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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

Month

February 2011

Adding a Touch of Green in Winsted

When Karen’s Cafe had departed a month ago, many thought that was the end to a coffee-house on Main Street. Little did they know, however, that something was going on behind the scenes as a new owner,Sharry Revillini, was about to take over and make this cozy little hideaway her own as she was green with envy, in every part of the word.

Welcome to the Green Room. The new Main Street coffee-house in Winsted. The Green Room isn’t just a name, it’s a whole concept bringing the green lifestyle to the business environment as well as the community that it serves. Everything is green right down to the way that they dispose of the scraps of food, which is actually composted. I learned about the Green Room originally from my friend Joe Kopler who is an artist in town and had his artwork on display there back when it was Karen’s Cafe. He had mentioned that much of his artwork was now back home with him except for his famous “Abbey Road” piece which hangs right by the large picture window that faces Main Street.

Joe wasn’t the only way that I heard about this neat little place. Facebook was also a huge help as the owner is incredibly social media savvy and has set up a “Green Room” Facebook page in order to, not only help spread the word that there is a new business in town, but also to engage their audience by introducing delectable food dishes on the page as well as engaging the audience in some giveaways, which is exactly what brought me to this charming coffee-house. A posting by them on their Facebook page earlier in the week stated that if you had the initials of “MV”, you could come by for a free breakfast and some coffee. Perfect! As a bachelor, the words “free food” mean that you don’t have to tell me twice.

Upon my entry into the Green Room, I was pretty amazed at what had been done with the place. Little book nooks, a cozy sofa and coffee table, as well as seating for those who wanted to dine in decked the place and made it seem like one of those small town coffee houses, which is exactly what it is! I didn’t mention my name when I came in, rather I sat down and placed my order. I ordered a delicious crepe, which came with fresh strawberries and bananas. I couldn’t resist a healthy alternative for breakfast, after all, this is the Green Room which is all about healthy, conscious living for a better tomorrow. The entrée was absolutely delicious, a little sweet but made just right as I watched the world of Winsted pass me by.

The Green Room is, without a doubt, an excellent place that simply has to be discovered, no matter what age you are. It’s one of those places where you can go to escape the day as you unwind in an incredibly relaxed environment, even if it is just for a few minutes, or even a half-hour. This place will certainly be one of those places that call your name every morning before work. After all, who couldn’t use a little green in their life?

For more information, visit their website: http://www.tgrcafe.com/

The Closing of Borders Brings New Concerns

Borders in Simsbury gets ready to close.

Last week, Borders, the book and music empire, announced that it would be closing some of its stores in Connecticut. This was certainly a shock to many, including myself who shops at the Simsbury location, just down the road from The Shoppes at Farmington Valley and a quick 20 minute drive from Torrington. During the holiday season, I could be found catching up on s few books and magazines inside the stores Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop, a great place to unwind as you kick back with a custom-made coffee as well as a good book. It was certainly the place to be as many enjoyed this awesome little hideaway with me.

Borders wasn’t the only bookstore in the area, however. Barnes & Nobles, the king of book retailing is located just around the corner at The Shoppes at Farmington Valley. I have come to enjoy this place as well with its book nook environment. Speaking of Nooks, Barnes & Noble by far out beat Borders in the e-reader market when it launched the Nook, which was an instant success amid fears from analysts in the industry who thought there would be no market for this sort of thing. Wow, were they ever wrong. Almost everyone I know has a Nook. In fact, I even have the Nook app on both my iPhone and iPad.

One has to sit back and wonder, however, was the e-reader one of the many things that hurt Borders? Although they had a similar one, they were too late to capitalize anything off of it as Barnes & Noble by far gave them a run for their money. Something that I always preach, as a manager in the retail environment, is that you have to stay ahead of the competition. You have to consistently look into ways into being more innovative as well as more progress based of course. It seems to me, that Borders became a follower of Barnes & Noble rather than to go off on their own path, which is how many of today’s businesses succeed in the market place.

With Borders closing comes new concerns, however, and that concern is the fight for books in Torrington. Many in town would like to see a bookstore here, and quite frankly I don’t blame them. Though it is only a 20 minute drive to the Barnes & Noble to The Shoppes at Farmington Valley, as well as a 20 minute drive to the Barnes & Noble in Waterbury, it is still a drive none the less, and a drive that can sometimes be daunting, especially at night as the roads to and from these locations are unlit. Many have sent e-mails to both Borders and Barnes & Noble asking them to come to town, but both have said that they won’t make the investment into the area, and now we know why Borders won’t come as they have filed for bankruptcy.

