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taste of vermont

our own sara escapes to vermont each summer and lucky for us, she's sharing a family recipe for a delicious pie using vermont maple syrup--the real stuff. i'm going shopping right now to make this pie. no kidding. take it away, sara!


as the daughter of a northern vermonter, my siblings and i grew up with maple as a staple sweet in my house. i vividly remember every spring as a child, we would get a large box delivered with two dozen jugs of vermont pure maple syrup sent from my cousins who were professional maple sugar makers in vermont; and those maple syrup jugs were made specially for gifting all of our teachers annually from preschool through high school. year after year, when the shipment arrived, i thought: "how boring that we gift maple syrup to my teachers? can't we give them something else more exciting?" to me, grade a fancy vermont maple syrup was something that was always found next to milk in our refrigerator.

it took a long time of developing my own food palate, and years of cooking, baking, preparing meals for my own family, and finding gifts for my own children's preschool teachers to recognize the special value behind the grade a (formerly called fancy grade) golden color/delicate taste maple syrup. it's no surprise that vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the u.s. with over 1.9 million gallons sold in 2017. maple syrup is a true delicacy; and in terms of health benefits, it is interesting to note that pure maple syrup is not only high in antioxidants, but every spoonful offers key nutrients including riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium and potassium. i am now very proud of my heritage and my age-old relationship with the amazing vermont maple products and delicious maple-related cooking and baking recipes.

shared in this post is a special maple cream pie recipe that my wonderful grandmother used to bake for me and my siblings as we were growing up; she was an incredible baker and was known to sometimes bake 8 pies in a day (along with breakfast, lunch, and dinner for her family of 7)! this was one of her favorite pies. it was made famous and p&h restaurant in wells river, vermont when it was highly sought out by an editor who featured it in bon appetit magazine in 2007. i highly recommend using as an ingredient in this recipe: pure vermont or canadian maple syrup, grade a golden color/delicate taste or dark amber. this pie will not disappoint, i can assure you. it is a perfect dessert to make for family/friends one weekend, or for the next dinner party you host. bon appetit!

ready in: 1 hour
serves: 8

1 frozen 9-inch deep dish pie shell
2 1/4 cups whole milk
2 cups pure maple syrup
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 1/4 cups whipping cream, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar

1. bake and cool pie crust according to package directions.
2. whisk milk, syrup and yolks in a large bowl to blend.
3. whisk flour and cornstarch in a medium bowl.
4. gradually whisk 1 cup milk mixture into flour mixture. gradually whisk in remaining milk mixture.
5. transfer to a large saucepan. whisk over medium heat until custard thickens and boils, about 8 minutes. whisk in 2 teaspoons vanilla. pour into a prepared pie crust. chill until cold, about 3 hours. (you can make up to this point a day ahead--just cover and keep chilled).
6. beat cream, sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl until peaks form. if you have an immersion blender or electric mixer, it is strongly recommended for use with this step. spread whipped cream over pie (and sprinkle with walnuts if desired).
7. place pie in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 4 hours; or overnight for a desired chill taste and texture. serve and enjoy!



less is more

i recently returned from a quick trip to the east coast. and while we had a great time, i was struck by the amount of fragrance, cologne and perfume people wear. i immediately wondered "why am i noticing this in such a pronounced manner here and now?". i quickly added up that between time spent in my office, home or on the road, my chances of ending up in close proximity to an "olfactory offender" fall somewhere between slim and none if i'm in my bubble. for those of you who don't know me well, my aversion to fragrance goes back to childhood. i can still remember the scent of a certain fragrance my mom wore now and again. i'm certain most people loved it but it almost always gave me a violent headache along with the lovely nausea that accompanied it. it became quickly clear my discomfort level was in direct correlation to my mom's perfume. suffice to say, that was the end of that perfume in the straza household!

apparently, i've got a very sensitive and particular nose. work wise i'm lucky to have it; other times, not so much. i understand the reasoning behind department store fragrance spritzing and have become quite adept at avoiding it but when you get into an overly fragranced elevator, car, train, plane, classroom or gym, you have no choice but to do your best at becoming a mouth breather. such was the case on our recent trip.

kai perfume oil: then and now.

as well, my scent sensitivities are the reason i decided to start the kai range in the first place. i wanted to wear something that smelled like flowers. real flowers, subtle and fresh. more than that, i wanted something i could wear that wasn't heavy, heady or dare i say nauseating? a scent i could layer in lotions and potions that would complement rather than compete with each other. nearly 20 years after kai's launch and with the addition of kai*rose to our offerings, one can go easily from day to evening with a blend of kai*rose and our signature kai evoking a bit more sophistication.

