix shows, crying uncontrollably, and hiding in my apartment. I knew that I had lost myself completely.

Then, January came and I got a call from my previous Executive Director, offering me the position of “Creative Director” at KidsGardening.org (a spin-off/start up of a division of our old company) and of course, I said YES! With this opportunity knocking, I knew things were starting to look up.

Dark times often bring people together, and during this time, I met Krystal. Krystal and I soon learned that we had Line Dancing in common! And with that, we agreed on need to bring this back to Addison County. With hard work, research, practicing and enthusiasm, we launched “Addison County Line Dancers” Line Dancing Lessons in March 2016 with an astounding attendance of 143 people for our first class!

With time, patience, a fighting side and a line dance (or two), I began to find myself again. My confidence was growing, my heart was happier and I was finally able to put all of the pain of the past behind me.

And now, a year later, my life has completely changed for the better! I am the proud co-owner and instructor at “Addison County Line Dancers”. I’ve continued my work and career as the Creative Director at KidsGardening.org. I ride my horse as often as I can and enjoy every moment I spend at the barn. I’m in a healthy and loving relationship, with a wonderful man (Ben Huestis, I’m braggin’ about you honey). And I am grateful for the friends that stuck by my side last year, when things weren’t so bright.

NEEDLESS TO SAY, THIS YEAR, I AM THANKFUL FOR CHANGE!

2016 – Dear Nicholas Andrew Warren,

Happy 20th Birthday Buddy! What I would give to sing Happy Birthday to you over a Rosie’s Birthday Cupcake with the family.

Today you’d be your own person, your own man, with your own path in life, yet I have no clue who you’d actually be. I try my best not to grieve after this many years, but no matter how much time passes I can still hear your laughter, see your bright smile and feel your little arms hugging me.

While I don’t know exactly who you’d be today, I know exactly who you’d be proud of.

Your Brothers:
img_4421I’m sure you’re looking down on him from heaven and thinking wow. Nate is now 17-years-old and a senior in High School. He’s tall as a tree, drives a truck, works hard, holds the offensive line in football, takes care of the family and most importantly, he has a wonderful heart.

He inspires me to be a better person every time we talk, holds the family together like glue and makes me proud to call him my little-big cousin (OH, and his team won their Senior Night Football Game, GO TIGERS).

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While you may not have gotten the chance to meet Sam, but I know you love him as much as I do. He is smart, he is a great athlete, a caring friend, a silly brother, a little ladies man and oh so much more (OH, and he rocks a bow-tie like no other). He is kind, loving, intuitive, adventurous and big-hearted as well. It’s been so wonderful to watch him grow into his own, I hope you’ve been watching too.

I love both of these boys (my cousins) as if they were my own brothers and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

 

 

Your Parents:

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Not only are they amazing parents, but they are amazing god-parents as well. When I first moved back to Vermont, I knew it’s what I wanted to do, but of course, there were some fears came with the love too. Aunt Michele and Uncle Eric put those fears to rest with the many meals cook, laughter filled nights, check-ins, advice offered, help pulling my car out of a ditch or moving into a new place. I’m not sure I could ever thank them enough for the countless things they’ve done for me over the years, without them, I don’t know who or where I’d be right now.

You would be proud of your father for finding a career he loves. He’s the Facilities Maintenance Manager for ACSU and loves helping the teachers and children throughout Addison County. And not only does he love his job and still work harder than anyone I know, but the job allows him to spend more time with the family too!

You would be proud of your mother for so many things. She’s always there for us, always puts family first, works hard and is one hell of a Zumba dancer! From football, to basketball, to lacrosse and any other sport your brother’s decide to try, she’s always on the sidelines cheering them on and encouraging them to do better and never give up. Your mom is an inspiration to me as a person, a mom and a woman.

I know it’s a long letter, but it’s been awhile since I’ve checked in. I hope you know how much we miss you and how much we love you. I hope you’re proud of all of us and you still watch over from time to time. Cheers to you in heaven on your 20th Birthday!

Love You Always,

Andrea (your favorite cousin)

Slow Down

I am known to be some how is always on the move, constantly busy, going non-stop, running around like a chicken with my head cut off, and so on. Eventually, the wear and tear was starts to show itself at work, at home and in my day-to-day interactions and to be honest, it’s not always pretty.

This past week, I decided to take a mental-health Monday. But, as usual, I triple-booked myself on my day off, but this time was different. I booked myself with all of the things I love to do, photography, hiking and horseback riding.

Morning – Photo Tour

After visiting my boyfriend, Ben, in the fields at work, I headed down Snake Mountain Road towards New Haven. Along the way, I stopped to take a variety of landscape photos. The breeze was cold, the sky clear and the colors, brilliant!

Upon arriving to my destination, the weather turned for the better and I was able to start on my Kettletop Farm II Panorama Project. Recently, my farm family was able to get some new land from the Vermont Farmland Trust. The fields, crops and views are spectacular! My end-goal for this project is to capture it’s beautiful panoramic views during every season. And of course, I had to start it off with the fall colors;

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Afternoon – Hiking Adventures

Despite the chilling cold, Ariana and I were determined to hike! Neither of us had ever climbed Snake Mountain before so we geared up, drove down and started to climb. The hike provided many reminders with every step;

1. Don’t give up
We were about a third of the way up the mountain when I breathlessly exclaimed, “ Do you hear that? My heart is saying, “What the hell are you doing to me!?”. And Ariana replied with, “No your heart is saying “Thank You I needed this!”” and she was right.

