Friday, February 26, 2010

VPR Cooks: Brendan Kinney's Mariner's Cider Mussels

Brendan Kinney is VPR's vice president for development and marketing.

A few years ago, we unearthed a friend’s old-fashioned cider press and got a little carried away. After squeezing out 15 gallons of the sweet stuff, we decided to set aside five gallons and try our hand at making hard cider. After months of waiting, obsessively leafing through a copy of Annie Proulx’s “Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider,” and suffering through a major basement spill, we had our first batch. Since then, I’ve decided that authentic hard cider is an acquired taste, but can be a versatile ingredient in the kitchen.

2 lbs fresh live mussels
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 finely chopped onion
5 fl. oz. dry hard cider
2 oz. butter
1 large handful finely chopped parsley
4 Tbsp. cream
Salt and pepper

Clean and rinse the mussels.

In a large saucepan, melt butter, add chopped onion and garlic. Cook for three minutes on medium heat.

Pour the hard cider into the saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Add the mussels and cover with a lid. Cook on high for three minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure the mussels are evenly cooked.

Remove the mussels as they open and discard any that remain closed.

Boil the remaining liquid in the pan until it reduces to half and finally stir in the cream and parsley. Add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Transfer the mussels to a large bowl and pour the sauce over the mussels. Serve immediately. Enjoy as an appetizer or with angel hair pasta.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Morning Edition Is Bliss

We're spreading the word about how awesome Morning Edition on VPR is, and New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss is helping us do it! Check out our website and this week's Seven Days newspaper for the first in a series of cartoons designed by Harry Bliss for VPR.

Each one features Morning Edition Host Mitch Wertlieb keeping you company as you start your day - letting you know the latest news, updating you on the weather and sports scores, interviewing interesting people and playing music that makes you want to get up and go.

Visit our website to see this week's cartoon and to connect with Morning Edition on VPR. And be sure to check back next week for another installment!

VPR's PrEview E-Newsletter: February 24, 2010

Every time the Winter Olympics comes around, I discover my favorite new sport. In 2006, it was curling and snowboard cross. This year it’s ski jumping, thanks in part to a road trip to the Harris Hill Ski Jump Competition in Brattleboro earlier this month. VPR’s Olympic coverage has helped me to appreciate the rich culture of winter sports we have right here in our own backyard, where athletes toil in relative obscurity for the pure love of the sport.

In this edition of prEview, Olympic coverage continues with interviews with medal winners and profiles of the places where they got their start. Also, Governor Jim Douglas joins us Friday on Vermont Edition. We also want to know what issues you’re discussing in your neck of the woods as Town Meeting Day approaches, and in VPR Cooks, our newest staffer shares his recipe for mariner’s cider mussels.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How The Spark Exchange Saved My Roller Derby Career

On the program and on, I'd been hearing rumblings about the new Spark Exchange. The concept is simple: bring together the listeners of Spark - techies and luddites alike - and have them help one another with their tech questions and answers.

As it happens I had a nagging tech question of my own, one I've been asking friends for months now. As the training director for Vermont's roller derby league, the Green Mountain Derby Dames, I've been desperate to get all of our drills into a database that allowed me to tag each drill according to what skills it helps to develop, so we can plan practices more easily, and make them more diverse and fun. So, I posted my question to the Spark Exchange, and wouldn't you know, 20 minutes later I had an answer! Evernote - an online service that allows you to save and tag photos, text, web pages, almost anything - would allow me to do what I wanted to do.

Well, that was easy! After a long weekend of posting and tagging drills, my skater coaches think I'm a genius, and I can feel my sanity returning already. Try out the Spark Exchange for yourself here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Moth: The Reason My Co-workers Shusshh Me

For the next five Saturday afternoons at 4 o'clock, you'll have the opportunity to hear The Moth Radio Hour. These were aired on VPR last Fall to great acclaim.

As one of my responsibilities as a Producer, I must listen to the shows before they go on the air. This is a task for which I should not draw a salary. It is a sheer delight to listen to these programs. With my headphones on, I feel as if I'm part of the original live audience who heard these great tales when they were recorded. They usually have me laughing so loud, my co-workers who reside within 10 square city blocks of my cubicle wonder if I'm really getting any work done. Not all the stories are funny, but they are all compelling.

If you haven't heard The Moth yet, I urge you to give it a listen. But please, do not do it at work in your cubicle. Your co-workers may not be as forgiving as mine are.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Thanks For a Successful, Shorter Drive!

Thanks to everyone who made VPR's Winter Membership drive a success. We exceeded our goal for the drive and ended early. VPR received more than 6000 pledges totaling more than $588,000.

