Saturday, January 30, 2010

Local Area Bookstores

by Maria M. Sacco

Litchfield County Residents love to read.  We are lucky to have several independant book stores in our community.  In Washington Depot, the Hickory Stick is a perennial favorite.  It hosts book signings and also sponsors many of the programs at OWL. 

In Kent, The House of Books located on Main Street (and just next door to Kent Coffee and Chocolate) has all the latest best sellers, audio books, USGS maps and they are happy to special order any title you may be looking for. 

Kent is also home to the used book store owned by Richard J. Lindsay. Open on Saturdays and tucked just off Main Street, you can find many great titles on the bookshelves.

Come summer, the Kent Public Libray hosts a season long sidewalk sale of used books.  Click here to go to the Library site.

In the town of Litchfield, the First Congregational Church of Litchfield's entire basement is a grand offering of used books.  Open on Saturdays, the lower level of the church offers used books for adults and children. 

These are just a few of my favorite's what are yours?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ski Time

Todays recent snow storm and upcoming cold days will make this a perfect weekend for skiing.

Please click here to go to our previous post on Litchfield County Area Skiing and to check out the latest in mountain conditions!

Happy Skiing!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Green Bubbly?

From The CT Green Scence Blog

Pop Goes The Green Bubbly

by Eileen Weber

‘Tis the season to be jolly with a glass of bubbly to celebrate the holidays. So why not make that a glass of organic bubbly?
Not surprisingly, there are a number of European wineries that farm sustainably and only grow organic grapes. You can get some fine selections of Prosecco and Asti Spumante from Italy and champagne from France and parts of Spain as well as some sections of England. But let’s just stick to our home turf, shall we?
California has produced some outstanding wines, sparkling wines among them. And for some vineyards, a sparkling wine made from organic grapes is that much better.

Two California vineyards stand out: Domaine Carneros and Korbel. In September, Korbel announced the launch of its latest Brut Champagne made with organic grapes.

“As more consumers are looking for foods and beverages produced organically, we felt there was an opportunity for Korbel to offer a unique product where there currently isn’t something widely available,” said Gary Heck, owner and president of Korbel Champagne Cellars, in a company press release dated September 15th. “We found that organic practices yield fruit with new and exciting flavors for us to work with. It has been an exciting new development for Korbel.”
Korbel goes that much further with other green practices. Among other things, they use a water irrigation system that decreases their water usage and uses absolutely no well water. In their packaging, they decreased the weight of the glass bottle reducing the energy used to manufacture it and the bottles are packaged in boxes made from 50% post-consumer material.
For Domaine Carneros, farming organically is something they’ve been doing all along. They’ve only just been recognized for it.
“We’ve always taken an active role to preserve the health of the land,” says Eileen Crane, President and Chief Winemaker of Domaine Carneros, on their web site. “The organic certification is the result of years of hard work and dedication to the land, and we’re proud to finally reach this point in our farming practices.”

Crane will tell you that they have flown under the radar with their organic practices, something they started almost twenty years ago under Crane’s tutelage. “Our first commitment is to produce the best wines and we believe that you achieve this through healthy vines, becoming organic was a natural evolution for us from the start,” she said.
Along with organic farming, they also have solar panels, which they installed in 2003. At the time, it was the largest installment of a photovoltaic system at any winery. Since then, others have followed in their footsteps.
Vineyards across the globe are not only focused on sustainability on the farm, but in the farmhouse. Many vintners in Europe and the U.S. have opted for solar panels, recycled and reclaimed materials, as well as a strong focus on land conservation.

While not sparkling wine producers, there are wineries in California that have been very keen on being green. Parducci, part of the Mendocino Wine Company, is the first winery to be carbon neutral by offsetting their emissions. They also use solar power, organic integrated pest management, recycled paper, environmentally friendly packaging and soy ink.
Rodney Strong Winery in Sonoma County also flexes their green muscle. They have carbon neutrality and solar power. They farm their grapes sustainably including composting all grape by-products from the wine making. “It’s part of our values. It’s part of our company,” said Tom Klein, the vineyard’s proprietor, in a company video. “It’s part of what we all as citizens of this world need to do.”
According to a press release dated December 18th from Alternative Energy HQ, Anaba Winery, a new California label that launched last year, is the first winery to use a wind turbine as a renewable source of energy. As John Sweazey, proprietor of the winery, will tell you, there is enough wind to go around. Called anabatic winds that come off the Pacific Coast (hence, the wine’s name, Anaba), Sweazey wanted to harness that natural resource.

