Have you seen the latest marketing campaigns lately? Odds are, you have seen every single marketing campaign that is on the planet. Wear this. Buy that. You’ll look great in that jacket, until next week when it’s out of style!

Oh, marketing.

Why are we, as humans, so drawn to keeping up with appearances of others, or better yet, why are we so drawn to impressing people that we don’t like?

In 2017, I absolutely believe its time to work on an expectation diet.

How could we possibly continue moving our lives forward, if we continue to try to live everyone else’s life? Is this real life? Why are we not ourselves? What do we have to do to finally be at peace with who we are so we can truly love our inner core?

I think we will find the answers in a diet that steers clear of people and things that don’t really attract us or add any value to our lives overall. Is that fancy new jacket thats being labeled as the hottest jacket of the year truly going to add value to your life, or is it just going to make you feel good simply because everyone else will be wearing the same thing so now you get to wear it out to impress people that you don’t really like anyways.

See? Our society is absolutely trapped in a bubble of consumption that isn’t neccesarily making us happy nor is it truly helping us to find out who we truly are. Isn’t it time to change all that?

It’s time to make 2017 more about you, and less about the world of people that we can care less about. We need to focus on our core, and if we aren’t doing that, we aren’t truly satisfied with ourselves and only pretending to be.

So, what do we do about this?

The answer is pretty simple. Take some time to reflect on where you are in your life and what is in it. Take a deep breath, stand around in your home and look at all the things that you have collected. Are you truly satisfied or is something missing. I’m going to guess that a good majority of you will continue to think something is missing and you have the strong desire to add more. STOP. There is no need to add more to your life. What you need to do is add the right things to your life, things that you want, not what others expect you to have.

Live up to your own expectations, fill life with the things that you want.

We can’t get to having the best life possible if we continue to fill it with things that add value to other peoples lives. Make the change now.

 

We all know by now that I really love vineyards.

My Italian roots run deep, and as an Italian, I believe a good glass of wine is good for the soul. Don’t take my word for it, however, read some of the studies on red wine and how it may help with the longevity of our lives. Paired with chocolate, I’m pretty sure we’ll all be living a pretty nice life as we are wheeled around in our wheelchairs later in life to more wineries.

Have you spent time at Connecticut’s latest winery?

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Brignole Vineyard in East Granby opened to the public in 2016 and has been enchanting the hearts of many, not only with the tasteful wine selection, but also with the magnificent architecture. Complete with a marble staircase leading into the winery with a chandelier of empty wine glasses shedding light on you as you make your way inside, the outside is just a taste of things to come. Once inside, you are greeted by a fireplace surrounded by comfortable leather couches and a room so expansive that it can cater a wedding as it overlooks the vineyards below with its gorgeous outdoor deck.

You don’t find wineries like this in Connecticut, this stunning location would indeed replicate one that can be found in the famed Napa Valley of California.

So, with as good as this place looks, I bet you’re wondering how the wine is.

Well, thats of course the most important part, and I’m here to tell you that its even better than the backdrop. In fact, it is so good, perhaps you should watch how much you consume. Bring food. Bring friends. You’re going to have a great time.

With full bodied reds and delightful fruitful blends of whites and reds, there is indeed something for everyones palette here. Don’t stop at the bottles, save room for the delicious sangria. If wine were a cake, the sangria would indeed be the frosting.

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Image Credit: Trip Advisor.

How could I ever move away from Connecticut with a place like this? Connecticut has fast become the Napa Valley of New England, and I am proud to call it my home.

For more information, visit Brignole Vineyards website.

When we focus on our past, does it bring us forward into our future?

This is sometimes a pondering question. We should absolutely never forget our past or where we came from, but should we rely on it to bring us through the uncertain obstacles of our future simply because we have attached a stigma of comfort to it?

I have always looked deep into this question as I choose who to bring with me into the continuing phases of my life. There are some who will continue their journey by not growing with you, rather becoming complacent into who they are and what they do which may not necessarily help you grow as an individual. The concept of growing helps you to move forward with your life by evolving into what you want to become, and you cannot evolve if your past still represents the old you, a challenge that many of us cannot simply come to terms with.

Why is that?

Well, lets focus on the human element for a second. We, as humans, despise change. We relish in the comfort of what we know and enjoy steady habits that are sometimes incredibly hard to break. So, how do we break them?

You pull it apart.

Sounds simple enough, right? Learning to let go of the past and embracing for whats ahead is all a matter of perspective and how it sounds in your head. Say for instance, you are being forced to move due to some unforeseen circumstance. Instead of saying, “I have to move!” why don’t we try saying “I get to move!”. See that? A little change of phrasing can go along way and can help you to get on with the hurdles that you face while you work to become your best self.

The past has to be left behind if it is not willing to nurture your future. Think about the friends that you had at one stage in your life. Are they all with you now? Perhaps, but a majority of us will phase some friends out or maintain a distance with them as they aren’t looked as to helping us advance. After all, if you’re looking to become successful, you can’t spend your time waddling around with someone who still wants to piggy back off of their parents in their thirties and still living the life of ramen noodles. Trust me on this one. You will mirror that friend, and it will be a challenge to achieve goals that you may have as you are now becoming complacent in the same strategy methods.

As we carry onward into 2017, lets take a closer look at those that we surround ourselves with. If we are the average of the five people that we hang around with, do we need to change something thats preventing us from achieving our life goals?

The Year of You.

What a kickoff to the new year it has been.

My New Years eve was spent at my second home base of Killington Resort Vermont, a widely popular destination for many of us in the northeast who enjoy the adrenaline of some downhill action at the beast of a ski resort that it is, spreading its wings over six mountain summits. Its not named the Beast of the East for nothing.

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Killington has been delighting me since I was a kid growing up, and continues to right through to today. No two days are ever alike, and through New Years eve weekend, that rang especially true as we made our way over to Pico Mountain, the sister mountain of Killington. I rarely ski Pico, but it is known as the little sister and is often less crowded during the holiday season. Awaiting our arrival were soft clouds of powder and plenty of untouched moguls to keep the knees in check.

There is no doubt that they felt in check.

After a few good days on the mountain, I decided to take my adventures even further northbound where I met up with a few friends who were staying at their cabin up north. A gorgeous, yet humble, location that rang back memories of my own childhood in a cabin in South Newfane, Vermont where we vacationed without electricity or running water.

Can you imagine what todays kids would think of that?

Yeah, they would have thought I needed a mental evaluation.

While at the cabin with friends, we decided to have some fun and play with snowmobiles. Yes, I Mike Valletta, the eternal lover of winter that I am, have never ridden a snowmobile. Can you imagine? My adrenaline was through the roof. I was on absolute cloud nine as I rode on the back of one. One of my resolutions for 2017 was to escape my comfort zone and try new things.

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This was very new!

I didn’t fall off once. Surprised, aren’t you? Maybe thats because I was holding on for dear life as we drove nearly sixty miles per hour. I didn’t have time to fall off. My hands were clenched.

As I continue to dive into 2017, I continue to dive into things I have not done in my life yet. My first thirty years were fantastic, and the next thirty are about to get even better as I continue to draw out a roadmap for my life and highlight a bucket list of sorts of things I want to see and do as well as what I wish to accomplish.

One of those dreams have become a reality already as I am proud to have accepted a job offer with my former employer, Walmart Stores Inc, for an opportunity that involves travel while pairing it with my passions of helping people to realize their true potentials. I’m incredibly humbled as well as excited for the opportunity to get back into the workforce and look forward to the work ahead. I head out in two weeks for training and will be on the road soon there after, and yes, you guessed it, this blog will continue to expand along the way.

For anyone who has not made a resolution or some kind of roadmap for 2017, I encourage you to take a few moments out of your day and jot down exactly what you want to experience this year. What is it that you want to achieve? What is going to make you the happiest damn person in 2017? Write these down now and get working at them! You’re not going to stay young forever, and if you continue to stay in your comfort zone, you’re only going to keep on telling yourself how you wish you could do things.

Stop wishing. Start planning. Start doing.

This life isn’t going to wait around for you, so you better do something about it.

After a rocky year that 2016 was, I envision 2017 being a year of where we focus more on ourselves. Does it seem selfish? Absolutely. I question, however, if we can’t stop to take some time to love ourselves, how will we ever truly love others? Everything starts with the self, and its time to take back what was perhaps lost to the negativity in 2016.

Time to conquer 2017.

 

2016 Year in Review.

How was your 2016?

The year itself has been a struggle for many. Apparently we had an election? Actually, I can confirm we did just by scrolling through my social media feeds. Bring back Facebook! It looks like CNN ate it.

Despite the election, the year 2016 for me was one with many successes. Kicking off the year, I became more mobile once I was finally able to leave the Torrington community as I made my move to Manchester. Torrington has treated me well over the years, though my time was done as my life was starting to become apart of the central Connecticut community. To ease the stress of commuting, it was time to depart and move into a newly developed community just east of the river.

Capitalizing on success, it was also the year I quit my job. In my fifteen working years, I have never walked away from a job without a solid backup plan. The ailment of feeling stuck was progressively becoming deeper, it was time to walk out with my head held high while I figured out what was next for me. This blog drives a revenue through partnerships and advertising, but not enough to make it a full time gig. Not yet, at least.

When I first quit my job, I thought I was crazy. What was crazier, however, was stocking up money throughout the years and not truly being able to enjoy your life by doing something you don’t love and just staring at it.

