Friday, December 30, 2011

8-Eco Friendly Tips for Storing Holiday Decoration

Now that the holidays are over.  Here are a few tips from from the folks at Apartment Therapy for storing holiday decorations!

Here are 8 eco friendly suggestions from Suite101 for storing your keepsakes:
1. Use egg cartons for storing small, delicate pieces. Use tissue paper saved from gifts to cushion them.
2. Store holiday crystal or stemware in wine or liquor boxes, easily sourced from your local liquor store or Trader Joe's.
3. Store strings of lights in cardboard or tin coffee cans. Or if you were the recipient of Danish butter cookies or a giant tin of popcorn, these will work as well or better.
4. Store wreaths and garlands in individual paper shopping or gift bags. Garland can be wound around a used gift box and secured with ribbon. You can hook the bag handles over a clothes hanger for crush-free storage.
5. Use what you already have. Saving the boxes that an item came in (obviously only works if it's store-bought!) and putting the items back in them is something I try to do as much as possible.
6. Storing or disposing of your Christmas tree. Most cities and municipalities have Christmas tree recycling for those who opted for a real tree. To store your artificial tree, repack in its original box, but wrap it in old dry cleaning bags to keep it dust free. You may also want to put a couple of cedar blocks inside to keep insects out.
7. To keep your holiday candles dust-free, store them in old socks or stockings. But remember to keep them in a cool, dry place. The last thing you'd want to find next year is a bunch of waxy socks that melted over the summer.
8. Last but not least, label all your boxes clearly! This will save you from becoming frustrated next year when you can't find the box that your holiday lights are in and the impatient urge to buy a whole new set. Using and maintaining (and being able to find) what we already have is one of the greenest options we can exercise.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Litchfield Possum Queen Contest

22nd Annual Possum Queen Contest
January 1st, 2012
12:00 Noon - 5:00 pm
@ The Litchfield Inn
"Possum Queen is a tongue-in-cheek beauty pageant where beauty and talent have nothing to do with it, it's all about bribing the judges!"  (All proceeds go to help local people with medical problems take care of bills that insurance doesn't cover.)
We put the FUN in fundraising!
As the calendar turns to the first day of winter here in Connecticut, that can only mean that the 22nd Annual Possum Queen Contest is only a few days away. The coveted crown of Possum Queen will go to the person or group who gives the most in charity "bribes" to the events' judges and are deemed worthy by the panel of "Beauty and Talent Judges" of that esteemed honor. The judges are looking for money, creativity and originality and will weigh those qualities and more when selecting the new Possum Queen.  The "Contest" is scheduled on Possum Day, January 1, 2012 at the home of the tongue-in-cheek beauty pageant, the Litchfield Inn with the doors opening at noon.

Contestants, judges and on-lookers have been over-whelmed in the past by the creativity of the various parties trying to win the crown and receive the bouquet of dead roses, lasting infamy, and the right to play dead for an entire year when they are named "Possum Queen."

This accidental charity originally started out of boredom on New Year's Day from the two men credited with or accused of being the so-called brains behind this unusual fundraiser, Billy Neller and Brent Hawkins. The first event was more of a party than a fundraiser, but over time the event morphed into a bigger, better and may we say, a semi-organized extravaganza. It started out at a small restaurant and bar in Litchfield, called O'Neill's, then moved uptown to the "Village Restaurant" which was its home for many years. The Possum Queen Contest eventually outgrew the "Village" and moved to its current home, The Litchfield Inn back in 2009.

Since the move the charity has stepped up its fundraising efforts, and the fun and craziness continues un-phased . The Possum Queen Foundation is a non-profit organization so all money (or bribes in this case) donated is tax deductable.

Some of the  people being helped this year are:  Evan Faschiano, not yet two years of age who has a life long battle with a skin disease Harlequin Ichthyosis. Harlequin refers to the most severe and rare form of ichtyosis. Evan was born 2 ½ months premature and spent those first months of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Yale Children's Hospital in New Haven, CT. Evan was given his name due to its meaning-'Young Warrior', which he has proven to live up to every day since June 9th, 2010. Go to his blogspot: for his story.

Also receiving monies for the Possum Queen Contest is Liam Dywer, a 1999 Litchfield High School graduate current United States Marine Sergeant who was wounded in action. Dwyer lost his left leg above the knee and suffered major damage to his right leg and right arm in the explosion of an IED in Afghanistan in May. Liam is now recovering from his most recent surgery and is doing well but will need your help to put his life back together again. Liam page

Two other families with similar medical needs causing severe hardships will also be receiving money from the Possum Queen proceedings, but we do not yet have permission to reveal them to the public. The stories and needs of these people are very real and we need to raise more money than ever on January 1st!

