December 30, 2011

Baja's: Bordering on Brilliance - Orange, Conn.

The utterly fantastic carnitas plate,
found in Orange, Conn., of all places.
(Tortillas not shown.)
You may recall that I’m a huge fan of San Diego – where fresh, authentic, delicious Mexican food can be found at a moment’s notice, whether it’s at the fabulous restaurants in Old Town or among the most random of food trucks by Ocean Beach.

Unfortunately for me, Connecticut is not known for its Mexican cuisine. Living in central Connecticut, I often lament the fact that finding decent Mexican fare remains a never-ending challenge.

Hence, this is why I will happily take a 45-minute drive down to Orange, Conn., for the best Mexican food I’ve found yet in this state.

December 16, 2011

The Art of R&R - New Britain, Conn.

Me, marveling at the museum's giant wall o' color
(made of paper and plastic cups painted in bright colors and
nailed to the wall by the thousands), by Lisa Hoke.

The holidays can get a tad overwhelming.

Particularly if you're, say, hosting a big holiday dinner, having family and friends from out of the state stay over, or trying to fit in all the last-minute shopping, gift-wrapping, and cleaning around your day-to-day life.

I'm doing all of the above - and let's just say I was in dire need of an afternoon filled with nothing but peace and quiet.

For you Connecticut peeps, it may come as a surprise that of all places, Hard Hittin' New Britain offers just such an oasis.

My husband and I recently ventured to the New Britain Museum of American Art, a great spot to spend a relaxing couple of hours just ... unwinding. Here, you can take in the art at your own pace, check out whatever exhibits interest you, wander around the outside grounds to see cool pieces of sculpture, and, perhaps, find a bit of inspiration and calm.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: A wonderful place to de-stress during the holidays. 
  • Where You'll Find it: The New Britain Museum of American Art
  • When to Go: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays noon to 5 p.m. (Closed Mondays!)
  • Cost: Admission is a super reasonable $10 per adult and free for kids under 12. Senior admission is $9, and student admission is $8.

December 10, 2011

Keepin' It Regal - Mashantucket, Conn.

"Royal Tea," indeed.
Delicious sandwiches and sweets served
at Foxwoods Resort & Casino's Royal Tea,
part of "Diana: A Celebration."
Perhaps some of you can trace back your ancestry to an illustrious line of aristocrats – earls and duchesses, kings and queens, and the like. Much to my chagrin, it appears I am not one of these people.

Just the same, don’t let this stop you from getting up close and personal with the dazzling tiaras and brooches, royal wedding gown, and other amazing treasures that once belonged to the late Princess Di – all on display for you to ogle through the rest of this month and on into the new year.

Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., is currently featuring “Diana: A Celebration,” an exhibit open through Jan. 15 that offers a look at a breathtaking collection of personal items from Diana’s life – from photo albums, home movies, and school report cards from her childhood days spent at Althorp Estate in England to the awe-inspiring tiara, earrings, and gown (complete with its 25-foot train) that she wore on her wedding day.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:

November 30, 2011

Whale Watching ... in Downtown Hartford

This is what a midprice ticket will get you:
Pretty awesome seats.
(We were in the sixth row.)
Winter's settling in. Even if you aren't a fan of sledding, building snowmen, or braving New England's freezing temperatures to ski or snowboard, all is not lost.

Whether you've got a family to entertain on the cheap or are just looking for a fun night out with a couple of friends, perhaps it's time to check out the Connecticut Whale.

I'm talking about hockey here for those of you not familiar with the Whale. Not NHL, of course, but still the very worthy American Hockey League, where the top Whale players still score six- and seven-figure annual salaries.

The best part is, you won't have to go broke buying tickets. They run about $12 apiece for kids (ages 2-16) and between $12 and $25 per adult. And this is for very decent seats. (Good luck finding prices under $100 apiece - even in the nosebleed section -  for any Boston Bruins game.)