But they won’t stop there. “When we start construction on our new winery,” he said in the press release, “we plan to install solar panels to harvest sunlight as well. That will give us a powerful combination of wind and solar, which will move us well on our way to becoming a ‘green’ winery.”

Photo from CT Green Scene Blog

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Taste Of Hartford

by Maria M. Sacco

If you are looking to venture out of Litchfield County, the Annual Taste of Hartford will occur from now until January 24th. For the price of $20.10, you can enjoy a mulit- course meal (beverages,tax and tip not included) at a number of Hartford area restaurants. Twenty five cents of each meal purchased benefits the Greater Hartford Arts Council. To see a list of participating restaurants,  click here to get to that list.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

James Taylor In Concert This Friday and Saturday to Benefit Hait

From the Torrington Register Citizen

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. (AP) — James Taylor has scheduled a second benefit concert in Massachusetts to aid earthquake relief efforts in Haiti after the first show sold out.

Taylor announced on his Web site that he’ll play a second show on Saturday at the Mahaiwe (muh-HAY’-wee) Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. The first show, scheduled for Friday, sold out in 90 minutes Tuesday and raised $300,000 — $150,000 in ticket sales, which was then matched by Taylor and his wife, Kim.

Both shows will benefit Partners in Health, a Boston-based group that brings modern medical care to poor nations and has been working in Haiti for more than 20 years.

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, who lives in nearby Lenox, says on his Web site that a second concert “is the least I can do.”

Area Community Event_Houstatonic Relay for Life

by Maria M. Sacco

Relay for Life of HousatonicValley  will be holding a comedy night fundraiser and  would love to see you there. This show will feature national touring professional comedian Dave Reilly and Joey “Father Guido” Scarpelli. This night of laughs will help us raise much needed funds for the organization and when you see this show, you will be not only be helping , but helping yourself enjoy a night of much needed laughter and stress relief!
Tickets are only $20.00 each (donation and tax deductable!) and the show is well over 2 hours long of non-stop laughter! Tickets make a great gift idea for any occasion as well as a great “date night” for couples. Why wait for a wedding or a funeral to see the ones you care about? Get an entire table of family and friends together for a night of laughs that will not be soon forgotten.

Show: Dave Reilly – “A Stand-Up Comedy Adventure!”
Location: Colonial Theater, 27 Railroad Street , Canaan , CT 06018
Date: Saturday, February 20, 2010
Time: Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Show starts at 8:00 p.m.
Info: Call (860)824-4488 for Dinner Reservations before the show. Cash Bar
Tickets: available at Colonial Theatre and Stadium System. Call Wendy at (860)671-0627 with any questions or to purchase tickets.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Viewing Site for Eagles Now Open

From the Litchfield County Times

SOUTHBURY-When the temperature dips to chill-to-the-bone lows and threats of freezing rain and snow prevail, many retire to southern climes, where the sun warms body and soul. For bald eagles who call Canada, Maine and upstate New York home, those warmer climates are here in Connecticut, and this time of year the national bird can often be found "vacationing" along the Housatonic River.

For 25 years, FirstLight Power Resources, a GDF SUEZ Energy North America company that owns and operates several hydroelectric facilities along the Housatonic River, has operated the Shepaug Bald Eagle Observation Area in Southbury, giving the public the rare opportunity to see the birds soaring over the hilltops and swooping down to fish the icy waters. The observation area is open Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. through March 17. Admission is free, but advance reservations are required for individuals, families and groups.

"For 25 years, Shepaug has remained one of the top areas in New England to view these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. It is a wonderful, free-of-charge outing for individuals, families and school groups," said Gary Smolen, coordinator of FirstLight's eagle observation program. "... We'd love to have kids with their families, seniors, and anyone having an appreciation of wildlife come and visit. It's an experience they will not soon forget."

The Southbury site, formerly owned by Northeast Utilities, is a preferred feeding ground for visiting eagles because the dam releases water at regular intervals each day to generate power. This creates turbulence, preventing the water from freezing and forcing fish to the surface, allowing the eagles to hunt easily. In essence, it creates a dependable food source during the critical winter months.