2. Be Grateful
It’s easy to get frustrated from the climb, feeling out-of-shape and beginning to feel lost. But when I looked up and saw the colors of the trees, felt the sun on my back and listened to the birds chirp, it reminded me of how lucky we are to live in the beautiful state of Vermont!

3. It’s Okay to Get Lost
We took a few unmarked trails, got a little lost and while we didn’t make it all the way to the top of the mountain, we came upon a series of beautiful ponds, interesting trails, deer tracks, beaver dams and so on!

Yes, this is somewhat of an analogy. In life, we spend so much time on the “highway to success” that we often forget to stop to detour “on the road less traveled”. So to anyone who is feeling a little lost right now, embrace it, you may just find something truly beautiful.

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4. Life is Better with Great Friends
…and two adventurous spirits! As expected the 2 hours of hiking was filled with girl-talk, bonding, laughter and adventuring on the paths less traveled. A few hours of quality time with my dear friend, Ariana, made the day that much better.

Late Afternoon – Horseback Riding

There’s nothing better than ending your day on Horseback. To give you a little background info, I’ve been riding horses since I was 5, bought Emma “What a Dl’Emma” when I was 19, brought her to college with me for 2 years and returned back home, where she now lives with her “baby” Glee (an almost 6-year-old-brilliant-mare).

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Sue (Glee’s owner/my farm family/Kettletop Farm II owner), Ariana and I have been working together to teach Glee how to be a real horse. And no, it’s nothing like you see in the cowboy movies, we are natural horsemanship folk. With steady progression over the past few months, it was time to take Glee for her first adventure outside of the ring! With Sue leading in-hand, Ariana riding Glee and Emma and I tagging behind, we ventured to the perimeter of the back paddock.

As we approached the fence I nervously asked “Is the fence on?” Sue quickly replied, “Yes, and stop worrying, your horse knows how to walk in a straight line.” I took a deep breathe and walked on behind them.

To our surprise, Glee got shocked by said live fence while trying to avoid some overgrown trees. Both horses spooked into the trees, but only for a moment and then just stood there. What started as a fear, turned into a valuable lesson – our horses are incredibly smart, brave and trustworthy!

And for once a full day left me with a clear mind, a few life-lessons and a truly happy heart!

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Lessons Learned and The Little Things

It’s time to admit to the world that I am only an amateur gardener. As a child, I spent quite a few summers helping my grandmother in her garden. But clearly I learned more about my love for vegetables from those years than how to properly care for the garden.

In May, I started to weed an old raised bed behind my apartment building, only to remember a lesson learned at a recent KidsGardening garden installation: Moss = Shade. This mossy bed didn’t get enough sun for the crops I wanted to plant there. I promptly asked the owner of the barn where I board my horse if I could use her two raised beds for my garden. She said yes (and will get half of the harvest as a thank-you). And so I began my very first garden adventure as an adult. Needless to say, I still have a lot to learn!

Plan-ting Accordingly

KGBlog_-2324With the guidance of my KidsGardening colleagues, I purchased an assortment transplants from Gardener’s Supply including; tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and broccoli. I also had a variety of squash, pea and lettuce seeds from High Mowing Seeds. I had planned to plant the seeds in raised bed #1 and the transplants in raised bed #2, but that’s as far as I got with my planning.

I landed myself in a muddy, rushed and humorous situation come planting day. The day was overcast, the raised beds were weedy and I was determined. But by the time the beds were weeded and the compost was mixed into the beds, it had begun to rain. Determined and ruthless, I got everything planted. Despite slipping a few times in the infamous Addison County clay, all I could think to myself once the job was done was, “Well, at least I don’t have to lug out that watering can tonight!”

Hills and Valley’s

KGBlog_-2459I was quite proud of myself for planting in a rainstorm and for how nice the raised beds looked now. One day the farm owners pointed out that I had planted in the valleys, not the hills… thus, I gained another nickname – “Valley Girl.” Despite this mistake, I regained hope that my garden would be okay when I saw the strong sprouts popping out from the ground.

Crowding

KGBlog_-2984After six short weeks, the garden was flourishing! I was so proud, but I realized how crowded the beds were becoming even though I was weeding regularly. Looking back, in the rush of planting in the rain, I had ignored the planting directions on the labels and seed packets. Another lesson learned, and now I had to find a solution to my mistake. A few DIY trellis’ later, along with some judicious thinning, and my plants seemed much happier!

Lessons Learned and The Little Things

I was raised to learn from my mistakes, and have I ever learned a few things from my gardening adventures this summer! The biggest lesson learned is that gardening is all about planning. Plan for the weather, for the layout of your garden, for the plant spacing, and for gardening materials you will need as your garden continues to flourish.

KGBlog_-2339In spite of the mistakes I made, I learned to appreciate the little things that these two raised beds brought my way. The little things like spending quality time with the barn owner, the excitement of seeing the first few sprouts, the chance to sit and relax while weeding and watching the horses graze, the realization of how much I meant to this little farm, or the numerous beautiful sunsets over the green peaks of Snake Mountain. I am truly grateful for my very first garden adventure as an adult, the lessons I’ve learned and the harvest to come!

Blog adapted from my post on KidsGardening.org’s Growing Ideas Blog.

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