The concern is real, and as another bookstore in the region closes, the fight is still on to bring a bookstore to Torrington. One has to wonder, however, if there is a great deal of people asking for one, why hasn’t anyone made any moves to build one?

EDITORIAL: Blogging Still Thrives

There are some of us in the blogging world who believe blogging is simply dying thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter. As someone who has been blogging away in the blogosphere for the past 10 years, I’ve seen a wide variety of changes occur, but most have been for the better rather than for the worse. Allow me to explain.

10 years ago, I was in my mid teens and in high school. I was a computer geek back then, maybe more so than I am now. I launched myself onto AOL, which back then was the most popular way to log onto the world-wide web. As I began surfing the net, I went from writing paragraphs on Instant Messenger to my friends, to creating blog entries into AOL’s blogging program, which is somewhat similar to today’s Blogger. Over a course of months, I gave up after a lack of followers and created my own site through AOL’s free website development program. The site “Crave Magazine Online” was an instant hit, not only with my friends, but also with an array of folks that they shared the site with. Sharing is the word you’ll want to keep lodged in your head for a moment. Take a step back into the late 90’s and early 00’s. There was no such thing as Facebook, MySpace, or even Twitter, all the things that make sharing information fast and easy. Due to this, my site wasn’t as popular or didn’t even have the reach that my site does today, regardless if this site is liked to a local news company. I will tell you that this site is linked to a local news company simply because of Facebook. If I didn’t network with folks on Facebook, many folks would probably not even know this site existed!

My point is this; sure blogging today is an incredibly different world than it was yesterday. However, it is surely not a dying media. If anything, it is a growing media due to the likes of social media sites as bloggers publish their stories to their audiences on those sites, and in turn their audience share what the blogger has published with their friends, and so on. As a blogger, I can say that it has been an incredible journey, one I am proud to have enjoyed since a young age as words come through my finger tips and onto my keyboard at a rapid pace. Do I think that blogging will become radically different in the future? Of course I do. Just look at how print newspapers have changed as they have evolved into a digital first strategy and have seen their readership increase simply because of their online presence and sharing capabilities through social media sites. Our world is always evolving, which is clearly evident in today’s digital age.

Out of the Dark

There comes a time when we all need to upgrade the things around us, and I am certainly no exception. Since the iPad came out, I have been tempted to purchase one, and when I say tempted, I mean I have been literally foaming at the mouth to invest my hard-earned dollars in this device, even more so since September which was when my laptop crashed and I had to revert back to the dinosaur; my home computer. A home computer. You know, those big bulky desktops that barely anyone uses anymore? Yeah, I can’t even tell you what that downgrade felt like. It made writing stories exceptionally difficult, not because I had to transition from a laptop keyboard, but because I couldn’t write while I was out on the road. While many hung out at coffee houses with their laptops, I had to go find the story and drive all the way back home to go ahead and chalk it up. Talk about a difficult process! I was practically living in the dark ages when it came to reporting. To make these matters even worse, I live on my own in a two-story town house. All alone. As in me, myself, and I and a living room desktop computer. Sounds like a lonely environment if you ask me, and for one who loves interacting with others, that’s not really my thing.

So, what did I do to change this drab environment? I changed things up and upgraded my life. I broke down and purchased an iPad. Okay, so maybe it was the computer that broke down before me, which pretty much forced me to go out and buy this thing, but hey, I’m not complaining! It’s income tax time and bonus season at work, this thing was much more affordable to me today than it was yesterday, plus now I can engage in a healthy conversation or two at the local coffee houses while I’m typing up a few columns. Oh, what a great feeling I have already just thinking about it! With the dinosaur extinct, life just got a whole lot better. As an added benefit, I’ll also be able to stop into the Register Citizen’s Newsroom Cafe here in Torrington more often since they offer free wi-fi, which is how the iPad essentially connects to the Internet. A 3G service version is offered on another version of the iPad through AT&T, but unfortunately the service is costly and isn’t unlimited, which is a sign of the times as many companies are now doing sway with unlimited service options. Last year at this time, I wouldn’t even consider buying the 3G version as Litchfield County did not even have 3G service. In fact, when I first moved here, I told everyone to call me at the county border if they were on their way to my house. Service was pretty rough, let alone incredibly slow.

Today is a new day. Litchfield County has had 3G service for a little over a year now and overall I can’t complain about the coverage, except of course in the isolated locations, which can be quite the challenge for anyone, and I’m not quite sure how anyone can get a hold of anything like oh, I don’t know…Life star! I guess those people just use Indian signals, but unlike them, I have escaped the dark ages and transitioned myself to at least a little taste of modern life as I enjoy more time out on the road and more time doing what I love; striking up conversations with total strangers, which apparently was something my parents forgot to tell me never to do when I was growing up.