There will be "live" and "silent" auctions taking place during the afternoon with some really great items up for bid. Now, wouldn't you like to win a mink coat? This is real mink!!! Not possum! Yes, there is a mink coat up for bids! In addition to the mink coat, there is a photo of Yogi Berra and Babe Ruth, signed by Yogi. There is also an autographed photograph of two-time NL Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants. Any aficionado of baseball memorabilia would love to have those in their collection! Baseball fans have more to think about, as there will be 3 sets of Red Sox tickets and two sets of Yankee tickets available. Oh, did I mention a mink coat? I meant to say we have two mink coats for the auction. They are gorgeous!!!

Speaking of gorgeous, we have a needlepoint area rug, valued at $900 up for grabs. Other auction items so far collected: Tickets to a Broadway Play; A historic two night trip to Washington, D.C. with a meeting with the both U.S. Senators from Connecticut and a tour of the Marine Corps. Museum and more; UConn Women's Basketball tickets; a DJ guest spot on WZBG's morning show; Rounds of golf; First Selectman for a day in Litchfield: Rides to school in a fire truck; and yes, another mink coat!!! Three mink coats are to be in the auction come Possum Day, and there are many, many more items that will be available that day.

The Possum Queen Contestants will be putting on shows in the ballroom all afternoon, while the silent auction is on. Then after the judges have be "wowed" by the zany skits of the those vying for the title, the "live" auction will take place, culminating in the auctioning of the famous "Possum Soup." Following the auction, the judges will meet to determined the "runned-overs" of the contest as there are no "runners-up" as well as the "Best in Heels" Best in Tails" the "No Talent Award" and the eventual 2012 Possum Queen.

This is an event not to be missed! If you must miss it and still wish to "bribe for good!" please send your donations to: Possum Queen Foundation, P.O. Box  1865, Litchfield, CT 06759.

Contact: Brent Hawkins (860) 309-9545 or

Free Ice Skating

Something to do with the kids!

Families in the Northwest Corner are invited to the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau's ANNUAL ICE SKATING PARTY on Saturday, December 31. The event begins at 10 AM and lasts until 1 PM at The Hotchkiss School's Dwyer Rink. Tickets are $2 per person and all skaters are reminded to bring their own skates and wear a hat. Hot chocolate and snacks will be served during the party, with all proceeds to benefit the programs of the Housatonic Youth Service Bureau. For more information, call 860-824-4720 or visit

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The PPG Property of the Week

Just because it's winter, does not mean real estate sales have slowed down. In fact, Portfolio Properties Group has had a fantastic year listing and selling property in Goshen and Woodridge Lake.  Each week, we will feature one of our listings.  We have been serving buyers and sellers at  Woodridge Lake for over 30 years. We are the top selling agents in Goshen for 2011 (CTMLS stats). 

118 Ives Rd.,Goshen, CT

This well maintained four bedroom three and a half bath home  is ideally situated within walking distance of the club house,  tennis courts and marina.
Air conditioned, with a generous master bedroom suite on the first floor, the property has a feeling of openness yet with defined living areas.  The second floor has three bedrooms, two additional full baths and a loft. The third bedroom has a bonus room which could be nursery, office or even and additional bedroom.

For more photos and information on the property, please click here

Monday, December 26, 2011

How to Recycle Your Christmas Tree

How and Where to Recycle Your Christmas Tree After the Holidays

 Revised  January 8, 2011

Christmas is over, the egg nog has gone off, the relatives finally departed... and you're left packing up the lights and ornaments and wondering what to do with the Christmas tree.  Put it out by the curb and hope that the garbage men will take it away.  Not likely.  Put it in a corner of the yard and believe it may break down.  Not in your lifetime.  So what?
Many cities and counties have recycling services to put your old Christmas tree to new life as a wildlife sanctuary, on a sand dune to protect the beach, chipped for mulch or as a bird feeder.  Look below on this page for both general tips and options specific to your local area:

What Are Your Recycling Choices?

After the holidays, don’t throw your natural tree away!  Here are some tips on what to do with your tree after the holidays. In general, you have these options:
  1. Curbside pick-up for recycling - Most areas will collect trees during their regular pickup schedules on the 2 weeks following Christmas.  There are often requirements for size, removing ornaments, flocking, etc; see below for details.
  2. Call for an appointment to have a non-profit in your area pickup your tree. Some boy scout troops are offering a pickup service for a small donation (often $5).
  3. Take your tree to a drop off recycling center. Most counties have free drop-off locations throughout the county. Usually, you may take up to two trees to any of the following drop-off locations at no charge.
  4. Cut the tree to fit loosely into your yard waste container.