Not a sports fan? Well, me neither, technically. I assure you, the Connecticut Whale's got something for everyone.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: A fun, inexpensive night out, no matter who you are - sports fan or no, child or adult
  • Where You'll Find it: The XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
  • When to Go: All winter long (through April 2012)
  • Cost: Usually around $12 a ticket for kids, ages 2-16; $12-$25 per adult, depending on the game (and you won't be in nosebleed)

November 16, 2011

3 Things You Need to Do in San Diego

San Diego beckons.
For those of you living in New England, you are more than likely aware of the craziness that was this year's so-called "Snowtober," a snowstorm that slammed us in October, dumping several inches of snow on our poor little pumpkin patches, downing tree limbs and power lines, and spoiling Halloween for countless kids (and adults - myself included, damn it).

Not to mention the week spent without power ... and heat ... and, for some, water. If you'd seen my most recent post, you may have some inkling of how excited I was for the Halloween party of the year at the Wadsworth Mansion. Alas, the party was canceled, marking my first un-Halloween. Sniff.

Where to go when your backyard looks like this,
and it's not yet even Halloween?  Fly south. Pronto.
As it is, I'm not a big fan of the autumn months, so sans power and heat, and with Halloween erased from the calendar altogether, I ask you, what was I supposed to do? Um, fly to Southern California, that's what.

I swear I'm not that much of a prima donna. It just so happened that I'd planned my vacation with uncannily perfect timing - on the Thursday that we were scheduled to depart for San Diego, it was Day Six of no electricity. Otherwise known as Time to Get the Hell Out of Here.

OK, so San Diego. If you haven't been, I recommend it to anyone who hopes to escape the winter doldrums. It's the perfect getaway for the non-snow bunnies among us, like moi.

In addition to the heavenly weather, there are oodles of things to do there - from the San Diego Zoo to the beaches to Tijuana (just 15 minutes away), you can spend numerous vacations there, as I have, and not see everything. But there are at least three things I do recommend you do once you've arrived.

October 27, 2011

Halloween for the Die-Hards - Middletown, Conn.

Halloween, where it's OK to pose
for photos with perfect strangers. 
I am a Halloween fanatic, plain and simple. There's not been a single Halloween that's come and gone without my donning a costume and making it a priority to find my way to a festive party. Candy is always an added plus, of course, and then there's the fact that my birthday follows two days later. It's really just a week filled with sugary happiness.

Halloween stands out as my favorite holiday, hands down. I love the fact that dressing up as someone you're not gives you some kind of magical power to be whomever you want to be. I find that people in costume instinctively become more outgoing, jollier versions of themselves.
The Joker, at last year's Wadsworth party.
Awesome, obviously.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: The best Halloween party around! (21+)
  • Where You'll Find it: Wadsworth Mansion, Middletown, Conn.
  • When to Go: Saturday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.-12 a.m.
  • Cost: $38 a person. Buy your ticket onlineDoooooo it. 

October 24, 2011

The Most Comforting of Comfort Food - Hartford, Conn.

My "Babcia," having a grand old time
at my wedding five years ago.
This past week, our family lost its matriarch - my grandmother, who emigrated in the late '60s from Poland to the United States, along with my grandfather, mother, and several of my aunts and uncles.

Known to me and my cousins (14 of us in total, not counting my grandmother's nine great-grandchildren) as "Babcia," my grandmother was a fixture at every holiday gathering, contentedly sipping her ever-present mug of Lipton tea and quietly observing our banter - a lively mix of Polish and English - from her seat at the head of the table.

At our family breakfasts each Easter, my cousins and I would try unsuccessfully to stifle our giggles as Babcia murmured what seemed like never-ending, unintelligible prayers in her native language. Every Christmas Eve at our traditional Polish feast, Babcia would watch our annual grab-bag antics with amusement, laughing heartily whenever she chose the gag gift, even if she never quite understood what was so funny.

Babcia and her six children.
But no matter what the event - anniversary parties, holidays, birthdays - our aunts and uncles would at some point inevitably insist that all the cousins surround Babcia to mark the occasion with a family photo. We'd roll our eyes and dutifully squeeze ourselves and our significant others in around Babcia to smile for the eight different cameras haphazardly snapping photos all at once.