The Pulse shootings had a huge impact on me, and many light bulbs continued to go off. As a gay man, we wonder each day what will happen to us if we are walking down the street holding another mans hand or what could happen if we are enjoying each others company at a place that is supposed to be a safe haven for the LGBTQ community. The weeks following Pulse, I continued to wonder why am not doing the things I love when we aren’t promised tommorow.

In October, I walked away from my sales job to pursue other ventures while in the meantime focusing on the things that make me happy while taking a mental health break. After all, I identified in November that I had also been going through a quarter life crisis. It’s not easy turning 30 in the gay world, the pressure to stay young forever is instilled in our minds, when in reality what we should be doing is taking the time to realize that we only have 100 years or so to live, and live it best without worrying about what other people will make of you.

I survived the quarter life crisis.

What I still have not survived, however, was the death of a friend back in May and one who was also known in the gay community here in Connecticut. I tear up when I think about it. I encourage any of my friends or fans to immediately reach out to me if you ever need a shoulder to lean on. Suicide is preventable, and the world is all ears if you are battling a hidden disease.

Through heartache and tears and quarter life problems, I managed to find my way through 2016 like so many of you have. We’re all still here. Despite elections dividing a nation, we stand together ready for the challenges that we will face in 2017.

Life wasn’t all bad in 2016. CLICK HERE to read just some of the great things that we have to look back on. I personally can say, that as many challenges that I faced in 2016, I had an equal amount of positives. The friendships that led me through each trying time paired with vacations to Block Island, New Hampshire, and New Jersey along with outings to wineries, beaches, and casinos will leave lasting memories. The people in our lives deserve a bit of thanks for all that they do, for it is more than they will ever truly know sometimes.

The friends. The adventures. The memories. The triumphs. What a year it was.

As we enter 2017, I encourage you to do so with a clear mind but even more so a deeper look at your life. Are you truly happy at what you are doing with your life, or can it be more fulfilling?

2017 is waiting for you.

Maybe we’ll even have another Chewbacca Mom moment.

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Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.

The lights. The music. The seasonal drinks.

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It’s really a great start to a season that is otherwise known as one of the most depressing in the northeast. Luckily, many years ago I have found a way to beat the seasonal depression that affects so many of us. Perhaps it’s more depressing on my wallet.

When I was little, I was introduced to skiing, and have been at it ever since. It is by far the very sport that I live for, and am known for as I continue to hold down a season pass at Killington Resort in Vermont for now my 13th year.

The sport itself is not cheap, and is known to many as a very expensive hobby. The perceived image of the sport is that it’s full of rich white people that make annual pilgrimages to Aspen. (I really hate that image.) These days, the sport attracts everyone from all walks of life, and it’s even more so visible on Christmas Day as many flock to resorts to spend with family while at the same time, bonding over a sport that brings abundant joy.

This Christmas, I headed up to my timeshare at Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. She loves it every time we go up, so I couldn’t think of a better Christmas gift. My one bedroom condo at the resort has always been good enough for me. Mother gets the bedroom, and I the sleeper sofa in front of the fireplace. Maybe next year I’ll upgrade to the two bedroom.

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On Christmas morning, we awoke to exchange gifts which is always humbling. Neither of us ever ask for much. We both rather enjoy our time experiencing life traveling. It is by far the most rewarding gift of all.

Once gift giving was done, we then head over to the mountain to grab brunch. This year, we both awoke later so we missed out on breakfast. We’ll blame the new Mario Run game for the iPhone that kept us up late. Breakfast or no breakfast, the food and hospitality of a resort on Christmas Day is always incredible. The food is always homemade, and the friendly staff just knows how to ensure an overall good experience.

As temperatures started to plummet into the twenties mid afternoon, so too did the Christmas Day crowds from the mountain. It’s my cue to ski. I learned so long ago to never ski Christmas morning, night skiing is a more attractive option, especially since you’re able to catch the stunning sunsets. This is what skiing is all about. Taking in the beauty of the world we live in all four seasons. Many people would be content with just hiking the mountains in the summer and callling it a day. Not us skiers. We yearn all summer long to take in those snow capped mountains while shredding through the snow that is on ours.

Long ski runs. Hot chocolate by the fireplace. Warm souls mingling on a holiday. This is what Christmas is truly all about.

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Get ready.

Remember the year that it was brutally cold in Connecticut? Okay, well it’s always cold in Connecticut, but I’m talking more so than usual. I’m talking about when the weather of the North Pole makes its way to our state and people begin to stock up on heated blankets and snuggies rather than the bread, eggs, and milk.

The Polar Vortex is coming back, and I know that you just can’t wait. The whipping winds that shatter windchill records as real feel temperatures plunge into the negatives makes for such a cozy ambiance. The snow squalls that hit you in the face so hard that you think you’re getting acupuncture is reallly therapeutic. Your face getting red from the pain of the cold? Don’t worry, you’re just getting a tan.

Winter in Connecticut is such a dream come true.

So, how do we survive this?

1. Dress in Layers.

Forget the hoodie. Please don’t wear shorts with a winter jacket. Stop trying to be stylish. Your style has been interrupted by momma nature in exchange for, well, looking ridicules.

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2. Stay Indoors.

Unless of course your heat is broken. Then go build yourself an igloo.

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3. Stay Hydrated.

Water just won’t justify any of this. Break out the expensive bottles of wine where you’ll eventually forget that you’re in Connecticut. Just remember step number two.

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We’re all going to survive this together. I mean, just look at these marvelous temeperatures. We are going to be fine. This is fine. Everything is fine.

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What’s better than being in the city during the holidays?

I can’t think of much. The twinkle of the lights. The store windows decked to the nines in holiday cheer. The magic of Rockefeller Center lighting up the city with the best Christmas tree in the world, while people discover the warmth of love while proposing right along side of it.

New York City comes alive unlike any other place in the world at Christmas.

I took the opportunity to head down this past weekend with a few friends and indulge in a little holiday cheer myself. The streets were bustling with yuletide as  SantaCon was taking place, filling the streets with hundreds of Santa’s from all around the northeast, and quite possibly the world.

Our first stop was Grand Central. My favorite train station as we came in from New Haven. Always so full of life, Grand Central Station is where most Christmas journeys in the city begin. Decked out with wreaths and garland, it’s not the decor that makes it so holly jolly, but the people who who fill the main concourse with vibrancy.

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From Grand Central, we headed toward Rockefeller Center where we were graced by crowds of people just waiting to catch a glimpse of one of the tallest Christmas trees in America. The lights so bright, it’s as if it was casting a glow on the crowds below.

New York sometimes gets a bad rap. For me, it’s the city I’ve come to know and love over the years. Being within a two hour commute to the city all my life, going “downtown” was always just a way to escape a day from the suburbs that is Connecticut. Our lives are generally pretty quiet here, but in the city, life just becomes a little less laid back and a lot more chock full of attitude and charisma, especially during the festive holiday season that will be certain to put a smile on your face.

Want to relive your childhood?

There’s a house in Torrington, Connecticut that can help you do just that. Imagine a home filled with the joy of Christmas on the inside from ceiling to floor to every inch of wall space imaginable. The Polar Express train running throughout carrying with it gifts for the children. The caroler dolls so well organized, you can almost hear them singing a Christmas carol.

This is The Christmas House. Located right on Main Street near the downtown. A magical place I have been escaping to for the better part of thirty years.

Packed with so much joy on the inside, that it simply has to let it all out on the outside too. You see, The Christmas House doesn’t just have a few lights. Not even just a couple of yard decorations. It is Christmas bonanza.

The moment you arrive, you are instantly hit with illumination, so much so you could envision this being something that you could see from space. Cars line the streets just to capture pictures of this true beauty that we Litchfield County folks have known for years. As you stand in awe, just trying to figure out what this could be, you might want to start walking toward the front entrance. You’re in for a treat.

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As you begin your tour and marvel at the front yard, you’ll instantly notice the exuberant amount of lighting and Christmas displays from yesteryear. A little bit of nostalgia to prepare you for what is to come. The snoring Santa Claus paired with Mrs. Claus crocheting is a reminder of a simpler time when were all a little bit more relaxed.

Speaking of relaxed, don’t forget to do just that as you venture through. You see, The Christmas House is not made to just dash through. It’s meant to simply unwind and capture the true magic of the season.

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As you step inside the home, you’ll instantly notice the magic. There’s no bare space on the walls nor the ceilings. Every square inch is packed with something to remind you of the holidays, even the little Coca Cola polar bears from back in the nineties.

Making your way towards the upstairs, you’ll pass through stairwells that glisten with Christmas lighting and decor that eventually bring you to center stage, and an area that I like to call The North Pole of the home. It is here where you’ll see the carolers, the dolls, the trains, and even an entire Christmas village that is sure to put a smile on your face as you reflect back to being a kid and believing in what you couldn’t see.

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That for me has always been the hardest part of this house. I cry on the inside each year. You see, back in the years of my youth, I believed in Santa Claus so much so that I would wait to hear the sleigh bells on the roof from Santas sleigh. I would always fall asleep before that point, of course, but one year I stayed up throughout the night. No bells. I kept looking out the window trying to figure out what part of the world the old man was in. The clock kept ticking, and still no bells.

Eventually, I started tearing up thinking that Santa had skipped over me this year. Maybe I had done something wrong, I thought. As morning came, it became increasingly evident that I would stroll to the other end of the house and not see any presents left under the tree.

To my surprise, there weren’t just presents. The entire living room was unwalkable. It looked like Santa had run of out gas and left every present behind by accident.