Other tips and ideas

  • Removing the tree: The best way to avoid a mess removing your tree is to place a plastic tree bag (which are available at hardware stores) underneath the stand when you set the tree up! You can hide it with a tree skirt. Then, when the holidays are done, pull the bag up around the tree, stand and all, and carry it outside. Obviously, you will want to remove the stand before recycling the tree. If some needles do scatter inside, it is better to sweep them up; as needles can clog vacuum cleaners.
  • Tree Recycling / Mulching programs are a fast-growing trend in communities throughout the nation. Check below on this page or with your local department of public works for information. They chip and shred the trees, then make the mulch available for use in your garden.  Your hauler will notify you of pick-up dates in your area. There are a few things you must do to make your tree ready for RECYCLING. Here are some general tips - but be sure to check with your local hauler - these are just general guidelines! To find your local hauler:
    If it is Waste Management Inc (WM), click here to find your Local WM Service Provider's Website - or click here to contact Your Local WM Customer Service Center by Phone - find the 1-800 number of your Local Customer Service Center
    If your local hauler is AW / BFI (Allied Waste) - Click here to locate the contact information for your local hauler.
  • Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers, especially at for lake and river shoreline stabilization and river delta sedimentation management (Louisiana does both).
  • Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds trees make excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
  • Bird feeders: Place the Christmas tree in the garden or backyard and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Fresh orange slices or strung popcorn will attract the birds and they can sit in the branches for shelter. (Make sure all decorations, hooks, garland and tinsel strands are removed).  Eventually (within a year) the branches will become brittle and you can break the tree apart by hand or chip it in a chipper. See this article from Perdue University for more information.
  • Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be removed, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden. If you have a neighbor with a chip, see if he will chip it for you.
  • Paths for Hiking Trails - some counties use the shredded trees as a free, renewable and natural path material that fits both the environment and the needs of hikers!
  • Living, rooted trees: Of course, next year, you could get a rooted (ball and burlapped or containerized) tree and then plant it in your yard after Christmas (It's a good idea to pre-dig the hole in the late Fall while the soil is still soft, then plant the tree into that hole immediately after Christmas.) NOTE: Living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates, than in a northern area.
  • Important: Never burn your Christmas tree in a fireplace or wood stove. Pines, firs and other evergreens have a high content of flammable turpentine oils.  Burning the tree may contribute to creosote buildup and risk a chimney fire.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Benefit for Russ Kellogg

A benefit for Russ Kellogg will be held this evening, Wednesday, December 21, from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Flatbread Company in Canton.  Dr. Kellogg,  a long-time New Hartford resident, has operated the Winsted Hospital for Animals on Route 44 in Barkhamsted for over 30 years and he has become the “go-to veterinarian” for many families in our community.  Dr. Kellogg is married and has five children.
Dr. Kellogg was diagnosed with brain cancer last year at age 63 and his friends have organized this benefit to show how much they care for him and to raise funds to  help with the enormous medical bills.
The benefit will raise funds in two ways: A portion of the price of each small or large flatbread purchased [ including take-out ] will be donated by the restaurant, and there will be a Teacup Auction with 100% of the auction proceeds going towards Dr. Kellogg’s medical bills.
Everyone is invited to take part in the benefit.  Live music will be playing at the restaurant, and take out is also available. The Flatbread Company is located at 110 Albany Turnpike (Route 44) at the Shoppes at Farmington Valley in Canton.

Addendum: We received the sad news today that Russ Kellogg passed away yesterday, Monday, December 19.  Our reporter spoke with Barbara Scheidel, the organizer of the benefit, who confirmed that the benefit will still be held tomorrow evening at Flatbread.  We hope that everyone who can will plan to eat pizza from Flatbread tomorrow evening.

Some Last Minute 2011 Tax Incentives for the DIYer

For the past several years, the federal government has, as part of its economic stimulus spending, offered income tax credits for home improvement projects that improve energy efficiency. While the tax credits available in 2011 are much less generous than those available in years prior, they are still worth hundreds of dollars. And they expire Dec. 31.

Here are 11 home improvement projects that qualify for tax credits now, but won't in 2012 (unless Congress votes to re-enact these programs, which seems unlikely given the dominance of budget reduction in the current political climate). The dollar amount listed is the credit offered for qualifying energy efficient products. For details about how to qualify, visit
Biomass stoves: $300
Central air conditioning: $300
Electric heat pumps:
Furnaces and boilers: $150
Advanced main air circulating fan: $50
Insulation: 10% of the cost, up to $500
Roofing: 10% of the cost, up to $500
Gas, oil or propane water heaters: $300
Electric heat pump water heaters: $300
Windows and skylights: 10% of the cost, up to $200
Doors: 10% of the cost, up to $500

Read more:

Happy Holidays!