Video: Salisbury Jumpfest

Salisbury has been the center of attention over recent weeks as they prepared for their annual Jumpfest weekend, which took place this past weekend on Satre Hill in Salisbury. The event marked 85 years of ski jumping in Salisbury and kicked things off with a brand new ski jump, which replaced the antique one that had been using. Below is a collection of some great videos from YouTube on all the action at the event.



The crew of Rocket Fine Street Food in Torrington also got to check out the events as they enjoyed the night off from cooking, and enjoyed a night of jump watching! You can read their post by clicking here.

Governor Malloy Announces Shared Sacrifices

Earlier this week, we learned that here in Connecticut things were about to change as governor Dannel Malloy announced the largest tax increase in state history. That’s right. The largest tax increase in state history, which comes at a time when we are all feeling the burden of hard economic times and rising gas prices that are already one of the highest in the nation. On Wednesday, just shortly after noon, the governor spoke at a press conference outlining his budget plan which he hopes will turn our state around and create, not only jobs, but a surplus at the end of the day. The governor warmed the audience up as he spoke on all the positive changes that he has created since taking office, such as consolidating state agencies, and how the residents of Connecticut are such great people.

Then, it happened. The audience became quiet as the governor spoke of his plan to increase taxes across the board, which will impact everything from a basic haircut to what you buy at the store. He said that the taxes here in Connecticut are just not fair, and who among us couldn’t agree with that statement, but now it is about to get fair, but not before it goes up as well. The governor calls this a “shared sacrifice” which he believes the great people of the state of Connecticut will be willing to pay if they know what it is all about and how it will impact their state in the end. Okay. Let me stop before I go on. I got the whole “shared sacrifice” thing and that we all need to do our part to make our state a better place to live and work. What I don’t get, however, is why we just didn’t go ahead and level out the state taxes and just decided to raise them. I understand that we have to be fair and consistent, but it certainly comes with a price, especially for people in my generation, the twenty-something generation, who are moving out by the droves to more affordable states. Correct me if I am wrong, but I was taught all through school that we are the future leaders of America. Yes. We are the future leaders of America…just not in Connecticut. Connecticut was already expensive enough for many of us to live here, now the state is at it again and making it very tough for many of us to survive.

Recently, here in Torrington, we learned that our little corner of the state has an aging population and that we simply do not have a lot of young people in the region. That same news can be said about the vast majority of Connecticut as college graduates find a more affordable life in the southern states. This is certainly alarming as many from the baby boomer generation are now entering retirement age. How can Connecticut move forward if they cannot keep the twenty-something generation in the state? It is a question that is raised quite frequently throughout the social circles.

We are not the only generation to be impacted, however. Everyone across the state is certainly impacted by this news as everyone is now forced to cut even more corners than we were already cutting. That once a day trip to the coffee-house? You may want to cut that out of your budget. Brew it at home! Need gas for your car? I’m struggling myself at nearly $3.40 a gallon. We are all feeling the crunch, no matter what tax bracket you are in. An increase in state taxes is hard news to swallow, but as governor Malloy said, it is a “shared sacrifice” that we all must make in order to become a better Connecticut.

Read more on this story from The Register Citizen: Malloy: “This budget says Connecticut is open for business” (with documents)

World-Class Skiing in Litchfield County

Litchfield County,CT may not be Vermont, but it is certainly our own little piece of Vermont right here in southern New England. With our bucolic hill town villages and  scenic beauty of gentle rolling hills amongst a charming countryside, Litchfield County is unlike any other place in the state of Connecticut. It simply has to be seen to believed, pictures can only do so much. They say life is rediscovered here in the Litchfield Hills as folks from all around the globe come to unwind and bask in the beauty of what mother nature has set before us.

As the seasons change, so too do the tourists. Fall leaf peepers change out for ski enthusiasts as the local ski areas open up for a long Litchfield County winter. Winters, on average, last from late November to early April, but don’t be surprised to see flakes flying before and after those months. The Litchfield Hills are known to be unpredictable thanks to our higher elevations which host many of these ski areas.

