An Evening Out in New Haven

This weekend, I had the opportunity to do something unusual for me, something I haven’t done in a long time – go into the city for the theater. My mother-in-law had gotten tickets for Christmas for us to see Dirty Dancing at the Shubert Theatre, so we made our way on Saturday out to New Haven, with some family, to see the play.

I have to say, going in, I didn’t really know what to expect, I mean, it’s Dirty Dancing, where they’re supposed to be at this beautiful resort, with great views and many outdoor scenes, but they pulled it off, and they pulled it off well, all with the help of a little technology. The background on the stage was a big screen that placed you at the gorgeous, scenic resort, which I think was even more beautiful than the movie. It was really spectacular at some points how they could make you feel like you were right there in the scene with them, running in the rain, learning to balance on the fallen log, or learning to the jump in the water with Baby and Johnny.

The acting was very good. Baby, to me, is a very dramatic person, and the actress played her well. Johnny didn’t look like Johnny, but boy did he sound like him! They also had two amazing singers that I could just listen to all day. One of the cast members reminded me of Cheryl Barnes who sang Easy to Be Hard in the movie Hair. She had a beautiful, powerful voice and sang with such emotion, you could feel what she was feeling. Side Note – If you haven’t heard Cheryl Barnes’s version of Easy to Be Hard, it’s worth looking up.

I really got into the play and the time seemed to fly by, which is a good thing, until the end, when you don’t want it to end! All-in-all, it was a great performance, and I would highly suggest seeing it if it comes around again.

 

For dinner, we decided to go to Barcelona Wine Bar at the recommendation of my husband’s cousins, but they didn’t open until 5, so we stopped by Olives and Oil for a glass of wine. We sat at the bar and their bartenders were really friendly and helpful, especially to this girl, who had to be difficult and want a sweet red wine. After tying two red wines, I finally settled with the second, which was perfect, and went down smooth.

After we finished our wine, we saw that Barcelona’s doors had opened, so we walked across the street for some tapas. I had never had tapas before, so it was a new experience for me. One thing to note, if you are looking for Barcelona, there is no sign. It’s really hard to even tell there’s a restuarnt there if you come in from the main door side, so I thought I’d let you know that the entrance is right across the street from Olives and Oil.

We arrived and told them we had six people in our party and they asked us if we had a reservation, which we did not. They told us they would give us a table, but we had to be out by 6:15pm because the table was reserved. I was a little put off by this, because frankly, there was nobody there, they had just opened, and it was a weekend. I couldn’t imagine how they weren’t able to accommodate six people without a reservation; it was a little odd to me. In the end, we ended up being there until after 6:15pm, and they never said anything to us, which I appreciated.

Our server Joe was really great! We ordered a good amount of tapas for six people, a nice variety for each of our tastes. Joe thought we may have ordered a little too much, but they were all so good that we ended up finishing them. The menu is hard to decifer if you haven’t been there before, so if it intimidates you, I suggest talking to your server and asking them what they would recommend. Luckily, I was with somebody who knew the menu well, so here’s what we ordered: Potato Tortilla, Crispy Calamari, Spiced Chicken Empanadas, Jamon & Chicken Croquetas, Manchego, Chorizo, San Simon, Grilled Hanger, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Broccolini, Chorizo & Figs, Patatas Bravas, Spicy Eggplant Caponata, and for dessert we got Sugar Cookies, Crepes, and something with Hazelnut and Chocolate that was delicious. My favorites were definitely the Calamari, Empanadas, Croquetas, Grilled Hanger, and the Crepes. We also got warm bread and olive oil for dipping with our meal, which really hit the spot. I’m Italian, so give me bread and olive oil and I’m happier than a clam!

We also ordered pitchers of white and red sangria, but I definitely preferred the white, which was made with pineapple juice, rum, brandy, orange liqueur, citrus and grapefruit and apple. It was amazing to say the least. I drank a lot of it! It really knocked me out of my boots – it was a strong drink, which is sometimes hard to come by these days. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed with anything that I had Saturday night, and if you’re in the area, you should most definitely stop by for a visit.

I really had a great night, and I hope you enjoy the photos of all my delicious food. I wish I had better photos to share, but I honestly just had my iPhone with me – no sense in lugging around a big camera with you when you can’t use it in the theatre!