For the first 14 years of my life, I was lucky enough to have Babcia living with us in our house as part of my immediate family. As a child, I remember following her and our dog around the backyard garden among the tomato plants and sitting with her on the porch while she snapped the ends off of freshly picked string beans, that cup of Lipton tea eternally at arm's reach.

October 10, 2011

Where Girls Become Roller Girls - Vernon, Conn.

Break out your skates, ladies.
Back in the day, roller skating was one of my favorite activities - not only as a kid, when I attended birthday parties for my elementary school friends, but even as an adult, when I descended upon The Roxy with all kinds of characters for late-night Roller-Skating Wednesdays when I lived in New York City for a time. Sniff.

Unbeknownst to me, roller skating rinks actually still exist in Connecticut. And better yet, roller derby.

So when I heard through a fabulous Twitter follower that nearby Vernon, Conn.'s Ron-A-Roll hosts twice-a-week practices for the Hartford Area's Roller Derby (otherwise known as H.A.R.D.), I could not wait to pull on my colorful knee-high socks and roll on up to the rink.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: Roller skating! Need I say more?
  • Where You'll Find it: Ron-A-Roll in Vernon, Conn.
  • When to Go: If you're interested in the roller derby league, stop by Sunday nights or Monday nights (practice typically runs from 5-7 p.m. and 6:30-8:30 p.m., respectively). If you just wanna skate, Ron-A-Roll's schedule is available here. (I will so see you there.)
  • Other Info: Ladies only, of course, and you must be at least 21 years old. Bring a skateboard-style helmet and mouthguard (You can borrow pads and skates for your first time if you don't have your own). No experience needed, though it seems you do need some semblance of athleticism to be a contributing member of the team. 
  • For the guys: H.A.R.D. is looking for referees (male or female, actually), if you're interested!

I'd hoped to rope in a few of my gal pals for the tryouts. No dice. My 30-something friends appear to have better sense than I. And OK, perhaps I am too old for this kind of thing. Sigh. So, I instead opted to go check things out from the safety of the rinkside with an obliging friend who, like me, was considering getting in on the action.

This isn't your average roller skating, people.
These Roller Girls mean business.

October 5, 2011

How Art Can Turn into Action - Storrs, Conn.

Last week, I stopped during my lunch break into the Benton Museum on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus, where several UConn faculty are showing their work in a special exhibition running through Oct. 16. (FYI, the museum is FREE.)

The work of one of the faculty professors - Frank Noelker, an associate professor of art at the university, was the first to catch my eye. His photographic portraits of sheep and goats - all of which were rescued from horrendously abusive living conditions by an organization called Farm Sanctuary - prompted me to do a bit of research.

Happily, it turned out that Farm Sanctuary was hosting a fundraising walk in my area this coming weekend, on Sunday, Oct. 9, in Windsor, Conn., to help raise money that will go toward saving the many other farm animals suffering from grievous abuse across the country.

If you'd like to support the organization itself or my participation in the walk, please do so here or via the link below!

Even if you're not an animal fanatic like me, the Benton Museum still has plenty of other cool stuff in their current exhibitions. The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, though donations are welcome.

October 2, 2011

Just 7 More Days of Lobster Rolls - Noank, Conn.

Once upon a time, I hated lobster. I know, completely asinine. But apparently taste buds really do change, because just a few years ago I finally gave into peer pressure and decided to give lobster one last shot. Don't ask me why, but I suddenly loved it. And so naturally, I've been trying to make up for all those long-lost years of lobsterlessness.

Mr. Lobster and I get along
swimmingly nowadays.
Enter Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, an unassuming little place right on Long Island Sound that's known for its fresh, buttery lobster rolls. My doctor recommended it, so it can't be all bad, right? If you're a lobster fanatic, there are just a few days left in 2011 to get a hold of these babies before they close up shop for the season.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:

  • What You'll Find: Fresh lobster rolls and other fresh seafood
  • Where You'll Find it: Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, Noank, Conn.
  • When to Go: This Columbus Day weekend, Fri-Monday, from noon to 7 p.m. (or you'll have to wait and try again, come Memorial Day Weekend)

September 27, 2011

The Big E: A New England Institution

Come and hang with the alpacas!
(or the cows, goats, pigs, chickens, llamas, sheep ...)
The Big E is one of those must-do's for any New Englander. Haven’t been? 