Litchfield County is home to three ski areas; Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall, Ski Sundown in New Hartford, and Woodbury Ski Area in Woodbury. All offer a wide range of services as well as different views of our scenic landscape. Mohawk Mountain, located in the charming town of Cornwall in the northern Litchfield Hills, is perhaps the mother of all the ski areas in the state of Connecticut. Mohawk is the home to snow-making, in fact, they invented it back in the 1940’s , and today that same practice is used around the globe. With an elevation of 1,600 feet and a vertical drop of 650 feet, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views of the surrounding area, including the Taconic Mountains of New York and the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

Mohawk also offers something that many of the other local ski areas do not;

Mohawk Mountain

 mountainside dining. Pine Lodge, located right on the slopes of Mohawk, offers skiers and riders a great place to ski in and out of as they enjoy a hot chocolate or a nice hearty bowl of soup. Pine Lodge is certainly one of the best attractions that Mohawk has going for it, but it also offers base dining located right at the base of the mountain which offers cafeteria style dining.

After you have checked out Mohawk, you’ll want to be sure to check out Ski Sundown, just a half hour to the east in New Hartford. This place is chock-full of adventure and to prove to you that they mean it, they even have their own terrain park, which is a very popular attraction. Ski Sundown may have a lower elevation than Mohawk, coming in at just 1,075 feet, but it is nothing short of fun by any means. With a vertical drop of 625 feet, and a mile long easy trail called Tom’s Treat which offers incredible views along the way as you glide your way with the terrain rather than against it, this mountain is incredibly family friendly and a hit with all age and expertise levels.

After you have had enough of high altitude skiing in the northern Litchfield Hills, which is everything north of the Litchfield town line including Torrington, you can make your way southwest to Woodbury Ski Area in Woodbury. Woodbury is known to be a hit with the New York City crowd as it is a mere 90 minute drive and right off Interstate 84. Though its elevation is only 850 feet, and only offers a 300 foot vertical drop, Woodbury still manages to find a way to pack a world of fun into this little piece of the Litchfield Hills countryside. It is the only ski area in the Litchfield Hills that offers snow tubing, and snow tubers of all ages are treated to over 1 mile of snow tubing trails along with 4 lifts!

Yes, Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills is a great escape for all who are looking to beat those pesky winter blues, and you don’t have to leave when the sun goes down. All ski areas are equipped with lights for night skiing so you can ski your way to happiness all night long while enjoying the sights and sounds of the bucolic Litchfield Hills countryside.

Ride the terrain at Ski Sundown in New Hartford.

Crash Monday is coming to Torrington

If you are in the mood for something new, something hot, and something ultra steamy, then you are not going to want to go to some old bingo hall. No. You are going to want to check out T-Place in Torrington on Friday March, 11th at 10PM as a brand new band in the region will be making its appearance in town. Their called Crash Monday and they are hot boys playing hot music. Okay, I don’t judge guys, but that is how they describe themselves! I’ll let you judge for yourself when you see them playing live as they fill the room with so much good vibe that it will make your head spin.

Crash Monday is a band started by Nick Navarro, the former star of MTV’s hit show “Shot at Love” and former guitarist for the Ultimate MTV Coverband “The Zoo”.  I have had the chance to see Nick and his former band members in action at about half-dozen venues across Connecticut and can tell you that there was not only a great vibe, there was also a lot of people who came out as the bars and clubs were usually packed to the max, and it wouldn’t take you long to find out why. Pick up a drink and let the music take you away. The Zoo played just about a little of everything, including hit music from Lady Gaga, Stone Sour, and so much more. It was hard not to enjoy yourself as you danced the night away.

Having networked with Nick and having him as a friend on Facebook, this guy has a pretty sweet following. Nick also has a new clothing line out called “Sex Addict” which has steamy hot apparel that is just as hot as his new band is. There is no doubt that with the past performances I have enjoyed that Nick and his new band will be a huge success. A stop in Torrington is well deserved, and I urge all who are looking to have a great time not to dial the number on the bathroom stall, but rather come on out to T-Place Sports Bar & Grill on Winsted Road in Torrington and witness perhaps one of the best performances that you will see in the region.

VIDEO: Ideas for your Valentine

As Valentine’s day approaches, we continue to search for great ideas that will make the day with that special someone memorable. Wine, of course, tops the list as many enjoy a night in with dinner and a glass of wine. My personal favorite is a wine that has gained in popularity over the past few months. Cupcake Wine, from Cupcake Vineyards in California, is a wine that will captivate the senses. The wine does not taste like cupcakes, however, rather it is just as sweet as they are. A delightful red wine that is popular amongst fellow cupcake drinkers is the delicious Red Velvet, which is perfect for Valentine’s Day. Locally, this wine is sold at Warehouse Wine & Liquor in Torrington.

There are an array of ideas to find online that will make your Valentine’s day, one that will bring back memories for years to come. Below are some fantastic videos offering helpful ideas to make your day complete.



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