There were no bells. There was no Santa. This was the year I discovered my parents love even more so. I don’t say that because there was a room full of gifts, I say that because it had been a hard year for them, and they still found a way to make Christmas happen for their only son who still believed in a Santa right up to the age of ten. I gave both of my parents a hug, thanked them so much for showing me how to appreciate the season, and together we opened gifts. There didn’t need to be a Santa for this family together. There just had to be belief in the season of magic.

That’s what The Christmas House does for me each year. It fills my soul with the same joy of that one Christmas morning. I’m glad it’s such a staple in the very town I had spent my life becoming a part of. I wouldn’t know what I would do without that house in my life. I can’t thank Ron Merriman, the owner of the home, enough for bringing joy back to the world each and every Christmas season.

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What is it about small town U.S.A?

They just get everything right. The charm of the people. The perfectly lined streets decked out ever so vividly for the holidays. Visions of yesteryear floating through your head instead sugarplums.

What are sugarplums?

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The nearby town of Stockbridge, MA is perhaps center stage for all small towns. Nestled in the Berkshires, it is surrounded by foothills and with very little cell phone coverage. The perfect opportunity to take the day off and escape your distractions. Who needs a cell phone when you’re simply too busy admiring the town Norman Rockwell used to paint?

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Perhaps one of my favorite artists, Norman Rockwell knew a thing or two about small town life. He knew the people, and how they looked and acted. He knew how to capture the essence like no one else ever could. He was small town life. With his studio centrally located above a diner in the middle of town, right along Main Street, he was able to capture it all from the second story window that overlooked the town.

During the holidays, Stockbridge is decked to the nines. The streets glisten with holiday magic as store fronts are draped in greenery and red bows as the the charm of the local townspeople captures every beat of your heart.

I promise they won’t give you a heart attack, however.

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As you stroll through town, you’ll notice one very special place in particular; The Red Lion Inn. This stunning New England Inn on Main Street warms the souls of many. With its wide porch with classic rocking chairs, to its cozy interior complete with a crackling fireplace, The Red Lion Inn is sure to delight guests of all ages, especially those seeking a bit of nostalgia. It is perhaps a personal favorite of mine as I have spent many birthdays dining in the main dining room enjoying home cooked meals that are that of a five star restaurant.

Don’t get me started on the dessert.

If you seek out a town to escape to, even just for a day, Stockbridge is a treat, just like the rest of the Berkshires. It’s nostalgia complied with the warmth and joy of small town America speaks to the hearts of millions.

Don’t forget to check out the Norman Rockwell Museum while you’re in town.

Featured Image copyright of Ronald Ondrovic.

They say one way to take the chill away is with a fine glass of wine. Maybe two. Maybe three. Either way, I can’t argue with that.

As winter ramps into full gear, there’s no better way to take away the winter chill other than a visit to a local Connecticut winery.

Surprising, isn’t it?

Many local wineries aren’t known to be open through the winter months. If you were to mention going to a winery in the month of December to anyone, you would get some pretty weird looks as they are most commonly only explored through the summer.

Au contraire!

These bottles don’t just get packed away because it’s cold. They get consumed! After all, they would become quite lonely hibernating all winter just waiting for someone to pop open the cork and take a swish of the mouth watering wine for which it holds.

I’m no stranger to Connecticut wineries. In fact, I frequent them weekly. No, I’m not a raging alcoholic who goes about town becoming disruptive at local wineries.

I’m Italian.

Having since moved east of the Connecticut river this past June, I have been embarking on wineries in eastern Connecticut. Many, I didn’t know existed since I’ve only ever explored those to the west.

A new favorite of mine has become Cassidy Hill Vineyard in Coventry. It’s family like atmosphere paired with its log cabin feel and a warm fireplace will make you feel right at home this winter as you indulge in some of the finest wines east of the river. You may even be lucky enough to catch a visit from some cute little dogs.

Cassidy Hill offers a variety of wines, some grown in state, others out. What counts the most is the atmosphere of which it brings to the table. You can have perfectly desirable wine, but if you can’t get the atmosphere right, I’m not staying!

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Cassidy Hill perfects. With its stunning views from the porch of the rolling hills to the east, you’ll feel like you’re sipping wine in Vermont. Just don’t forget after a few glasses of wine that you’re really in Connecticut.

As the holidays warm up on us, take a weekend off and unwind while eliminating the winter chill with family and friends. Cassidy Hill is only open through December, so pack a lunch and cozy up this warm rustic weekend retreat, you won’t be disappointed.

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“Get the turkey! Shoot, I forgot the mashed potatoes. I’ve got wine! What? No vodka?! Shoot!”

Ah, the holidays. We’re all scrambling to get everything just so, scratching off our shopping list item by item only to come home and realize, yes, there’s still more we need. There’s always more that we need!

This year, I’m hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and I too am scrambling. The house is finally in order, decked to the halls in holiday cheer. It only took a month to get it right, along with numerous trips to Pottery Barn and Target. I think the cashiers know me quite well. Does that mean I owe them stuffing?

I hope not. I didn’t plan for that!

The food is ordered from a local venue. I won’t spill the surprise from where, but it’s sure to delight. I can smell the turkey in my house already. Then again, that could be one of the many scented air fresheners I purchased recently thanks to those Bath & Body Works coupons that flood my email.

In years past, my Thanksgiving was always different. In the years of my youth, Thanksgiving would be hosted by my aunt and uncle in their turn of the century Connecticut home. Always a large gathering of family surrounded by a great deal of food and laughter. In recent years, my mother and I would have Thanksgiving at my timeshare to the north complete with a studded Thanksgiving dinner with strangers which made me all the more humble while networking along while diving into the freshest of food straight from local farms. My Thanksgiving has never been consistent, but what has been is my love for my family, friends, and the holidays.

I’m excited to kick off the season, but most importantly to spend time with loved ones and friends as we embark on yet another cherished holiday season together.

Just don’t forget the vodka.

Wishing you all the very best this Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

-Mike Valletta

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Is there anything more warming to the soul then a store doing the holidays right?

Many retailers go above and beyond when it comes to decorating for the holidays. They try diligently to capture the magic of the season by spreading holiday cheer to all in the form of seasonal decor and of course, the many happy faces of the stores staff.

Only one retailer really gets it though. A retailer so humble, that they make sure to attract all of your senses.

Yankee Candle Village in Deerfield, MA makes sure to delight while ensuring your senses are overly satisfied, right down to your tastebuds as you indulge in homemade fudge and cookies.

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It’s one of my favorite stops of the holiday season. From the outside, it is noted as the worlds best Christmas shop, and it’s no wonder as to why. With numerous holiday lights strung up outside, not missing a beat even on the trees, to the numerous Christmas trees and wreaths lining the front porch, you can tell this place really loves Christmas from the exterior.

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But wait, there’s more.

As you make your journey to inside, breathe. Pause for a moment as your mind is triggered by the amazing scents that only Yankee Candle can create. Balsam fir, sparkling snow, and even a hint of some holiday cocktails. The air here is enough to make you think you have landed in the North Pole.

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Perhaps you did.

Continuing along in your journey, your mind will continue to wander as you stroll through an indoor forest of sorts complete with a snow machine to dazzle the kids, as well as the shimmering trees dressed to the nines in lights and ornaments. Of course, as you embark through this fun little theme filled glory, you can’t forget to miss the Christmas Village setup complete with trains.

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The main attraction here are the candles. They are nearly endless. As you make your way out of the forest and into “scenter stage” as I like to call it, you’ll walk into a room filled with candles of everything you could imagine straight down to the ingredients you use in your kitchen. Just when you thought you’ve taken in all you could possibly have, there’s always more to keep your senses tingling for more.

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Candles here are everything, but so too is the decor. Yankee Candle just gets it right, every time. There’s no competition.

Now, go ahead and get your home ready for he holidays. Yankee Candle is sure to give you just the right amount of inspiration you need.

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I love the holidays.

If you follow me on Snapchat (TheMikeValletta), you would have seen a great preview of this column!

There’s just something about a Christmas tree twinkling with white shimmering lights while dressed in a warm comfy sweater sipping on a whip cream topped hot chocolate that makes the cooler months, well, warmer.

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This year, I got a head start on holiday decor for the home. I felt with all the negativity that is going on across our country with the election, it was time for a little joy. In past years, I would have spent hours hovering the boards of Pinterest looking for just the right look to accommodate my home for the season.

This year, things were just a little different.

I decided to figure things out on my own. After compliments I had received regarding my summer decor, I decided to whip up my own magic again for the holidays. The term simple came to mind, nothing too over the top. After all, I’m not living in Santas workshop.

As I started my shopping adventure at my neighborhood Target, I wanted to line things up with the color plaid. Plaid is the new duvet cover I picked out while adding a warm white throw blanket and pillow as a pop of color to brighten up the room.

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Pinecones? Pinecones go with plaid. They also smell as festive as the holiday season is. Who needs lavender to fall asleep at night when you have cinnamon sceneted pinecones.

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For the first time, I also added a tree to the room. I normally only have a Christmas tree in the main room of the home, but this year, we’ll add a couple more. For less than the price of a tank of gas, ($20, I have a hybrid.) I found this simple yet stylish prelit tree at Target. Add a few rose gold pine cones to the mix and you have yourself a 2016 Christmas tree.

Rose gold is the color of the year. Stick with it.

I also really love adding candles to any holiday atmosphere. There’s just something about a gently roaring candle to add to the ambience.

Yes, the holidays are rapidly approaching. This year, more than ever, we all need a little cheer a lot sooner in our lives.