i've never claimed to be an "expert" on fragrance but here are a few things i've learned on my unexpected fragrance journey:
  • take other people into consideration. at the gym for instance, scents seem particularly heightened... all that deep breathing... personally, unless you're already dolled-up before your workout, perfume and makeup seem overkill to me.
  • hospitals and doctors offices. same thing, sick and scent don't make for a good marriage.
  • if you're mad about a scent but it's just too "big", invest in the same or similar scented lotion instead.
  • roll on fragrance is pretty fool proof to apply due to it's "pinpoint" nature. hard to go too strong unless you want strong.
  • eau de parfum is another animal. we've all heard the "walk into it" method, meaning spritz the air and literally walk through it for a subtle scent. i have my own take on this. i don't spray directly but kind of hold the bottle at a distance above me spraying while i move about in what i can only imagine looks like a very strange dance.
  • always try it first. fragrance smells differently on everyone
  • lastly, less really is more!


summer reads

peter and i took an early trip this summer with matthew and one of his friends to... wait for it... orlando! don't get me wrong, it's beautiful and green, so green! and it's hot, so i guess the lush landscape makes perfect sense between the humidity, which felt to me to be around 100%, and they intermittent cats-and-dogs rain. the best part of the trip was while the kids were exploring all the disney parks my husband and i kept ourselves busy by floating around the resort's lazy river or languishing in a two-person wicker cocoon sort of daybed. unwilling to let anyone rain on our parade, peter would go into full on macgyver mode at the first drop of a downpour - they don't last long -quickly converting anything nearby into a piece of his make-shift tent to keep us nice and dry. the sound of rain falling while the river ran made for perfect days to do nothing but lay around and read my book!

already finished your summer beach read? hopefully you have and are itching to see what we've been perusing this summer so far.

calm the f*ck down was written by sarah knight, author of one of my favorite books, the life-changing magic of not giving a f*ck. yes, there's a theme in the four books she's written. the other two are get your sh*t together and you do you. at any rate and with the names of knight's titles you should be forewarned there's some foul language. it doesn't make me blink, but then again i'm known for my colorful conversations. the title is great, we've all heard it/said it before, but it's the subtitle that got me. "how to control what you can and accept what you can't so you can stop freaking out and get on with your life". i would never categorize myself as someone who "loses it" when catastrophe hits. in fact, i go into hypervigilant "i can fix this" mode and burn myself out and i mean completely. don't get me started on the day my dog was thisclose to dying after getting hit by a car. as someone who can say without a doubt that i've been through it... i've always dealt with it, sometimes horribly, but i always look it in the eye so i've got that going for me. the worry and "what ifs?", that's a whole other animal and the hardest part of it. ~ gaye

there are countless books/podcasts/articles about beauty/health/wellness - and i read or listen to many of them; not only as it's part of my job, but also for my own interest and lifestyle. i've also realized that a large part of overall "wellness" is decided how we choose to live and navigate life. the cover of this book reads: kind is the new classy: the power of living graciously. that spoke to me! i have always believed in following the golden rule, yet how to find that balance when faced with challenging situations? this book discusses handling whatever comes your way with kindness and grace while still staying centered and true to who you are. i often highlight things that stand out to me when reading and i loved this encouragement from cbb: "i hope you'll take the next right step today and choose just one way to be kind. then another. then another. then another..." ~ tyler

i'll be honest, i'm not completely finished yet but so far i would highly recommend "the moment of lift: how empowering women changes the world" by melinda gates. each page is filled with melinda sharing personal stories from her childhood to her marriage to bill or relaying stories of inspiring women she has met while working in the most poverty-stricken communities around the world. some of the stories will bring you to tears while others will put a smile on your face--it's truly a roller coaster of emotions. overall the underlying message is an impactful one: in order to lift a society up we must focus on empowering its women first. ~ makela

daisy jones and the six is one of those intoxicating summer reads you just can't put down. written in the unique format of an oral history, author taylor jenkins reid weaves together the story of a fictional rock n' roll band told from the multiple perspectives of the characters, almost like reading the transcript of a documentary. set in late sixties, early seventies los angeles, singer daisy jones crosses paths with the six, a band led by the brooding billy dunne. the music they create together is what rock legends are made of, but it's not without complication and the band mysteriously dissolves at the height of their success. it's already been optioned for a tv-series and i cannot wait to hear reid's original lyrics finally played to music. ~ katie

in today's rapidly-evolving, busy world, "essentialism" by greg mckeown is one of those books that can truly improve everyone's life and productivity. i highly recommend putting it at the top of your summer reading list. the basic value proposition of this book is that "once you give yourself the permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, you can make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter". this book provides the reader with practical tips and helpful tactics for how to make the highest possible contribution towards bettering your own life. the author highlights ways to "regain control of your own choices about where to spend your time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for you". in summary, for all of us who have ongoing to-do lists both professionally and personally that you continue to feel overwhelmed by, it helps you to prioritize those things that really matter, instead of feeling boggled down by everything! ~ sara