My guest blogger this week is the Super Awesome Dr. Christine Buckley - my friend, former coworker, and own personal restaurant advisor (see her wise Paul's Pasta Shop recommendation here). She was so kind as to brave fried Oreos, farm animals, and, well, foot massagers (read on) for some serious investigative reporting, so that she could tell you exactly why you need to make your way there this weekend. Many thanks, Christine! 

The Big E is a New England institution so great that it doesn’t even need a name anymore – just a letter. 

Begun in 1968, the Eastern States Exposition is the official state fair for the six New England states, and touts itself as the sixth largest agricultural fair in the country. Most New Englanders know all about the madness that is the Big E. But for those of you who live in a box, here’s a quick description:

September 26, 2011

Rosemary Bread

Behold: Deliciousness.
Thankfully, the summer weather is still hanging around here in New England, but I know just from looking at the trees in my neighborhood that fall's inevitably on its way.

Some part of my sun-loving self always kinda dies inside when the cool weather kicks in, but once fall hits, I do find that I'm spending a lot more of my time in the kitchen, which seems to offer some level of comfort. And I'm the first to admit that I need some serious comforting once I realize summer's over.

Anyway, do I have any bread fans out there? I'm a huge lover of bread - well, carbs in general, really. And my favorite bread recipe, passed along to me from a friend and fabulous cook, is rosemary bread. It is so.damn.good. It offers the comfort factor of bread, with a kind of unexpected spice from the rosemary. I make it for just about every holiday feast, and often for dinner parties. It's great to bring along - maybe with a bit of honey butter, mmmm - to a potluck, too.

Not only does it take no time whatsoever to make, the ingredients are probably stuff you have on hand. Perhaps the wildest of the ingredients is the actual rosemary, but I'd think that most people have that floating around their spice rack somewhere.

Here's the recipe, courtesy of the lovely and genius Tammi:

Rosemary Bread
1. In a bowl, mix 2 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 4 teaspoons dried rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the zest from a lemon.
2. In another bowl, mix 2 eggs, 3/4 cup of apple juice, and 1/2 cup of olive oil (extra virgin).
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix.
4. Pour into a lightly greased 9x9 square pan and baked at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until golden.

Voila. Cut it up and stack it on a plate with some fresh rosemary garnish to make yourself look super fancy. Oh, and if you like nuts (for me, meh), try some chopped up walnuts in there. It's seriously fantastic.

September 18, 2011

Celebrating Garlic and Gooey Goodness

Fresh garlic, grown in Connecticut. Mmmm.
This weekend, I stopped in Mystic, Conn., with friends to explore the 4th Annual Garlic Fest. We wandered around enjoying everything from samples of garlic popcorn (yum!) to garlic sausage, garlic chips, garlic cheese bread, and even garlic fried dough. We pretty much reeked by day's end, so if you're interested in ever checking this event out, you might want to make it a point to invite only very good friends.

Even if you missed this year's garlic event, however, there's plenty of other great stuff to explore in Mystic, like the Seaport and Aquarium. Or, just spend the afternoon doing some window shopping in Olde Mistick Village (where the Garlic Fest was held), which offers lots of cool little boutiques, fun eateries, and a resident population of friendly (though decidedly huge) ducks.

Truth be told, it wasn't really garlic that I was after yesterday. What I was really wanted was to locate what are reportedly the best cupcakes in Connecticut, according to Connecticut Magazine's Best of Connecticut 2011 Guide.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: Bakery and cheese shop, with phenomenal grilled cheese sandwiches and cupcakes
  • Where You'll Find it: Mystic, Conn.
  • When to Go: Visit Bleu Squid's website for hours.