Let’s get festive. Don’t forget the wine.

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Brand Update.

What a year it has been!

Can you believe we are already talking about the holiday season? I can recall when we were all just relishing about how warm last winter was here in the northeast! Time certainly has flown by, and hopefully you have gotten to enjoy a pretty stellar summer.

I wanted to take some time out to give everyone an update of where the brand is at today. Back in February when I relaunched the site, I turned my name into an LLC. Mike Valletta Multimedia was born.

Kind of cool, huh?

I mentioned early on that there were much bigger things ahead for the brand, and blogging was just the beginning. Throughout this past year, I’ve been experimenting with what kinds of content will make people tick. We did everything from travel and lifestyle to full blown LGBTQ. We found out what worked, and what didn’t work. The end result; you wanted me back. You wanted to hear the stories of the places I’ve traveled, the mom and pop businesses that are the fabric of our communities, even some home inspiration.

I’m offering that now, and much more.

As you navigate the newly designed site, you’ll notice a section labeled services. These services are the core of the business, and that’s when social media consulting was born.

As an early adapter to the blogosphere, I’ve helped many businesses start to shine. It’s in my nature! I love what I do for local communities. When you enjoy what you do, you never work. You just live. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Helping businesses through blogging and social media consulting is a passion of mine, and a passion I plan on delivering through vivid marketing to an audience I love.

This is phase two at Mike Valletta Multimedia. There’s a few more phases left, and I’m still not going to spill the beans.

Thank you for continuing the journey with me. Head on over to the services page to find out more, or to schedule a consultation.

 

Mike Valletta

Buzz Creator & Content Manager

Mike Valletta Multimedia

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Have you ever wanted to just rewind the time? You know. Relive a time that was prior to technology and a life of simplicity?

There’s a place where you can do just that. A place where time itself has stood as still as the products it holds.

The Vermont Country Store is a Mecca for all things yesteryear. This quintessential yet fun shopping experience will have you putting your phone down while you’re chewing down on homemade fudge and playing with wooden children’s toys or enjoying a game of chess. This is no ordinary country store. This is thee country store.

As you arrive, you instantly notice it’s New England charm. A gravel parking lot greets you as you hop of out of your car and make your way into what feels like an old barn, dressed to the nines in the plants of the season and strutted with real wooden rocking chairs allowing you to catch your breath before this place leaves you breathless inside, and it will. Making your way in, you instantly feel the nostalgia. Glass jars full of candy hit you like you’re at an old time general store. Samples of homemade fudge leave the senses to do one thing; eat them.

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Yes, the Vermont Country Store has its way with comfort food. Throughout your shopping experience, you’ll notice there are all sorts of samples. Pumpkin cheesecake dip to top a grahamcracker? Not before you indulge in the fresh selection of Vermont cheeses.

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This place is dangerous.

It’s a frequent stop of mine up to my vacation home in nearby Killington. Each time I seem to get reacquainted with the notion that life at a slower pace was just right. There’s just something about the simple life that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Maybe it’s the food that they’ve been putting in my belly as I shop the collection of old fashioned body lotions and shampoos, or old time quilts like grandma used to make. Then again, maybe it’s the hot apple cider that’s been brewed to perfection.

Whatever the case, the Vermont Country Store has perfected a charm of an era gone by. Too often today, we are so consumed in modern conveniences with our heads in our phones that we haven’t stopped to realize the one important thing that matters the most; living a life that’s a little less manufactured, and one that is as simple as it is enjoyable.

That Vermont country air will also teach you something. Stick around long enough, and you may catch yourself never wanting to leave.

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The Vermont Country Store Cookbook: Recipes, History, and Lore from the Classic American General Store

Enjoy the pictures? Now available for purchase on the Home Collection. Click here.

Everyone knows I really love my coffee. A day without cofeee is a day without motivation as well as half of a brain.

In fact, a day without coffee in my hand is so bad, that if you try talking to me I will give you the look of death and question why you are even speaking to me in the first place.

Seriously. Don’t approach me.

Luckily for me, there’s a fix. Coffee shops. There’s nothing like the aroma of a good old coffee house to cheer me right up. Maybe it’s the constant brewing of espresso that perks me right up to being a civil member of society so that I can once again talk to people who don’t make sense anyways.

Maybe.

I’m not talking about Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts or any other chain of the sorts. For me, I enjoy the local flavor. A good old fashioned mom and pop that brews up the best beans in town.

Silk City Coffee in Manchester, CT gets it. They get me. They know what I need, and they know exactly the atmosphere I need in order to get on with my daily routines.

Recently opened, Silk City Coffee is located in the heart of Manchester village, right along Main Street, and a hop, skip, and a jump from the new construction apartment community that I just moved into in town.

How convenient of them.

Pumpkin spice lattes, caramel macchiatos, whole bean coffee…and my oh my, decadent deserts. With a coffee house with such aromatic options, who would want to go anywhere else for their daily brew? Silk City Coffee delivers on every aspect.

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On a snowy October day, a norm here in New England, I made an impromptu visit to this new found glory of ours in town. I had my expectations set high since I discovered them on Instagram a while back while they were in the building process.

They exceeded all expectations.

The pumpkin spice latte made complete with a big mug that made the couch feel as cozy as the coffee as it came complete with a latte leaf in the middle of the coffee, and the tart was as warm and delicious just like the atmosphere itself. Silk City Coffee is an anitiquated building in the middle of the villages downtown district and is complete with hardwood floors and majestic metal ceilings with turn of the century design, and of course you just can’t forget the big comfy couches.

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If you’re looking for your next place to unwind for a bit in the afternoon or even recharge while you’re working on projects and networking with fellow community members, Silk City Coffee promises to deliver an extroidinary experince.

It’s one that I could approve of, and I’m a tough cookie.

Shop Amazon – Happy Belly Nut and Trail Mix Snacks

Shop Amazon – Happy Belly Fairtrade Organic coffee

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Source: @SilkCityCoffee on Instagram.

As the colors of Autumn fade, as does the memories of a fun festive season here in New England, so too does the warm Indian summer days as we plunge into a more traditional weather pattern of early winter.

Sounds depressing, doesn’t it?

Sun setting earlier. Trees reduced to sticks. Temperatures reaching a maximum of forty degrees.

There are those of us, however, that see all this in a different light; screw the seasonal depression. It’s time to hit the slopes!

Thankfully, here in New England, we have our old faithful Killington Resort. Killington is located in the green mountains of Vermont and sits at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. Snow in October is no stranger, and once the first snow falls, Killington is ready to turn on the snow guns and blast the trails with a sea of the white stuff.

As a skier, the anticipation builds up every October. When will the first day be? How long must we wait? How the hell do I get my skis waxed fast enough so I can floor it up to the mountain once they open?

I mean, they’re important questions. More important than Hillary Clintons email scandal.

Winter as a skier is like summer for a surfer. Those cold blustery days with blue skies? We like to call them bluebird days as we’re gliding down the mountain getting our goggle tans on. After that, comes apres ski. A time to mingle with fellow skiers with a couple of hot alcoholic beverages while enjoying some good music and recalling the days events. Sliding on your bum is all part of the fun!

So, a toast. Our mountain is calling us home for the season, and it’s time to make our pilgrimage back. There’s no place else like Killington Resort to just make winter feel right, and each year, Killington out performs no matter the weather pattern.

See you on the slopes, fellow skiers and riders. Killington Resort opens Tuesday AM for season pass holders, and Wednesday AM for the general public. I will be making my pilgrimage back later this week and fully anticipate a good start to the season. My hiking legs are ready. In order to ski the terrain, you must take the gondola up and then take a short hike across a wooden staircase to what’s called the Northridge area.

Any hike to ski snow in October is worth it. It’s been a long summer.

Off to the races.

 

 

Autumn is perhaps one of the most popular seasons on the calendar here in New England. After the warm summer breezes comes the crisp air and color explosion of leaves across the region. 


One area of our region in particular that has always been a personal favorite, is none other than my home base of Litchfield County, Connecticut. Nestled in the northwest corner of the state, this gem of a county is away from the hustle and bustle and is a land steeped back in time with rich history. It is also a place where Autumn just seems a little bit more bright and beautiful. Perhaps it is the rolling hills with a mascarade of colors exploding this time of year that makes it all seem just ever so perfect.

Maybe it’s the quaint New England charm that is offered in its small towns that is even more attractive this time of year. It’s as quintessential of a place as moms warm homemade apple pie sitting atop the oven just waiting to be scooped up for desert with a scoop of ice cream on top. 

Okay, so maybe it’s not as delicious as I made the apple pie sound, but it’s pretty darn close.

Litchfield County is a land that time has forgotten, and it’s just waiting to be explored. With its high peaks in  the far northern part of the county with views of the Berkshires to the north, the Taconics to the west, and the rolling hills and river valleys of Connecticut to the east to the depths of the most serene lakes the state has to offer, you’ll find it challenging to question why there’s just no other place quite as special and unique as Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Need some wine in your life? Wine not! There is an array of winery options laid out just for you. What better way to take in Connecticut’s most scenic foliage than with a glass of wine, or perhaps some mulled wine, from one of the many local vineyards that are filled with New England hospitality at its best.

Whatever brings you to Litchfield County, don’t forget to leave your troubles at its borders while you’re taking the roads less traveled. There’s much to explore, and you better be as carefree and charismatic as the land you’re about to embark on, because in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut, unwinding just comes naturally.

Let’s Talk.