 






A Saturday Morning in the Historic Village of Ivoryton, CT

I’m back!  Sorry for being MIA for so long.  I had a minor surgery that had a recovery period that was far longer than expected, and of course, the holidays were just crazy. How were your holidays?

Before all the craziness started, I took a drive over to Ivoryton, CT one morning. What a cute little village!  I parked in front of Ivoryton Park, which looked like it was in the process of being decorated for Christmas. I walked down Main Street on the crisp early morning to the smell of chimney smoke in the distance; it was heartwarming.

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Ivoryton Park

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Craftsy
 

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There isn’t very much to the little circular Main Street area: a service station, the Ivoryton Playhouse, the Blue Hound Cookery & Taproom, and the Ivoryton Tavern & Café. There were a lot of happy customers coming out of the tavern after grabbing a bite for breakfast!

2016-01-18_0017 Blue Hound Cookery & Taproom

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Ivoryton Tavern & Café

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I was surprised to find Main Street bustling with cars so early in the morning. It was a lot more than I thought would be driving through the area. Like the other towns I’ve visited along the Chester Bowles Highway, many people were walking their dogs in town.

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I did walk for a bit and came to the Moeller Instrument Company, which lives in an old run down building with broken glass panes. It looks haunted to say the least, but after doing a quick google search, I found out that it is apparently operational! The fact that I heard noises coming from near the building didn’t help with the haunting factor, but moving on…

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Moeller Instrument Company

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Craftsy
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All Saints Church

I continued on my walk and discovered a river that runs behind the building. Down the street more, past the Ivoryton Inn, you come upon a nature preserve, The Millrace, that includes Millrace Trail, which notes “the end of an era” through a historical, scenic walk along the river. Across from the trail you will find the Episcopal All Saints Church located at 129 Main Street. As I walked back into the center, there was a mother walking while her son rode her bike on the sidewalk. I noticed along my walk that many homes were Victorian era homes, which is far different from the other locations I’ve visited on the Chester Bowles Highway.

 

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On Saturdays, beginning in June and running through October, Ivoryton hosts a farmers market on their green, next to the Ivoryton Playhouse, from 10am-1:30pm.  You can find more information on their website IvorytonFarmersMarket.com.

All in all, Ivoryton is an adorable Connecticut village that has a great small town feel, and I would definitely recommend it for a visit!

Landmarks Mentioned in Blog

All Saints Church | 129 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442

The Blue Hound Cookery | 107 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442

Ivoryton Farmers Market | on the green | Ivoryton, CT 06422

Ivoryton Inn | 115 Main St, Ivoryton, CT 06442

Ivoryton Playhouse | 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442

Ivoryton Service Station | 114 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442

Ivoryton Tavern & Café | 8 Summitt Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442

Moeller Instrument Company | 126 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442

Millrace Preserve | Ivory Street & Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06422

Have you ever visited Ivoryton? Do you live in Ivoryton? I would love to hear from you! Share your experiences in the comments below!

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10 Tips for Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

Christmas is a really big deal in my family. My husband jokes that the day after Christmas is like a hangover for us! My dad is definitely a Clark Griswold as far as Christmas decorations are concerned.  So, as you can imagine, cutting down our Christmas tree has been a long standing tradition in my family. At least one tree in our house had to be real (we had 3-4 trees in our house every year!).  And let’s face it, there’s nothing like the smell of a real Christmas tree to really get you in the Christmas spirit!

This year, we ventured off to Maple Row Farm in Easton, CT.  This is typically where we would go each year. I got married a few years ago, and hadn’t gone to cut down my tree since, and I felt like a piece of me was missing, so this year, I called my mom and asked her when we were going. My husband had never experienced Christmas tree cutting with my family, and I told him it was a long process, but since he was family, it was something he had to experience, so off we went to find the perfect tree!

 

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So, how to find the perfect Christmas tree? It starts with preparation because you are not going to find the perfect tree if you’re miserable out in the fields!

Here are my 10 tips for picking the perfect Christmas tree:

#1 Bring Good Boots
Wear good boots, it can get really muddy out in the fields, so don’t wear your brand new Uggs, they will get ruined!

