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