September 10, 2011

Works of Art, Inside and Out

The ridiculously beautiful Branford House, where you'll
find the Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art.
Groton, Conn., a seaside town in southeastern Connecticut, is known by most people around here as the home of Electric Boat, which has built submarines for the U.S. Navy for more than a few decades. Not quite what you might imagine would make for a beautiful or romantic setting. Yet as it turns out, Groton will surprise you. Hidden away on its shores are amazing views of Long Island Sound and a historic mansion that hosts free art shows and even weddings, which must be spectacularly scenic (though probably far from free).

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: A free art show (Keep reading for details on where you can score some fresh pasta - and even deep-fried chocolate chip cookie dough - after the show.)
  • Where You'll Find it: The Branford House, at UConn's Avery Point Campus in Groton, Conn.
  • What It'll Cost: Nada, although you're invited to donate a few dollars.
  • When to Go: Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. (although you can stroll the campus just about anytime)

September 6, 2011

Taking the Plunge at Brownstone Discovery Park

If you're a Connecticut native like me, you'd likely never imagine that a cool place like Brownstone Discovery Park would be hiding anywhere near this neck of the woods.

Who knew gigantic inflatable
floating toys were this much fun?
This Labor Day weekend, I spent a day with friends and family at Brownstone - located in the very centrally located town of Portland, Conn., on a random backroad by the Connecticut River - and had a total blast.

If you have kids and are looking for an all-family activity - and even if you don't have kids (because I don't), you would be amazed by the fun you'll have here.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:

  • What You'll Find: Adventure water sports galore. Seriously awesome fun for all ages.
  • Where You'll Find it: Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park, 161 Brownstone Ave., Portland, CT
  • When to Go: Memorial Day Weekend - October. Check their site for specific hours.
  • What It'll Cost: $18 apiece for the daily swimming pass. Or, spend $28 a person for access to all of the adventure sports. I assure you, it's far more fun than you've had in a while.

September 4, 2011

Cavalry Brewing Tour and Tasting

Sadly, Hurricane Irene ruined our long-awaited plans to attend Vermont's annual Mount Snow Brewers Festival this Labor Day weekend.

Happily, however, beer - free, very good beer, mind you - can be found right here in Connecticut, at Cavalry Brewing in Oxford.
Cavalry's Nomad Stout. Serious beer.

For absolutely nothing, you can walk right into this brewery on Fridays or Saturdays (call first, just to be sure they're not out making a delivery) and ask the two brewmasters and their trusty border terrier, aptly named Mash, for an informal, yet informative tour and a tasting.

Not only will you not be disappointed, you'll be shocked to have found such a great outing and such memorable beer without having to pay a dime. Granted, if you loved the beer as much as we did, you'll be more than willing to take your wallet out before you leave and buy a few cases of your favorites to take home.

September 2, 2011

The Power of Pizza

If you've been on the East Coast recently, you may have heard about the hideousness that was Hurricane Irene. The flooding, the destruction of roads, homes, and trees, and the loss of power - in our case, for more than four days. Not a pretty sight.

Pizza, sans oven? = Love.
But fear not. Even with zero electricity, you can still cook up that singularly satisfying food that I'd personally want with me if I were ever to find myself stuck on a desert island: pizza. All you need is a grill and a grocery store nearby with power, where you can stop in for a handful of supplies.

Grilled pizza not only has a really great flavor, it cooks quickly and just plain looks cool, with its extra bubbles and lovely-looking char marks from the grill.

Here's the simplest version:

September 1, 2011

How Laughing Can Help the Homeless

I'm a massive animal lover. I've got three dogs of my own, but give me a couple of acres, and I could easily start my very own dog farm. If - ahem, I mean, when - I win the lotto, you can so count me in as the Crazy Dog Lady.

My super, uber-fabulous retired racing greyhound, Reba, who I
adopted from REGAP in Bethany, Conn., about five years ago.
I know you're not supposed to have favorites,
but I can't help it.
Later this month, Funny Bone Comedy Club & Restaurant in Manchester, Conn., will host a show to help support the Our Companions Domestic Animal Sanctuary, a local nonprofit that's based on the idea that there's "a proper home for nearly every pet." (Bravo to that!) Comedians for this year's show include Josh Gondelman and James Dorsey. (Though I've not seen these guys live, I did go to this event last year and had a great time.)