#2 Bring a Raincoat
If you’re going to get your tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, be prepared, historically it rains or snows that weekend here in New England, which will leave you very wet!  I forgot my raincoat this year, and I was soaked and freezing by the time we left. It wasn’t even raining hard, just drizzling, but I was still soaked.  Luckily, I had a few layers on.

#3 Bring a Camera
This is a family affair you will treasure for years to come, so be sure to bring a camera to capture your exciting family experience.  Don’t forget to ask the staff to take a pic of you and your family. Maple Row Farm has a hayride that goes up the mountain, so we asked a staff member to take a pic of our family on the hayride this year, and guess what, my mom loved the photo, so now I have a gift idea for Christmas! Win, win for me!

 

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Ok, now on to picking out the tree…

#4 Bring a Tape Measure
You think I’m kidding? Measure your stand, your ceiling, and your tree topper prior to going to the tree farm, and your tree will be the perfect height! Last year our tree was too tall, now my ceiling is stained and I can’t get all the sap off!

#5 Find a Saw with a New Blade
They don’t let you bring chainsaws to tree farms, so make sure you grab a good saw. This is key if you don’t want to get frustrated or worn out!  We, unfortunately, had a dull saw, but my dad had a new one, so after fighting with the dull saw for a minute, I went and found my dad, got the new saw and within three swipes, my husband and I were yelling timber!

#6 Have Patience
This isn’t a process that’s going to take a few minutes – it could take hours for the picky person like myself.  You’re spending a lot of money on a tree (ours was $69).  Make sure it’s the right one!

#7 Don’t Pick the First Tree You See
You want to make sure you’re tree is perfect. Step back, walk around the whole tree, and look at it from different angles. My husband and I thought we had found the perfect tree, but at second glance I noticed it was a banana!  … and I only noticed this because I looked at it from a different angle and from further away.

#8 Know What Type of Tree You Want
Know what you’re looking for in a tree. I prefer a very full tree, but that does make it harder to hang ornaments because the branches are too close together, so that’s something you have to think about. Do you want to display all of your ornaments or would you be happy with just displaying a few? This year, I went for a really full tree, but only put on a few ornaments because it was so full, and frankly, I tried something new this year, and I loved the way it was decorated with ribbon as garland, so I didn’t really feel the need for too many ornaments after the fact. I truly have the perfect tree this year – I would have been happy with no ornaments 🙂

#9 Know Your Trees
This goes hand and hand with #8. My favorite tree is a spruce, they hold the ornaments the best because they have strong branches, but the needles are hard, and this year, they were really prickly when you touched the tree, so we went with a fir tree that had soft needles. As much as I love my tree, I have a lot of heavy ornaments, and it was hard to hang them this year, so if you have heavy ornaments, that’s something to keep in mind.

#10 Drink hot chocolate
Your day is not complete unless you are drinking hot chocolate to keep you warm!

 

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Ps. Don’t forget to use that camera and take a picture with your perfect Christmas tree before you cut it down!

Here’s my perfect tree!

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I hope these tips are helpful.  Do you and your family cut down your tree every year?  What Christmas tree farm do you go to? Share your experience(s) with me in the comments below!

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East Haddam, CT | Chester Bowles Highway Tour

Connecticut River

My trip to East Haddam, CT  wasn’t like the rest of my ventures to the previous New England towns I have blogged about, it was split into two visits.

I have visited East Haddam numerous times as a portrait photographer, and have used many locations for my sessions such as  Devil’s Hopyard State Park, Gillette Castle State Park, and the downtown Main Street area where you will find the Goodspeed Opera House.

Before heading over the East Haddam Swing Bridge to visit the Lower Landing of Main Street, I made a stop at Eagle Landing State Park, a riverfront park, in Haddam, CT, that sits across from the swing bridge and Main Street. If you’ve ever seen a photo of the bridge with the Goodspeed Opera House in the background, this is most likely where it was taken. Eagle Landing is the home of RiverQuest, a vessel that you can take for a cruise down the Connecticut River, and if you’re a wildlife enthusiast, be sure to check out their Winter Wonderland Cruises this winter!  Winter? Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself here…  Anywho, while at Eagle Landing State Park, you can sit in the gazebo and watch planes take-off and land at the Goodspeed Airport across the Connecticut River. By the way, I had no clue there was an airport there. I had passed by so many times, but never noticed low flying planes!  I noticed it this time… Once you go across the river, you can drive down back to see the red barn that sits on the property and get a closer look at the planes.