The staff of Portfolio Properties Group and Litchfield Country Living would like to wish you all a very happy holiday season!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Things to Do This Weekend

Goshen Winter Holiday Market - 10:00 am-1:00 pm - Goshen Center School Cafeteria
Litchfield Hills Farm-Fresh Indoor Market - 10:00 am-1:00 pm - Litchfield Community Center
Walking the Cranberry Pond Trail - 2:00 pm - White Memorial CC
Litchfield Hills Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count - White Memorial CC
Northfield Firemens' Monthly Breakfast - 7:30-11:00 am - Northfield Firehouse
Family Swim & Gym - 1:00-3:00 pm - Litchfield Community Center

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Things To Do For Friday

Holiday Bereavement Group - 9:30-11:00 am - Litchfield Community Center
Friday Feast & Dancing Feet - 12:00 am-2:00 pm - Litchfield Community Center
Ornament Workshop (Grades K-6) - 3:30-4:00 pm - Oliver Wolcott Library
Museum Open House - 6:00-8:00 pm – White Memorial CC

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recycled Wrapping Paper

Want some creative ideas for warpping holiday gifts? Our friends over at The Daily Green have a great post on recycled wrapping paper.

alternative wrapping paper
So you've purchased your gifts, or maybe even made them yourself. The thoughtfulness doesn't have to end there. Part of the fun of a gift is the surprise and that excited moment when the present is opened. What's not fun about the holidays is the tons of wasted wrapping paper. In my family we are notorious for last minute present wrapping, and there is never enough wrapping paper to go around (forget finding a pair of scissors on Christmas Eve, it's impossible). So, I've learned to be crafty.
I'm an expert wrapper, having worked the holiday season wrapping for Restoration Hardware during college. I can work with many different shapes and sizes of gifts (cylindrical items? Piece of cake.). But a great way to add some personality to your gift is some alternative recycled gift wrapping (you won't find this at the mall). You've probably received, or wrapped yourself, a gift donned in the classic alternative wrapping: the comics section. This is a great one, but there are so many other ways to creatively wrap your gifts.

alternative wrapping paper

Fit to Print:

Last year I wrapped my sister Michele's gift with ads from Ralph Lauren. She's a merchandiser over at Ralph Lauren and gets me the best deals on their eco-friendly sheets.
My other sister, Lydia, will be getting a gift wrapped in ads for the new Twilight movie, like the package I wrapped above. She, like every other teenager I know, is obsessed with the series' books and movies. She'll probably like the wrapping paper more than the gift, but hey, when was the last time you could say that about the store-bought Santa paper?
My father and I have done a lot of traveling this year, so my dad's present will be wrapped in the travel section. I'm not sure if I'll look for articles on places we've been or maybe places I want to go next. That's half the fun of it!
Another idea is to use the newspaper page as a hint toward what the gift is. This makes for a fun guessing game, especially for kids.
Previously I've simply wrapped gifts in newspaper, but I was excited to find some newspaper ribbons creative wrappers had made. The top left image is a wine bottle, covered in newspaper and topped with newspaper ribbons, from Kuroi_doresu. You can make curled ribbons of newspaper the same way you'd make them with store-bought ribbons. Just run one blade of a pair of scissors along the ribbon -- only be a bit more careful not to let the paper rip.

Read more:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Upcoming Events At Hotchkiss Katherine M. Elfers, Esther Eastman Music Center

Upcoming Events At Hotchkiss Katherine M. Elfers, Esther Eastman Music Center

Friday December 2nd:
Hotchkiss Ensembles-7:00 PM

Festival of Lessons and Carols
December 4th-7:00 PM Hotchkiss Chapel

A Story Telling Performance
Two Men Talking
Friday January 6th, 2012

Michael Musillami trio + 4
Friday, January 13th, 7:00 PM

The New and Exciting Litchfield Hills Sotheby's International Realty Site!

From Paul Breunich, President and CEO of William Pitt/Sotheby's International Reatly

We're live! Today marks an exciting milestone with the launch of the all-new website. The collective efforts of the Corporate Marketing, IT and local brokerage teams have been feverishly working towards launching our new sites and we hope you're as excited as we are.

In addition to new globalization features like worldwide Sotheby's International Realty listing search, currency conversion and language translation, we have enhanced the website with content rich pages like the new "Our Story" section and an exclusive video channel complete with high-definition town tours allowing home seekers to explore the unique attributes of our communities.

Please click on the link below

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Tree Farms in Litchfield County.

A great New England tradition is to go and cut your own Christmas tree.  Litchfield County has several tree farms where you can go and cut your own, or get a freshly cut tree.  Some of these farms also have wreaths, roping and other holiday decorations.  Please call for  current cutting times and directions.  To access the link to Litchfield County Christmas Tree farms, please click here.

My personal favorite tree farm is Bees Trees and Fleas! Located on South Street in Litchfield.