August 25, 2011

Hang with the Champs at the New Haven Open

My very first guest blogger, features editor Marisa Nadolny at The Day - a daily newspaper based in New London, Conn. - is taking the reins today here at Stefcations. She was lucky enough to check out the New Haven Open earlier this week, a tennis tournament held every August in - you guessed it - New Haven, Conn. Interested in tickets? The tournament runs through this Saturday if you still want in.

Be sure to check Marisa out via her blog, "Fear No Recipe," or on Twitter @TheMDesk. A smart and fabulous writer by day, she's also my own personal Twitter guru and, by night, harbors a secret talent as a ridiculously good RockBand drummer. She does not disappoint!

Unlike my colleague Stef, I’m what nice people would call a homebody and what mean people call a shut-in. My Hobbit-like tendency to prefer a quiet evening at home with Netflix is only trumped by truly spectacular food and fun.

Watch the pros from surprisingly good seats
at this week's New Haven Open.
(Photo by Marisa Nadolny.)
The New Haven Open (Pilot Pen, once upon a time; the Volvo-something-or-other even further back) is one of those spectacular events that gets me off my duff. World-class tennis players come to the always-fab city of New Haven for two weeks at a delightfully intimate venue at Yale.

This is no exhibition. These players are on their way to the U.S. Open, and they are most definitely in it to win it.

August 24, 2011

Nice Wine ... Without the Niceties?

Sipping wine in so-called Paradise.
The latest stop in my ongoing quest to obtain at least 16 stamps in my Connecticut Wine Trail passport was a winery newly added to the trail this year. Open only since this past May, it's called Paradise Hills, located in Wallingford, Conn., just down the road from the surprisingly impressive scenery of Gouveia Vineyards. At first glance, Paradise Hills has got all the key elements you'd think would make for a fantastic winery experience.

The problem was not the wine. It was the tasting experience, which, frankly, kind of sucked.

August 19, 2011

Where You Can Get Real Beer

Earlier this year, The New York Times ran a fab story about the ever-growing number of beer gardens of NYC. It made me pine for my old stomping grounds of Astoria, Queens, where I used to live, and where I often frequented the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden. Ahhh, drinking a large, lovely glass of pilsner at a picnic table under the stars, surrounded by mammoth sycamore trees and other fun-loving New Yorkers … (Sniff.)

Lots of fun, foreign beer on tap
at the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden.
So when one of my old friends suggested we get together for a ladies’ weekend at her place just outside of the city and take a trip out to the beer garden, I and another one of my beer garden-loving comrades took to the road.

August 14, 2011

Connecticut Wine Trail: Part Deux

I've spent a whole lot of time this past summer with my in-laws. Amazingly, that's not a bad thing. In fact, they are pretty damn cool, and I readily admit that I'm very lucky in that respect.

This summer alone, my husband and I have been to - count 'em - eight wineries with the in-laws as our drinking buddies. In an earlier post, I promised to chronicle the wineries I've been checking out this year. Well, here we go.

The Gator (otherwise known as my father-in-law),
complete with bourbon and a cigar.
Let's start with my father-in-law, otherwise known as The Gator. A Southerner at heart (a South Carolina native), he serves not only as designated driver on our winery trips, but also as entertainment. On a regular basis, he comes out with such priceless nuggets of advice as: "You can't ever get hung over if you just keep on drinkin' "

August 11, 2011

Buffalo ... in Brooklyn?

If you're in Connecticut and have never been up close and personal with a buffalo, well, now you have no excuse.

Heading out to the pastures in the tractor.
And I'm not talking about eating a bison burger, although those are ridiculously tasty.

At Creamery Brook Bison, a buffalo farm in Brooklyn, Conn., you and your family (kids, too) can get a wagon tour out to the fields, right to where the buffalo roam.