VPR's financial goal for the drive was $580,000; we also wanted to achieve the goal as quickly as possible. Thanks to you, VPR was able to do both. Here's the math:

Listeners who contributed before the drive let us shorten the 12 day drive by one day, so there was no on air fund raising on Sunday the 7th. Our Ground Hog Day Power Morning was also a success. VPR listeners helped us complete an entire day's fund raising by 9am ($48,000), so we were able to take the rest of the day off.

Then on Monday the 8th, the day after Superbowl, VPR listeners came through again. Our Monday Morning Blitz raised $30,000 before 9am and we took the rest of the day off. Finally, VPR listeners came through in the home stretch, allowing us to end the drive at 9am on Friday instead of 7pm.

Counting each of those days that we ended early as 2/3 of a day, the drive was three days shorter than planned! It's also important to note that VPR's 5000+ sustaining members also play an important role in allowing VPR to bring you more programming and less on air fund raising. The consistent monthly donations from our sustaining members allow us to plan shorter membership drives.

We also want to recognize the many volunteers who contribute their time, talents and humor to VPR Membership Drives year after year, as well as our business partners who donate drawing prizes and food.

On behalf of everyone at VPR, Thanks!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Step Right Up, Get Your VPR Here!

The new VPR Artist Mug is one of those designs that looks just like it sounds when we describe it on the air. Designed by Toni-Lee Sangastiano to look like an old-time carnival poster, it entices people to check out the "AMAZING Vermont Public Radio, informing and entertaining our listeners, LIVE!" It's a neat departure from some of our other designs (which you can see at our Artist Mug Gallery), and takes our mug series into yet another artistic direction. Here's what Toni-Lee had to say about her design:

"Amazing" not only describes VPR, but also my experience designing the VPR Artist Mug! From Click and Clack as the Siamese Twins to Steve Maleski as the Mind Reader or Coney Island's Astroland Park, this final idea was the clear winner.
My inspiration was based on a historical circus/sideshow banner. VPR entertains and informs and this mug is the perfect combination of my art and my tribute to my favorite radio station. Thanks, VPR! It is an honor!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

prEview: Six-Word Memoirs, Bernie Sanders, Winter Olympics

Ever since I heard about Smith Magazine’s new book of six-word memoirs last week on NPR, I’ve been inspired to condense my otherwise verbose tendencies. Like haiku, summarizing big events and ideas into six words clears my head and helps me focus. A few highlights:

Penguin Plunge: Water warmer than air, at least.

VPR’s Winter Membership Drive: We ask. You give. Programming continues.

This week’s PrEview: Bernie, Olympics, Vermont’s economy, Saturday Specials.

Monday, February 8, 2010

From Pledging to Plunging

By some happy coincidence, last Saturday was both a work day for many of us at VPR during our winter membership drive, and also the day of the annual Penguin Plunge in Burlington - a fundraiser of a different sort for the Special Olympics.

VPR had already put a plunging team together when we discovered the double-booking, but VPR Penguinis team captain Ric Cengeri was undeterred. We showed up to work early on Saturday, gym bags packed with warm clothes and our bathing suits on under our sweatpants. When our shift ended at 10, we piled into cars and headed to Burlington's Waterfront.

Except for Ric, we were a team of rookies: Joe Goetz, David Warren, my sister Lauren (a WBUR Boston listener and volunteer, visiting for the weekend), and myself. As we waited for our turn we huddled together, drinking coffee, trying to stay warm despite the 15-degree temperature, and watching other groups plunge. I impressed my colleagues by singing along when the DJ played Ice, Ice Baby, since I know all the words (I'm not proud. Actually, I kind of am).

Eventually, we were called in to a makeshift, mercifully warm "locker room" and gathered in a staging area, where we chanted things like "VPR! VPR! VPR!" and "1-800-639-6391!" and "Chanting! Chanting! Chanting!"

As for what happened next? I think the pictures are worth 1,000s of words.

I think perhaps a tradition has been born. Can't wait for next year's plunge!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Getting Ready for the Big Game

Happy Superbowl Sunday! I just wanted to give you an update on VPR's Membership Drive and a heads up on our strategy for bringing you more programming and less fund raising on Monday.

Thanks to every one who has participated so far. You've contributed $321,700, so we have $258,300 to go to reach our goal. Thanks to early bird contributors, VPR was able to shorten the drive by one day, so you won't hear any fundraising today.

Tomorrow is VPR's Monday Morning Blitz! Here's the plan: If VPR can raise $30,000 by 9 o'clock we can stop fund raising for the day. And I'll let you in on our secret strategy: set your alarm early, and get in on the dollar for dollar match that begins at 6am.