The day was absolutely perfect for some shots of the river, swing bridge, park, and opera house. The sky was blue as could be, the trees rang with vibrancy, and the river was pretty quiet as far as boat activity. It was the perfect fall picture taking day!

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2015-11-16_0054Eagle Landing State Park

2015-11-16_0051Airport Across the Connecticut River

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After capturing the famous East Haddam scene, I scooted on over to see the Opera House and the Gelston House Restaurant and Inn, where you can dine while taking in the views of the river after enjoying A Wonderful Life at the Opera House.  I was in East Haddam fairly early, so I was able to run out in the street to photograph the opera house, but I wouldn’t suggest this. Luckily, I could hear the hum of the cars coming over the bridge as a warning, so it made it easy for me to jump out of the street when I needed to.

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East Haddam, in general, is a cute town. Once you’re off of Main Street, you can drive along the Connecticut River or venture off to other areas to see all the colonial charm and farmland. There are so many nice areas that I was getting a little distracted while driving!

 

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One place I would highly suggest stopping is Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House & Café on the corner of Routes 82 and 151. I had passed by here many times, but I never stopped in.  After my trip to Chester last week, I decided to try their pumpkin spiced latte (of course) and a bacon egg and cheese. The people inside were so welcoming. It seemed like a place that a lot of locals frequent, and they host local and touring musicians Saturdays for their Caturday Concert Series. How cool and creative is that?  While I was waiting in line, Dana, a band member that was playing there that day, was chatting with me about my ventures, and it turns out, she used to live in my area. I really wanted to stay to hear her play, but I had a packed schedule that day. I also spoke to Holly who manned the register, and had a great time talking to her about Connecticut and horses. Side note: did you know I love horses? The Two Wrasslin Cats is definitely a place you should stop by on your next (or first) trip to East Haddam. Whether you are a cat person or not, it is fun to look at all the décor and chat with the locals.

 

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Down the street a bit is Devil’s Hopyard, which is a great place to visit with your family and friends. There are tunnels, bridges, a covered bridge, streams, and waterfalls. The expansive property is a great place to camp, have a picnic, play Frisbee, take photos, bird watch, fish, walk, or hike.

 

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My next stop? Gillette Castle, where you can hear the whistle of the Essex Steam Train in the distance. Gillette Castle is extremely UNIQUE and was built by actor, William Hooker Gillette, in the early 1900’s. The first time I saw a photo of it, I knew I just had to go there. The property is gorgeous and there is a lot of it (184 acres to be exact).  There’s so much property that I haven’t explored all of it, but if you get a chance to, there are bridges, both wooden and stone, and there is a path that runs along the river. While walking towards the castle, and Grand Central, look out for the remaining piece of what was an old railroad track from Gillette’s mini train; it’s near the archway in front of the castle. When you walk out of Grand Central, look up to see two cat sculptures sitting above you on the ledge.

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During the warmer months, there is a museum that is open that you can visit and they do offer tours starting in May, on Memorial Day weekend, that run through Columbus Day. My favorite time to go there though is the fall. It is just gorgeous with the many trees around the property – it’s filled with golden fall hues! They have been doing a lot of restoration on the castle the past year or so, so if you’re going there to take a picture of the castle, know that there will be scaffolding in your way.  It’s probably in the worst place it’s been in my last few travels because you can’t get near the front door or the back of the property, which is beautifully positioned to look out over the Connecticut River. I suggest maybe going back in the Spring. Hopefully the construction will be over by then!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my short pictorial trip through East Haddam. Feel free to share your stories of East Haddam in the comments below. I would love to hear what makes East Haddam special for you!

Places Mentioned in the Blog

Devil’s Hopyard State Park  | 366 Hopyard Road | East Haddam, CT 06423

Eagle Landing State Park | 14 Little Meadow Road | Haddam, CT 06438

Gelston House Restaurant and Inn | 8 Main Street | East Haddam, CT 06423

Gillette Castle State Park | 67 River Road | East Haddam, CT 06423

Goodspeed Opera House | 6 Main Street | East Haddam, CT 06423

RiverQuest | 14 Little Meadow Road | Haddam, CT 06438

Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee House & Café | 374 Town Street | East Haddam, CT 06423

Chester, CT | Chester Bowles Highway Tour

Chester, CT is a unique, artsy part of Connecticut nestled off of Route 9.