The plant was built in 1955, but, according to Mr. Smolen, bald eagles were coming to the site long before its construction. In the early 1980s, however, word spread about the site's avian visitors and an uninvited public started coming to the property and inadvertently disturbing the eagles.

"Word got out about our resident eagles and, without restrictions, people were upsetting the eagles and forcing them into flight, stressing an already stressed bird," Mr. Smolen said. "We had to come to a resolution: Close the area off completely and prevent the public from trespassing on the property, or open a public observation area so the birds could feed and the public could observe them from a safe distance-that way, everyone wins."

Personnel chose the latter option and the observation area was built and officially opened to the public 25 years ago. While the observation operation has remained consistent, what really surprised Mr. Smolen and the experts is the restoration of the bird species over the last 25 years.

"What really blew me away were the endangered species list changes," he said. "As of this past summer, there are 18 nesting pairs of bald eagles in Connecticut. Twenty-five years ago, there were none. Bald eagles were removed from the federal endangered species list, and they have moved down on the state's list. It's something we never envisioned when we opened this observation area 25 year ago."

Local experts, he said, have reported as many as eight eagles a day feeding at the site this time of year, as well as other bird species, such as red-tail hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, goshawks, great blue herons, and a variety of waterfowl. That doesn't guarantee visitors will see eagles during a visit, however.

"When it comes to Mother Nature, you cannot predict anything and that is certainly the case with the eagles," Mr. Smolen said. "We can't promise they will see eagles when they visit. We have a very high success rate for viewing, but at any given minute or hour, there may not be anything to see. The probability is higher for seeing eagles when we're generating power."

Visitors can see the eagles through high-powered telescopes, and specialists are on site to answer visitors' questions. Visitors are encouraged to dress warmly since the observation area is unheated and to bring binoculars if possible, given the limited number of onsite telescopes.

"The nicest part of this program is when you see someone who is seeing a bald eagle for the very first time," Mr. Smolen said with a smile. "It doesn't matter if they're 5 or if they're 85, it's a precious moment, and it makes all of the work worthwhile."

The Shepaug Bald Eagle Observation Area is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through March 17 at the Shepaug Bald Eagle Observation Area, located on River Road in Southbury. Reservations are required by calling 800-368-8954.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Day at the Museum

By Maria  M.Sacco

The kids are home, the family is in, what to do, what to do.   Go out to a Museum.  Litchfield County and the surrounding area is home to a number of museums, art and unusual.  Here is a listing of a few fun places to go.

The Mattatuck Museum:  Located in Waterbury, the Mattatuck Museum features several Connecitcut connected  Artists (Cleve Grey, Alexander Calder, John Trumball and others) in it's Connecticut Art Collection, and also has several other permanent collections.  The Mattatuck offers extensive family programs such as Free Admission Sundays, Gallery Talks, and Global Lens Screening.  Click here to go to the current calander of events.

The  Yale Peabody Museum: Located on Whitney Avenue in New Haven, the Peabody,offers a variety of programs perfect for families. The Peabody is home to The Great Hall of Dinosaurs,The Age of Reptils Mural, and the Hall of Minerals, Earth and Space.  Click here to go to their information page. 

The Golden Age of Trucking Museum: Is located in Middlebury, Connecticut.  This is one of Connecticut lesser know museum gems.  It features trucks on loan and a permanent collectio of trucks.

The Danbury Railway Musem: Is open year round and has a large display of model trains.  You can also tour the train yard and some of the locomotives. Train rides are available too. Click here to go to the events page.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Mamadou Diabate, a master kora player from Mali, West Africa, will perform onstage at the Esther Eastman Music Center's Katherine M. Elfers Hall at The Hotchkiss School Friday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. for a free concert that is open to the public.
Diabate was born to a distinguished family of musicians in Kita, Mali, a city long known as the center for arts and culture of the Manding people of West Africa. His family comes from a long line of griots, or jelis, whose musical heritage includes the use of a 21-string harp called a kora to preserve ancient Manding traditions through oratory and song.
Playing kora and performing has been a lifelong passion for Diabate, who learned to play from his father, who himself was a master and founder of the Instrumental Ensemble of Mali. Young Diabate went on to win recognition in local competitions and in the broader jeli circuit. In 1996 he joined a touring group of musicians and cultural representatives from the Instrumental Ensemble of Mali in the United States, and has gone on to tour throughout this country and internationally as both a soloist and as the lead in the Mamadou Diabate Ensemble. Diabate now calls the United States home.