There was a debate recently, and in case you haven’t heard, there’s a presidential election coming up in a few short weeks. What are we doing to ensure our future is secure?

I hope something.

Isis. Global warming. Race. Economy.

If you think for a second that your vote does not matter, perhaps you should think back to what happened to George Bush in Florida when he was running for president and won by a small margin.

If you think what you have to say does not matter, maybe you should tell that to the same people who show up at town hall meetings to plead their case to town officials and end up being heard as towns want to do right by its citizens.

Am I sounding any alarms?

Concerned about your children or grandchildren growing up in a better economy than where we are today?

Are you watching the events of Charlotte, Tulsa, and Chicago unfold? Want to change it?

Vote.

Don’t think about it. Don’t say your voice will not matter simply because you are just one person. The reality here is that it will matter, and if you are not registered to vote I strongly urge you to do that right now. If you have learned anything as an adult, it should be that whatever you do today will impact the future, and voting for your next president is included in that duty.

If you sat and watched the debate on Monday night and laughed because it seemed like a circus act, perhaps you should weigh out the differences between the two candidates and choose the best one that is positioned to lead this country. Don’t just vote on someone because the vast majority of your friends are encouraging you to vote a particular candidate. This is not a popularity contest. This is your finances, health care, jobs, infrastructure, and your future. The list goes on.

If you don’t get out and vote, well, perhaps you don’t have room to complain. You can’t change direction without first helping to change direction. You cannot simply sit back and watch other people do the work, while you’re not actually assisting in doing it yourself. If you want change, be the change.

I urge you to pay close attention to each candidate over the next few weeks and make an informed decision. Do your homework and on Election Day take your test at the polls and bring your best possible answer. The rest of society, including the ones who are still growing up, well, they are all relying on you.

-Mike Valletta

 

Don’t you wish everything in the world was simple?

Well, thanks to Simple Bank, it can be! Okay, almost. At least the banking portion of your life can be simplified.

Recently, I decided to switch banks. When I did, I decided to stay clear of those large banks! Haven’t you heard the word on the street about Wells Fargo? I thought honesty was always the best policy? Someone should tell the CEO that one. While they are at it, they should communicate to the big banks that we no longer want to help contribute to their wealth by being just another number.

Eight accounts per household? Serriously, Wells Fargo? Tell my grandparents about that one. You would have been lucky enough to get what they were hiding in their beds for just one account.

Big banks make me mad. Can you tell?

With Simple, I am free and clear to manage my own money how I want, and without any strings attatched and, oh my goodness, no fees!

You see, Simple works like this; you have money in the account and then you start creating these little things called goals. Now, goals could be monthly bills, paying down debt, or helping to finance an Italian wedding in the heart of the Italian wine country!

Oh. Wait. That’s my dream. Sorry.

Carrying on.

Simple works by budgeting for what you need. You set the goals up, and Simple does the calculations for you. Let’s say, you need to save $40 and you need it in 20 days. Well, Simple will begin deducting about $2 a day from your account and place it into that goal for you. On the 20th day, you can now deduct what was saved up for you.


Simple, isn’t it? You saved without even knowing you saved. Nice!

Don’t worry. If you are in a pinch though and you need that money that you saved back, you can deduct the money from your goal and it will be instantly available. Honestly though, why would you do that? Just live within your means and enjoy life without spending blindly.

At least, I hope you haven’t been spending blindly. I’m watching you.

So, there you have it. It’s Simple, well simply put. The best little bank that I’m happy to call my new friend, and speaking of, you’ll really love their customer service. You could instant message your new banking friends and get a quick response.

Finally, gone are those dreaded calls to the bank asking me to press “1” for English.

To learn more, or to join, visit: https://www.simple.com/friends/FKRKNKB

With visions of Autumn just around the bend, I’d like to introduce a few of my favorite autumn locations across New England.

New England is home to the four seasons of true beauty, and no season is brighter or more festive than fall. Color explosions splash a long hillsides and rocky shorelines. Pumpkin spice is all the rage, but don’t forget about grandmas homemade pumpkin pies that are sold at a nearby general store. You also can’t forget about all of the country fairs that help introduce this great season to us as we stroll along drinking mulled apple cider from local orchards.

Autumn in New England. There’s really nothing else quite like it.

Kent, Connecticut


Kent is a charming place. Tucked in the midst of Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills region lies this quiet gem of a countryside town just waiting to be explored. While you’re out taking in the views from Kent Falls State Park, why not take a drive down to Kent’s downtown that is a mecca for mom and pop shops, including some honest to goodness cafes to fuel your appetite after a long day of hiking the town.

Killington, Vermont


My personal favorite. My second home. Killington is known for its fantastic skiing during the winter, but did you know it’s just as splendid during the fall? Hit some balls on the golf course while taking in the natural beauty of the Green Mountain National Forest that surrounds you. Killington knows how to put on a good show, and autumn is a great time to get out and explore the scenery.

The Berkshires

 

Americas cultural resort. It’s no wonder Norman Rockwell loved this place so much. Nestled in western Massachusetts, the Berkshires is a land that time may have forgotten about. Still holding on to small town life are the quaint towns that dot the landscape. Backcountry roads leave you breathless after every turn. Autumn is no exception with the rolling hills taking center stage.

There you have it. My top three Autumn destinations for 2016. There’s something to be said about the land we live in. It’s our home, and we have to continue to explore it in order to remember why we love living here in the first place. There’s no such thing as seeing the same scenery twice in New England.

Where will your travels take you this fall?


What in our lives makes us all tick?

That was a question positioned to me recently. I didn’t exactly know how to explain it. Would you?

Let me first begin by saying, there is something in each of us that gets us up and out of bed in the morning. No, it’s not your boss yelling at you to get to work.

Okay, maybe right now it is. You shouldn’t ignore them.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could become your own boss? You could yell at yourself for waking up too damn early!

I’ve recently been working on a number of things to help me realize just what I’m passionate about. What drives me? Surprisingly, it’s not just my car on that commute to work in the morning. The people behind me that honk and flip me off occasionally certain don’t drive me to do anything I’d like to do.

Rude.

I’ve outlined my happiest of moments in life. A lot of them were outdoor based. Skiing in the snow covered mountains, hiking for hours just hoping to get somewhat lost but not lost enough so I couldn’t eat a pasta and some cannolis for dinner, and most importantly, writing to tell all about my journeys in hopes that someone would read it.

Judging by my following and statistics, I’m pretty sure you’re all reading them. Thank goodness I’m not boring.

I’ve been revising my five year plan in my portfolio to keep up with my passions. Your five year plan, your goals and dreams in life, should not be what makes society happy. It should be what makes you happy, deep down inside.

The things that make you tick. Discover them now before you get caught in the trap that I like to call; The Fishbowl of Life. Where everyone watches what everyone else is doing just so they can keep up with one another.

Don’t be part of the the school of fish. Go discover your own path.

Ah, mornings.

You either love them, or you hate them. As you become a little older, you realize that, well, you just have to love them. You’re not in high school or college anymore and it’s time to adapt to a routine to wake up and get your ass to work so you could afford to have that next martini at happy hour.

As I’ve turned thirty, I have begun to realize those facts. However, I still hate mornings, and you still can’t talk to me before my first sip of espresso. (Why does coffee cost so much money? Oh my goodness, yet another reason I have to love mornings so I could go collect a pay check!)

Lately, I’ve been putting together a plan of attack to love mornings. In bed by ten each night, up by seven in the morning. Grab a coffee, hit the walking trail to get that heart beat going for the day, and back to my bungalow to unwind for a bit before getting ready for the day.

Sounds like a nice plan, right?

Then you factor in the additional fifteen minutes of anti-aging treatments, cooking a beneficial meal to start the day which is something that does not taste like a pop-tart, and to top it off some meditation before you head out the door to work with the public.

Boy, mornings sound exhausting, don’t they? Can’t I just work from my bed with a mimosa?

Oh yeah, that’s right. A mimosa cost money to make. Never mind.

I’m slowly getting into this new routine of mine. It’s been a process, but something you didn’t read in there was screen time. Less than a year ago, I would have said my routine involved coffee and Facebook. Now, I’ve killed screen time in the morning.

Why? Well, I have come to realize in my path to less technology use that making time for yourself is important, and the mornings are especially a good time to be with just yourself. There’s so much crazy in the world, it can wait until I’m done with my bacon, eggs, and yoga.

Not necessarily in that order. Ever.

There’s something to be said about a vacation that helps put your life in perspective.

As I stated in my last column, I took a week off from social media during my week long hiatus to the mountains of New England. It just felt different. I wasn’t reaching for my phone urging to post every second of the day, instead I insisted on capturing the moments through photography and living in the moment.

It just felt right.

Back in the days before social media, we actually lived. We talked face to face. We took in the moments of life, and relished in them. These days, we are so caught up in who’s going to like what on our pages, that we just let life fly by without giving much thought about the impact it has on our everyday lives.

While away, I embraced every moment offline. I lived to hike new terrain and shared laughter with friends on the trails. I sat and enjoyed dinner while watching breathtaking mountain sunsets unfold before my very eyes. I embarked on mountain expeditions on a train and made it to New England’s highest peak without hashtagging the heck out of an Instagram photo and not living in the moment.

The small town charm of mountain towns, the raging waterfalls of mountain gorges, the calm of mountain lakes, to the wait staff at a small town restaurant that remembered my name. You can’t find this life on a screen. You have to explore your world.

This vacation has taught me a lot, and it taught me how to be more in tune with the world around me. Technology is great, but only when you need it, and we don’t need it every minute of the day. In fact, I was much more satisfied being offline.