August 7, 2011

Cripple Creek Cabin

The "green" cabin (built more recently).
Up the road is the "blue" cabin.
Looking for some time away, where you can unplug and decompress for a few days? Check out Cripple Creek Cabins in Middleburgh, N.Y.

My husband and I - along with one of our dogs - spent a long weekend here without Internet access, cell phone service, or television. (OK, we may have brought along a Redbox movie to watch on our laptop ... So sue us.) Instead, we enjoyed some time hiking, cooking fabulous meals, and sipping wine or our morning coffee while hanging out on the wrap-around porch with our books (me), cigars (him), and treats (the dog).

August 4, 2011

Connecticut Wine Trail: Part I

If you live anywhere in Connecticut and like wine even just a little bit, it's time to pick up your Connecticut Wine Trail Passport. There's just no excuse for NOT hopping on this bandwagon.

My tattered Wine Passport.
This baby's gonna send me to Spain!
Across the state of Connecticut, there are roughly 30 wineries operating today. Think red wine, white wine, fruit wine, ice wine. And amazingly, some of them are pretty darn tasty. 

Between May and November, visit any of these wineries to pick up your very own passport, issued by the Connecticut Farm Wine Development Council. Then start making the rounds. Whenever you stop by a winery for a tasting, you simply ask the friendly folks behind the bar to stamp your passport. Collect 16 stamps from any of the 30 participating wineries, then hand in your passport (be sure to fill in your name and contact info on the first page) by November 13, 2011, and you'll be entered into a drawing for some amazing prizes. 

And I mean seriously

August 3, 2011


OK, so it's officially called the Greater Hartford Irish Music Festival. But it's so much more than music.

The St. Patrick's Pipe Band
Let's just say that if you're in Connecticut - or have the means to get here - in late July, you must make it a priority to get to this shindig. This year, it took place July 29-31. Rain or shine, it's just a great time regardless of whether you have any Irish in your family history (I don't).

What did you do this weekend?

Just about every Monday, this question surfaces in the lunchroom among my office mates.

Upon the recommendation of those same office mates – and because I almost always seem to have some long-winded answer to this particular question – I figured it really was about time to take their advice and start writing a blog.

I live in Glastonbury, Connecticut, just outside of the state’s capitol of Hartford, in a town situated in a perfectly central location that allows me to reach all sorts of destinations across the state – most often within just an hour or two.

Surprisingly, you don’t have to go far to find fun things to do or fabulous places to eat and drink here in the Constitution State. And frankly, that statement never ceases to shocks me.

You see, I love traveling – in Connecticut and beyond. I'm always game for checking out unfamiliar restaurants, venturing out to somewhere I’ve never been, or finding a cool day or weekend trip. I love food. I love wine. I love beer. (Let’s face it, I enjoy just about any kind of libation, really.) And I love hanging out with my husband, my friends, and my dogs. (I have three – dogs, that is. We’ll get to them another time.)

But here’s where the contradiction comes in: I’m admittedly NOT a lover of Connecticut. Sure, many Nutmeggers will wax poetic about the beauty of the four seasons, but really, summertime is most definitely my bag. And there are only three short months of it here, if we’re lucky. I don’t react well to winter’s short days and freezing temperatures. Those long, desolate months tend to depress and, when the snow’s especially bad, infuriate me. When the leaves begin abandoning the trees come October, I’m merely reminded that winter is inevitably approaching. Each year, I await the late spring day when I can finally peel off my socks and spend my days in sandals. My not-so-secret plan is to move to paradise (otherwise known as San Diego).

So, that being said – what you’ll find here is not insincere, sugar-coated, forced Connecticut “fun,” but real-life tales of my own weekend excursions – close-to-home, stay-at-home, and sometimes considerably further away from home. I think of them as truly enjoyable outings enjoyed by yours truly. Or, as my husband calls them, “Stefcations.”

Here’s hoping that I can help connect a few cool people with more than a few cool places to see and things to do - in Connecticut and beyond.

Thanks for reading,
Stef Jones