Diabate is a musical adventurer who has collaborated broadly with jazz musicians from Donald Byrd to Randy Weston, as well as popular figures from Afropop star Angelique Kidjo and Zimbabwean legend Thomas Mapfumo to blues mavericks Taj Mahal and Eric Bibb. He frequently performs with visiting Malian stars including grand divas such as Ami Koita and Tata Bambo Kouyate. Nationally he has performed at the United Nations, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, and for National Geographic in Washington, DC. Since 2000 his appearances have been well received at major world music and folk festivals around the United States and Canada, and international tours across Europe.

Diabate has produced many recordings, both solo and in collaboration with other well-known musicians. His 2003 solo recording of Behmanka (World Village) was a tour de force that demonstrated his knowledge of the tradition and mastery of his instrument and led to his nomination for a Grammy Award in 2005. He was awarded the World Music Artist of the Year in 2007 by the American Folk Alliance.

The Hotchkiss School is a private boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12 and is located at the intersection of Routes 112 and 41 at 11 Interlaken Road in Lakeville, CT. The Esther Eastman Music Center’s Katherine M. Elfers Hall is a beautifully wrought world-class performance center that offers a superb acoustic experience.
This concert is one of a series of guest concerts throughout the year which feature performances by well-known national and international artists and are offered free to the public. Visit or call 860-435-4423 for more information about this and others arts events.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ski Reports

With all the cold weather we have been having the Ski conditions in New England have been great!  You can access the ski conditions at local skiing areas by going back to our previous post (click here to access it) and then you can click on your mountain of choice!

Have fun on the slopes!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How To Season Your Cast Iron Fry Pan

I love my cast iron frying pans.  I have one that I inherited from my grandparents, it has to be sixty years old if not older.  Chances are you have a cast iron frying pan sitting in your cupboard, but are not sure how to season it.  It takes years of use for a pan to get that rich aged black patina.  I have two pans, one that is exclusive to breakfast food, eggs, bacon and pancakes, and one that is used for everything else.  You can use cast iron on the stove top, in the oven under the broiler and I have even used one of my smaller pans on my gas grill. Some tips, you can cook acidic foods in your cast iron pan, but don't store said foods in it,use an appropriate container. Never use cast iron on a ceramic glass cooking top, you could scratch the surface, alas, cast iron and ceramic glass cooking tops are not a good match. 

If you find an old cast iron pan at a yard sale with a little rust or buy a new one, here is the way to season the pan.  The ONLY time I ever use soap and a steel wood pad on my cast iron is if it has rust, otherwise it's hot water, a good stiff brush, for any food that might be "stuck on" I will use a paste of baking soda and hot water.

Here's the step-by-step guide:

1. Pre-heat oven to 325.

2. Wash skillet with warm, soapy water and dry thoroughly.

3. Apply a thin coat of vegetable oil, or vegetable shortening with a paper towel on all surfaces, inside and out.

4. Place in oven on center rack, upside down. Place a baking sheet or a sheet of foil on the rack beneath to catch drippings.

5. Bake for an hour, then turn off heat, open door, and allow to cool inside oven before removing.

6. Skillet is now ready to use.

To wash, scrub with hot water and a brush without detergent. Never use sharp or metal utensils on it while cooking and never place in the dishwasher. If it finds its way into the dishwasher, don't fret - just repeat seasoning process.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Talking Nature

By Greg Hanisek of the Waterbury Republican American

Looking At Swans

I wrote recently in one of my newspaper columns about a flurry of Tundra Swan sightings around the state. Unlike the non-native Mute Swans, which we see year-round in Connecticut, Tundra Swans are rather rare visitors from Arctic nesting areas. Their main migratory pathway lies a bit west of us, so we see them irregularly. After the reports a few weeks ago, which included one that made a quick stop at Bantam Lake in Litchfield, two more turned a few days ago on the Lieutenant River in Old Lyme. Hank Golet spotted them there among the Mute Swans, and on Christmas Eve he saw one of them at the nearby Great Island boat launch. Two were seen there again today. The accompanying photo was provided by Hank.

photo from lincoln park zoo web site