Imagine the things I’d miss?

The views, the laughters, the tears, and the moments that really get you unwound. That’s the kind of world we should all be living in. Not one that is surrounded by screen life. We need to interact with each other again, and discover our passions. Life just doesn’t have time to sit and wait for us to figure it out.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll share more on how I’m overcoming my own screen addiction and what I’m doing to ignite the fire toward reaching successes with my own passions. And don’t worry, you’ll also get more of a glimpse of some of the amazing trips I took along the way in New Hampshire.

In a life of constant connectivity, we need to unplug and recharge our batteries, for time just isn’t going to stand still.

Raise your hand if you’ve become fixated on social media.

I’m going to guess that many of you have raised your hand. Our lives have become a social media frenzy. Who’s doing what? Why is she posting pictures of him eating his Cobb salad? What did Donald Trump say now?

Time for a break.

For the next week, I’ll be away in the mountains of New England enjoying peace and tranquility without the constant connectivity. For once, I will actually be putting my phone on airplane mode and focusing on the world around me. It’s a beautiful world, and we all need to pay more attention to it and less to the screens that drive anxiety and depression and have us thinking that the world is a cruel place.

It’s actually the complete opposite.

Have you taken the time out to enjoy the views? I mean truly, not just view it for five minutes while snapping away to your friends on Snapchat or hashtagging the heck out of the view via Instagram. Have you taken a deep breath and truly enjoyed that moment?

Odds are, probably not.

Taking a social media detox is also a tech detox. In an age where technology drives our lives, it’s important to tune it out. Instead, I’m packing a couple of good books, a journal and pen, and a yoga mat  to help bring myself back to center.

The idea came to me about a few weeks ago when I found myself complaining about how I felt after being on my phone all day long. Have you ever noticed how tired it makes you? Think about the impacts it’s having on your brain at the same time. Not much of it is positive seeing as there is an abundance of negativity being posted daily.

When it comes to living your life, social media can wait. It will still be there after you get back from your journey, but it’s important to take it in as much as you can for you never know what the next second can bring.

Have a great week. Time to sign off.

You know, at some point in our lives we have to ask ourselves a question. We have to keep considering, what exactly are we doing with our lives?

This past summer, I have been reflecting on much of that. As I approach thirty in nearly one week, I ask myself if what I have been doing over the past five years is really what I want to be doing for the next five years.

Short answer? No.

The extended answer is much more complicated. You see, while I am satisfied with how I have progressed in my professional life, I’m not so satisfied with how I have progressed in my personal life. It may come as a shock to many since I am the perpetually happy person that wants to make sure everyone is living their lives to the fullest capacities.

It all started around the age of twenty-four, right around the time of my coming out as a gay man. I thought I knew everything there was to know. I would go on with my life and just continue being a gay man.

Wrong.

Becoming a gay man, for me, meant many things. Most importantly of which, was to broaden my circle of friends with those who identity as LGBTQ. It would later help foster lasting relationships and help to ease the burden of being a gay man.

Bet you didn’t think being gay was hard, did you? Oh, contraire!

As I evolved in the gay community, so too did my lifestyle. I started steering away from the very things that made me happy. Instead of mountain biking, backpacking, and traveling to new places as I had been doing prior to my coming out, I was now fully engulfed in the scene of being at gay clubs, brunches, and the gay hook up culture thanks to apps such as Grindr.

In fact, I had become so embedded in the culture that I had forgotten what I once loved; real life.

The real life I speak of is not that of spending time on Grindr telling myself I have to catch them all. Nor is it attending every gay social event that I can, or spending countless of hours on a weekly basis at gay clubs.

Surprise! Not me!

The real me loves the outdoors. The real me loves to travel and explore the world without being glued to hook up apps. When did I become that guy?

It’s easy to do, especially in our community. The yearning to be constantly youthful is mighty. The pressure of trying to find the right guy in bed. It all becomes such a sensation. One day, you’ll wake up and realize, you have to start drawing the line somewhere.

As I turn thirty, I realize it’s time to change direction. Off go the apps, dwindle will time be spent at clubs, and lastly, hello world, I’m back.

I am very proud to be a gay man. I am very proud of our community.

After celebrating Boston pride yesterday and seeing the numerous faces from all walks of life celebrating with us, it is clear to me that regardless of what happened today, there is a great amount of love for our community and we thank you for your unconditional love and support.
With that said, let us keep those impacted in our thoughts and prayers and do whatever we can to help out. The world needs more compassion, not hate.

The celebration of Pride events is important. Today, we learned of just how important that is. We are not free. We are still surrounded by so many pockets of hate. It is important to stand together as a community and celebrate who we have become, and where we are as a community today.

I would urge you to not live in fear. Attend Pride events. Attend LGBT nightlife activities. Celebrate who you are. Our community is strong, and our supporters, even stronger.

As I stayed glued to the television today, I did so with tears in my eyes. I am just as hurt to see what unfolded. My heart raced as I saw the numbers escalate from 20 to 50.

How could anyone be so cruel? To take the life of innocent human beings who were just out enjoying their life under the Orlando moonlight.

Our tight knit community is committed to coming together to helping each other out during this terrible tradgedy. I will also be doing what I could in the days ahead.

Stay strong. Stay vigilant. Most importantly, stay true to yourselves. I love you all. Don’t back away from who you are because of hate.

Michael Valletta

Summer is coming. What do you have on your summer 2016 bucketlist?

Many people dream of long days on the beach, weekend getaways with the family, or perhaps a few martini parties while hosting a summer BBQ. Burgers anyone? There goes that summer beach body!

This year, I’ve compiled a list of just what I want to accomplish. Being that it is my 30th birthday in August, this summer has got to go out with a bang. No questions asked. (Really, don’t ask questions. You’re better off not knowing some things.)

Plans range from taking part in Pride season parades all the way to vacationing in Provincetown during the infamous Carnival week festival.

Of course, there are things on that list a little more suttle. Vacationing on islands and drinking wine at numerous wineries would account for that, right?

Right. Just agree and humor me.

Past Summer’s for me have always been about connecting with friends who refuse to come out of their bungalos all winter. They sit home until rays of sunshine and men can be splashed all over thier bodies.

Well, I suppose that doesn’t sound too depressing.

This summer, I not only plan to make the most of it with friends, I also plan to take more time out for myself. As I enter the realm of my thirties, I have begun to realize that life isn’t about the constant social aspect, rather being at peace with yourself and your surroundings. However, my surroundings usually include a bottle of wine. That’s where the fun begins.

Carrying on.

Whatever you have planned for this summer, make it memorable. Most importantly, make sure you make it the best summer you can for you. If you want to do something, don’t wait for others. Go out and do it.

After all, summer doesn’t last forever. The memories will.

Love is a Battlefield

Don’t let love go.

Why do we complicate the simple things in life? These simple things, are the ones we too often take for  granted. We are compelled to keep searching for something better in the world, but is that what we really need?

Recently, I did some research on the topic. To my surprise, I was appalled by the number of people that regret losing out on love that they let go, just so thy could have a chance to see what else could be better in the world. In most cases, their original love was sitting right under their nose the whole time, and they let walk away. They had someone who was dedicated to their needs, their desires, and their future as a couple together. Instead, they abandoned true love and became selfish and absorbed in thier own thoughts of the possibility of finding better. In the end, they regretted and were too ashamed to admit this to the person they walked away from.

As humans, we naturally complicate life. We test each other out. We try to make sense of every situation. When in reality, some situations don’t need explaining, rather just a feeling.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot as of late.

If you love someone, why are we so afraid to tell them? If we have a strong desire to see what a relationship can blossom into, why not admit it? Our nerves certainly get the best of us, I’m sure. However, if we were more honest and upfront about our feelings, ideally we would live in that perfect world where we don’t complicate things.

Life is complicated enough. Don’t complicate the most important thing in your life; your love. If there is someone trying to show you the world, but you’re running away from the notion of it, think twice. Don’t lose out on what is possibly the best thing that has ever walked into your life.

Prior to judging others, judge yourself first.

It has been a interesting week in the single life of being Mike Valletta. It was the first week that I had not gone on one date. I guess after writing last weeks column and discussing how I needed to slow down and start focusing on my life more, I took my own advice quite literally. It’s not a bad thing. This week has allowed me to take a step back and view the world that is around me, instead of trying to jump in the arms of a new man each day. 

As I studied the world, I also studied the people in it. We are so judgemental. Why is that? Why do we feel the need to constantly judge people before we even get to know them? It’s human nature, and it’s wrong

I was having a discussion about this very topic with one of my very good friends recently. I explained how excited I was to meet some people that I have dates with in the coming weeks, but that I caution myself because they are too young or their actions that they portray through social media are not of my own standards. Guess what I was doing? I was judging. I was literally judging the books by its covers, without first getting to even touch the covers! What poor character that was. I could be missing potential men that actually have a great core, yet I sit and judge them based on what little I see or know. I quickly paused, retrained my brain on being a considerable adult, and was a little more open minded about the possibilities of these men.

Could we be missing out on our future soul mates because we won’t give people chances? Absolutely. Give people a chance and in turn, you’ll be giving love a chance as you let people into your life you otherwise would swipe left to on Tindr.

Think about it.

Have you ever sat and reflected on what is going on in your life? You know, took a little time out for yourself to recollect your thoughts and bring yourself back to center stage?