Thanks you you, VPR's Ground Hog Day Power Morning was a success - we reached our goal for the day and stopped fund raising at 9. With your help, our Monday Morning Blitz will also be a success.

What does your contribution pay for? It goes to NPR to bring you much of the programming you hear each day. Your pledge also keeps our transmitters on the air and pays for recording kits for our journalists. Your donation - no matter how large or small - keeps VPR independent, and independence is the spirit of public radio.

If you're a football fan, enjoy the game! Hope to hear from you Monday morning.

Franny Bastian

PS: click here to contribute today.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

We're Taking The Plunge!

We were worried maybe we were getting a little soft with our fundraising efforts here at VPR. I mean, don't get me wrong, raising money to bring you Vermont Public Radio programming is lot of work. But they're also a great change of pace. During membership drives, we spend time with colleagues we never get to see, there's more energy and fervor, and we're surrounded by great volunteers and great food....not to mention the comfy chairs and heated building.

Weaklings never prosper, so a few of us decided the way to harden us for the rest of this pledge drive would be to step out of our centrally-heated, cushy radio studios and go jump into the freezing waters of Lake Champlain.

This Saturday is the annual Penguin Plunge to benefit the Special Olympics. The VPR Penguinis has its largest team ever with five warm-blooded, warm-hearted, and slightly off-balance teammates: Captain (and Ringleader) Ric Cengeri, David Warren, Joe Goetz, myself (Michelle Jeffery), and my sister, Lauren Jeffery, who will be visiting this weekend and, like me, will try anything ridiculous at least twice.

Of course, the real reason for doing this is our fundamental belief in helping others and our communities. The Special Olympics gives people with disabilities the opportunity to pursue the athletic endeavors many of us take for granted. Click here if you’d like to support our team!

Ironically, more than half of us are recovering from knee injuries. Fortunately, training for such an endeavor seems to be minimal. So far, it has involved standing outdoors without a coat on, drinking a cold beverage, and rolling around in the snow before coming to our senses, running screaming back inside yelling, “WHAT was I THINKING?”

The weather forecast for Saturday calls for mostly sunny skies and temps in the mid-teens, with 4-5 mph winds. Wish us luck, and please feel free to stop by Saturday to bear witness to this madness! And check back next week for photos.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How Groundhog Day Is Like VPR's Power Morning

As you may have heard by now, tomorrow is Power Morning on VPR. We’re going to try to complete an entire day’s worth of fundraising by 9 a.m. If we reach our goal of $48,000 by then, we’ll stop fundraising for the rest of the day.

We plan our dates for our membership drives several months in advance, but we only recently realized that tomorrow is also Groundhog Day. Scenes from the classic Bill Murray movie (and its undeniable comparisons to public radio pledge drives) flashed through our minds, and chaos ensued. That’s how we ended up with this sketch of VPR’s weight-lifting groundhog from VPR’s Dave McGown and the following haikus composed by VPR volunteer Carol Young and family:

Was ever a name
So perfect for haiku as
Punxsutawney Phil?

Punxsutawney Phil -
Tough name for limericks, yet
Perfect for haiku.

If the groundhog sees
His shadow does that mean six
More weeks of pledge drive?

His shadow sighted,
Groundhog returns to dreams of
Nina Totenberg.

A weather forecast
Made by a sleeping rodent
Can't be all that good.

Groundhog asks that you
Please join us in supporting
Public radio.

Why are there pledge drives?
There must be a good reason -
Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me.

"All Things Considered,
Occasional pledge drives are
not so bad," mused Phil.

"The thing I miss most
When I am hibernating,"
thought Phil, "is Fresh Air!"

Groundhog, shmoundhog! Feh!
For weather forecasts I'll take
Mark Breen any day!

Robert Resnik, George
Thomas, and Phil the Groundhog
Walk into a bar.

VPR shows Phil
Likes best: Living On Earth and
American Routes (Roots!).

"Groundhog Day is nice,"
Thought Phil. "But of course, I like
All The Traditions."

All joking aside, Power Morning and Groundhog Day actually do have something in common. Tomorrow morning, Punxsutawney Phil will climb out of his warm bed to have a look around. If he doesn’t see his shadow, spring is on the way. If he does, winter will stick around for a bit. VPR’s Power Morning is based on the same principle. If we reach our goal by 9 o’clock, we’ll stop fundraising for the rest of the day. If we don’t, the drive will continue throughout the day. I hope you’ll help us out tomorrow morning by making a pledge online or calling 1-800-639-6391. Your pledge helps pay for the VPR and NPR programming you rely on each and every day, whether you can see your shadow or not.

Thank you!