What makes it so unique? The architecture. I couldn’t tell if I was in a time warp, England, or the US!  I felt more like I was in England though from Annie Glover’s English Goods,  the Pattaconk 1850 Bar & Grille, the Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio,  the tight curvy streets, and the stone building around the corner – had I left Connecticut? There was a house for sale down the street, and on top of the for sale sign was a piece that read “enchanting.”  I looked at it and thought to myself, that is exactly how I would sum up this quiet, quaint town.

Like Essex, there were many people walking their dogs. There were also children frolicking around Main Street – one little boy was running down a walkway with his rod to go fishing on the stream. Speaking of streams, they are entwined all around the town; another aspect that makes it so unique.

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2015-11-16_0003 Restaurant L&E The Good Elephant – 59 Main Street, Chester, CT 2015-11-16_0037 The Good Elephant – 59 Main Street, Chester, CT

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2015-11-16_0004Restaurant L&E – 59 Main Street, Chester, CT

I was visiting early in the morning, as usual, and Simon’s Marketplace seemed like the happening place to be to grab some breakfast. The tables inside were filled with patrons, and there were also tables setup outside where some people sat to enjoy their food. Around the corner was the more cozy The Villager, where you can pick-up a Maine roasted, fair-trade organic Wicked Joe coffee.

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2015-11-16_0035 The Villager

2015-11-16_0006Pattaconk 1850 Bar & Grille

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2015-11-16_0007Annie Glover’s British Goods

2015-11-16_0009River Tavern

The town looked pretty busy for 8:30 in the morning; cars were lined up and down the streets, which made it harder to capture the real charm of this town. There are a lot of colonial homes all around town if you want to park your car and walk; the homes are so well kept and beautifully landscaped.

If you’re into art, there are many artsy spots to choose from: a gallery, interior design studio, photography studio, a ceramics store, and a hand-crafted jewelry shop.   Chester even has it’s own internet radio station , iCRVradio.  I thought that was pretty neat!  You can pick-up a guide to Chester, that includes a map, near iCRVradio.  I wish I had seen this before my trek through town, but I was on the other side of the street when I was wondering, so I missed it!

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I did walk for a while. My first stop off Main Street was the Chester Museum at the Mill.  It’s open only on the weekends and admission is free. If you go to the back of the property, there’s a beautiful waterfall, and you can sit and enjoy it on their deck that lines the back of the building. It was early, so I couldn’t go inside to see what the museum was like, but if you would like more information, you can visit their website linked below.

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Chester Museum at The Mill

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2015-11-16_0018Lark

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I also ventured down the street to Goodspeed Musicals – The Norma Terris Theatre, not to be confused with their other location the Goodspeed Opera House of East Haddam, CT. The theatre has productions from May through November. I was unaware of this location, so for me, it was a great find, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for their lineup for May of 2016!

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2015-11-16_0024Carini Preserve Gazebo

2015-11-16_0042The Chester Meeting House

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All in all, Chester is a great little town, and I do plan on going back to visit some of the shops, especially Lark because it looks like a great little gift shop and Connecticut River Artisans.  I would love to get a closer look at some of the Christmas ornaments I posted, because I just love Christmas, and it will be here before we know it!

Landmarks Mentioned in this Blog Post

Annie Glover’s British Goods | 29 Main Street | Chester, CT 06412

Chester Museum at the Mill | 9 West Main Street | Chester, CT 06412

Connecticut River Artisans | 4 Water St | Chester, CT 06412

Goodspeed Musicals – The Norma Terris Theatre | 33 North Main Street | Chester, CT 06412

iCRV Radio | 11 Main Street | Chester, CT 06412

Lark | 4 Water St | Chester, CT 06412

Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio | 1 Spring Street | Chester, CT 06412

Pattaconk 1850 Bar & Grille | 33 Main Street | Chester, CT 06412

Simon’s Marketplace | 17 Main Street | Chester, CT 06412

The Villager | 13 Main Street | Chester, CT 06412

Have you ever been to Chester?  What did you love about it?  What was your favorite store or restaurant?  Please feel free to leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you!

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