Odds are, you have not. I’m also guilty of doing the same. We live in such a fast paced world that often times, we totally forget about our own well being. We constantly thrive to put others first. It’s not a bad thing. I love to put others well being before my own. In fact, it’s something I’ve always done while in a relationship, and that’s not bad either. Being single has taught me that I need to change a little bit, however. Constantly putting others before myself has caused me to scale back operations of my life, and disturb my own well being. 

As I continue to adapt to single life, I’ve realized that I am suddenly finding myself at the gym more than ever. Not only that, I’m also working to accomplish new career paths. These are things I have put aside in order to ensure all the very best energy was given to my partner. Was it wrong? Absolutely not. What was wrong, however, is that I did not mold my own life into the equation as much. It’s been a refreshing lesson to have learned, and as I look toward the future, I’ll know exactly how to mold it all together. I have an agenda, and I am laser focused.

All of these thoughts, however, have brought me to question my dating habits. Am I going on too many dates? Is it what I really need right now as I concentrate on building a solid future? I sat down recently and reflected on this. I had my notebook open and wrote out exactly how going on dates made me feel inside. The answers surprised me. 

Dating, in general, has been very healthy for me. I’ve enjoyed meeting other men, and having the opportunity to learn more about how others live is inspiring. Sometimes. Other times I’m running away from the dinner table in fear of having my mental health poisoned. 

What I have learned, however, is that I do not need to be in a rush to fall in love. I’ve gone on so many dates that after a while, I’ve forgotten who is who and when we even went on a date! This is dangerous. There are weeks I have four men or more lined up. One look at my Outlook calendar as I was writing in my notebook about my dating life taught me a quick lesson; slow down, Michael.

It is said that if you are in the market for love, you should let it come naturally. Why haven’t I been doing that? I have learned that it’s something I need to do as I continue to build my life. We shouldn’t be in such a rush for love. In time, it will come. No where does it state that you should get married by a certain time in your life, right? Right. Slowing down and taking the appropriate time out to take care of yourself is vital to not only you, but to your partner or future partner as well.

Only fools rush in love. 

Weekends were made to set yourself free.

It’s a Saturday night. Evening wear is out and ready to be steam pressed.  Shower is on as a miniature facial is in process to maintain a youthful look for the long evening ahead. What’s planned? Absolutely everything.

Welcome to the single gay mans weekend. A combination of everything you’re currently visioning in your head. It’s the weekend, and I am magnetic. Uber drivers instnstly become my best friends as of 10PM, and bartenders and shot boys take center stage by 11PM at the gay bars. Poles were made to be danced on, and shirts were made to come off. It’s really no wonder as to why so many gays end up staying single. The life is attractive.

If you’ve ever seen me out and about, you would know for all of the above to be true. I am guilty. Should I feel guilty though? Absolutely not. Weekends were made to set yourself free and to let go of the negative energy that consumed you through the week. After all, do we really want to carry the burden of the people who frustrate us at the office into next week? Like a volcano, you’ll eventually explode. Use the weekend as your time to get lost. Though please, not litteraly. I do not want to be responsible for having to send a rescue team searching for you. 

Some ask if a constant string of social events is healthy for someone who is nearly thirty. Live young and have fun. If you don’t live young, you’re only getting older. The clock is ticking. Before it’s too late, live your life with as much energy and passion as you could, and become electrified on the weekends. It is the weekends where the rebalancing of our lives takes place, and we wake up focused and ready to conquer the week ahead on Monday.

I’ll eventually settle back down, after all I’m in the market for a husband not just another boy from the Grindr app, but while I’m single, I will absolutely live my best life possible. One that is surrounded by friends, positive energy, and the occasional pole dancing.

What happens at the clubs, stays at the clubs. It’s the Vegas of the gay world.

I stumbled upon a book recently. It was a book I had purchased at a Starbucks exactly five years ago, and it had been kicking around the house ever since. The title? “Where do you see yourself in five years?”.

Well, perhaps it’s ironic that I would find it again five years later. As I stared at the cover, I was slightly afraid to open it. Would I be disappointed at what I did not accomplish? What happens if I’m living my life all wrong, and not the way I had hoped I would be living it?

It’s interesting how we instantly shift our minds to the thoughts of failure. Notice how in my questioning I never once mentioned anything positive. I never asked myself if I would be proud or overjoyed of accomplishments. Why is that? The human brain is wired for negativity. We get a high from negative reactions. The news? It’s mostly negative, and we tune to it frequently to see all the bad in the world. See what I did there? Negativity is attractive.

As I flipped through the pages of the five year plan I wrote out for myself five years ago, I began to notice something. Something positive. I shouldn’t have been afraid to open this book. Nearly everything I was reading was already manifested or is currently a work in progress. I had been practically living my five year plan without even knowing it! My career shift to sales from management? Took effect three years ago. Coming out as a gay man to the public? Two years ago. Working on becoming a real estate agent? Work in progress. Marriage? Well, I’ll eventually get there.

The point is, mostly everything I had dreamed and planned was already satisfying me. There was no need to sit and fear this book. My mind wanted me to fear it. It took a shift of thinking in a more positive light in order for me to even open it! Once I did, a smile and a sigh came upon me. I laughed fear in its face.

Five year plans are an essential part of anyone’s life. Think of it as a business plan. You can’t just keep hopping in the car and drive around aimlessly. You have to have a plan for everything you want to do in life. You have to craft a way of just how you’re going to accomplish your dreams. I wouldn’t want to be around anyone that was in business if they didn’t have a business plan. The business wouldn’t even last five years. Same goes for your life. You may live five years, though you won’t live as successfully as you possibly could.

Figure out where you see yourself. Take a moment. Mediate. Reflect. What do you see your future self doing? Be honest with yourself about the plan, and be a bit of a realist. You can’t instnstly dream about owning your own island. Okay, you could, but it’s most likely not the most realistic dream. Think about what your life will look like in five years. What job will you have? Where will you be living? Who surrounds you? Think with a clear mind.

As I write this, I’m currently working on the next five years. It was great to discover the past and see that I am doing well on my path. Where do I see myself over the next five years? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Go create your own five year plan.

Don’t Date Down!

You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with.

Have you ever been on a date and sit there wondering what you’re even doing on the date in the first place?

We’ve all been there. That one date that we saw so much potential in while chatting on an app and then suddenly when we make plans to meet, we walk past them in the restaurant because they look nothing like their pictures. Well, there’s red flag number one.

Then comes the conversations. They sounded so intellectual while chatting online, now that you are seated across from them having a conversation, you wonder if they hired a personal assistant to help manifest this date. 

No date is ever perfect, let’s face it. The best thing about a date is, you don’t ever have to connect with that person again if you don’t want to. You can simply create an exit strategy like something the secret service drafted up for you, and then quickly exit stage left, hop in your car and hit the pedal to the metal! Yes. I’m guilty.

When it comes to dating, you should never date down. I recently learned of this from conversations with one of my best friends. If you are a high functioning individual, you need to date someone who is at your level of functionality. Do not settle! If you are settling at what is in front of you because they have a pretty face but not a pretty brain, you are dating down. Don’t do it! 

I feel it is so important to surround yourself with people that will make you a better person. The way you think. The way you act. The way you plan out your future. You are the average of the five people you surround yourself with. Your partner should be of the same caliber level. Dating down will just manifest toxicity, and who needs that in their life. 

Exit stage left and run.


You don’t have to be perfect. Pretty happy is pretty great.

Kate Hudson has absolutely nailed it in her latest book approropriatey titled, Pretty Happy. A book geared towards healthy ways to love your body.

As someone who is always on the prowl for the latest self help books, my eyes lit up when I discovered the release on an episode of The View earlier this week. Though the book targets females, I truly believe it is great no matter what gender you are, or what walk of life you come from. 

Being happy with the skin you are in is something I had struggled with for years. Being a gay man in hiding for as long as I was, it was a crisis I didn’t know how to deal with. I turned to the Internet and spent hours researching just how others had come out, but ultimately it wasn’t something that helped. If this book had been out years ago, I would have come out  instantly. It is absolutely refreshing to read about someone who has become more confident of just who they are, and now has the ability to help others do the same. 

It is so important to develop and foster a healthy relationship with yourself. In the book, Kate Hudson talks of the importance of just that and even helps you develop a plan so you too could do the same. I’d like to call this book more of a workbook rather than just a normal chapter book. It is truly a workbook for your life! It helps guide you into being a better you both mentally and physically, with designated pages where you could fill in your answers to different questions that will truly have you reflecting. 

Will this book make you perpetually happy? Come on now. No one is ever always happy. You’ll have your off days as we all do. As the title suggests, you’ll be pretty happy. Being more content with your life is absolutely essential, and Kate Hudson brings you to just that level of content.

Practice makes perfect. At least, that’s what we are told in life.

As humans, we are bound to make mistakes over the course of our lifetime. It’s in our DNA. Each day, we aim for absolute perfection, but why? Perfection is boring. Perfection also causes us not to make mistakes, and if we are not making mistakes, we are not learning nor are we embracing everything that life has to offer.

There are many days I look at the people that I have surrounded myself with. Many are on successful paths in their lives, and they didn’t get there by perfection. No, they got there by many beautiful mistakes that ultimately disciplined them to have the high profile career choices that they dreamed of.

When I talk to people on how they have to constantly reinvent themselves, I get some head turners. It’s always that “What do you mean, you don’t think I’m perfect?” look. Again, no one should be perfect so please spare me.

Reinventing yourself simply means that you are training yourself to grow and do better things with your life. Wouldn’t everyone want that? Perhaps it’s time to change our way of thinking. Get crazy. Make mistakes. Practice does not make you perfect. Practice gives you the ability to grow successfully!

At the start of 2016, I promised myself I would work hard on reinventing just who I am and who I am becoming as a person as I enter the next phase of my life. I’m well positioned both mentally and financially to do just that, but I didn’t get to this level because I was perfect. No, I got to this point because I wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. Life is too short to be afraid to figure out what could or could not happen.

As I take on 2016, I do so by following a plan that set for myself. I outlined exactly what I want to accomplish and created different route ideas of just how I’m going to get there. Do I smile at where I’m at now in life? Of course I do! I’m reinventing myself for the sole purpose of growing, not because I’m not happy with where I am. Growing is essential. If we don’t grow, we become stagnant and we suddenly catch ourselves sitting back watching others become successful in life while we are in the background scratching our heads at where we suddenly went wrong. Lack of reinventing, that’s where! Do it, or stay in the past.

Smile at your mistakes.Reinvent yourself one mistake at a time, but please stay away from anyone who is a self proclaimed perfectionist. You don’t need anyone that boring ruining your mojo.

The Gay Dating Game.

Grindr. Scruff. Tinder.

These three magical apps are perhaps the most active on my phone these days. I use the term magical loosely. As a single guy, looking for love requires more than just seeking a one time hook up at a local gay bar. Looking for love requires you to do your research. It has to be more than just a pretty face. Though that doesn’t hurt.

Since becoming single, I’ve been on numerous dates. So much so, I feel like I’m on ABCs “The Bachelor”, and I’m the one handing out roses. I must have gone through more than two dozen. Thank goodness for an over abundance of flowers in the world.

Some dates have been exceptionally well. I’ve seen just about every walk of life. A doctor, a lawyer, a television meteorologist, even the boy next door. (Litteraly. That was a mistake. We’ll just leave him next door.)

For the most part, there is a trend in my dating game; I am in search of a man. Not a boy. Not a college student. Not someone who can’t support themselves. A man. Someone that is established in life and has future goals and ambitions, and knows just how to reach them. While it’s nice to play around occasionally, as I approach my thirties, it is time to start thinking about settling down. My twenties were the years to experiment. I have done more than I would love to publicly admit! No regrets, however. Life is full of experimenting until you find your comfort zone.

The gay dating game is a little different than that of the straight dating game. Straight people don’t hook up nearly as much. Gays love sex. I mean, we’re guys. Wasn’t that obvious? When you’re searching for love, this gets a little harder. One simple log on to Grindr and your screen lights up with notifications with people asking if you’re “Looking?” or “Hey, what are you into?”. Good grief.

Some people that I have met actually have a fantastic head on their shoulders and aren’t always looking for just sex. As soon as I interact with these gentlemen, my heart instantly melts and there’s a sigh of sudden relief. Could it be someone actually wants something with substance?

It’s unheard of in the community these days, but once you find it, you don’t want to let it go. If you do, you are foolish. After spending so much time on the gay dating apps, I can’t express enough how people in our community need to think with their head, and not the one that is below the belt.

Valentine’s Day is on its way. I would normally be jumping out of my skin at this point since I’m naturally a very generous person, especially around a holiday aimed around generosity and appreciation.

This year, not so much. As someone who is recently single, the focus has been primarily on me, and not so much on any partner that I have. It’s an odd feeling. One I am certainly getting aquatinted to all over again. It’s a process, and it’s one that is taken one day at a time. We’ve all been there.

I mainly rely on friends to occupy the time, not because I’m seeking attention, but because they are the foundation of my life and my support system. Where would we be in life without good friends and a good bottle of wine? We would be slaving our day away stomping grapes and drinking the fruits of our labor in self pity and sorrow, that’s where. It’s great to have people producing this stuff for you so you can enjoy a couple of bottles in good company. Yes, a couple.

So, what are my intentions this Valentine’s Day, you ask? Focusing on the self for starters. You cannot love others without putting yourself first and foremost. It is imperative that you take the time out to enjoy the skin you’re in. If you don’t have the ability to fall in love with yourself, then your love for others isn’t as significant. There has to be a balance. It’s the way of life.

I’ll also be spending time in good company. I’m looking forward to it. There’s people in your life that truly make you who you are, and it’s important to spend as much time as you can around the people that bring value to your life. What better day than Valentine’s Day to show a little appreciation.

If there’s anything being single has taught me, it is that I don’t constantly need a man to make me happy. I am happy. I am happy with the people that surround me. Life is grand, and it’s just getting started all over again.

Have you ever really been in need of a massage? I’m sure you have. After all, many of us live high demanding lives that causes an increased amount of stress on our bodies.

I booked a massage this past week at my local Massage Envy, noting that I have a monthly membership. After a solid week on the slopes up in Vermont, my body was yearning for a treatment!

I decided on a hot stone massage. My therapist assured me that this would release a great deal of tension in the body as well as help to unwind the mind. Fair enough. After a long vacation away from reality, it was nice to be soothed back into the real world again.

The stone massage was amazing. It was everything that I had thought it would be. Hot stones rubbed along the body, along with a series of hot stones on my back and in between my toes. The feeling was absolutely sensational and relaxing.

Next up, a facial. I was in dire need of that. The rough winter skin has been sneaking up on me and causing absolute dryness. Absolute yuck.

My facial therapist and I really connected well. Maybe that was because she told me she would help me look about ten years younger. Anyone that tells you that, you’re going to become best friends!

The facial went extremely well. We diagnosed just how dry my face was, and worked to restore it back to its original shine. After about an hour of treatment, I was impressed. I kept looking in the mirror and wanted to touch my face to see if it was real. Sadly, I got told hands off! The oils on your fingers cause break outs. Duly noted.

Massage Envy offers an incredible experience to each guest, and I could not be anymore pleased with how this past session went. Not only is a massage great to release built up pressure in your body, it’s also great for mental health. Focusing on you and your body can really make you a better, more focused of a person. 

It’s no secret that this winter has been a dud here in New England. The lack of snow has caused many local skiers and snowboarders to flock west thanks to this years El Niño. One resort, however, has found a way to make the best of a bad situation.

Killington Resort, in breathtaking Killington, VT is a gem. It’s my second home, and I couldn’t be any more proud of what they have been doing this winter. A struggle to start, they have found a way to produce enough snow to satisfy the cravings of many. With nearly 100 trails open, skiers and riders have been able to enjoy an array of almost limitless adventures.

Arriving up on Wednesday this week, I shrieked like a school girl at the sight of a glorious mountain covered in snow. I instantly got out of my car, latched onto my skis, and hit the trails. With a hint of snow falling from the sky, the day was perfect as I carved down nearly every trail I could in a span of five hours. Conditions? Couldn’t ask for better. Was it a little icy? Yes, but icy conditions are typical for New England resorts. Plus, it really adds to the speed factor. I like speed. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush.

My adrenaline rush continued on day two as sunny skies softened up the snow a bit and even allowed for a little goggle tanning. Thursday was indeed a skiers paradise.

Indeed it has been a tough season, even Killington can admit to that. However, as New Englanders, we need to embrace what comes our way. No two seasons are ever the same here, and that is the true beauty of living here. Some of us just know how to make the best out of a bad situation, and Killigton Resort has been doing just that.

Sharpen up your skis and hit the hills. They need your support, and they would love to see you. After all, who couldn’t use a little fresh mountain air and some fine apres ski.

For more information about Killington, visit Killington.com or search #Beast365 on Instagram.



 

The Brand Returns.

It’s been a while.

As I write this, I reflect back to the days I started writing. I was young. I was focused. My energy and passion for all things creative in life drove my writing business. So much so, it landed me several different gigs and multiple partnerships with media outlets. I was a proud young man.

Then, something happened along the way. Life. Life became more complex as I started to grow older and figure my own self out. While previously writing this blog, I was known as a young straight man. I concealed much of my own identity, and did not portray publicly of just who I am; a homosexual man.

During my time off from writing, I focused on my coming out. I’ve relished in new found connections, fell in love with the LGBT community and the endless parties, and even got a shot at love.

Today, I am proud to announce that I am back, and better than ever. Not only have I worked on finding out just who I truly am, I have also made leaps and bounds to move my personal life forward in the direction that I’ve always envisioned myself in, one of which starts with this website.

Mike Valletta. It’s more than just my name, it’s a brand. A brand I am proud to move forward into the future. I invite you all to join back in on the conversations with me as I continue to embark on an incredible journey of storytelling and photography along with future endeavors soon to be announced. (Hey, I can’t let all my secrets out.)

So, what is the brand today? The brand today is centered around the website, a direct link and staging ground. It’s where you’ll get your weekly digest of stories. Next up, we leap out to social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (TheMikeValletta). These sites are considered live streaming, and a direct connection with fans.

As you navigate the site, you’ll notice many of the older articles are still in tact. Some like to leave the past behind, we’ll take the past with us. After all, it’s part of the journey, and a history. New articles will be appear on the site every Friday.

I’m sure you all want to know what’s next for the brand, you’ll just have to be patient. There’s a reason I’m calling it a brand these days. Stay tuned.

I hope all have been well. Let’s get the party started.

Mike Valletta

 

Photo Credit: Pholton Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I make a lot of trips down to New York City. Living within a close proximity to it here in Connecticut, we’re often referred to as one big suburb of the Big Apple. All it takes is a look around at how we drive to see just how true that is! When it comes to the road, we’re maniacs, and we get our behavior directly from the city that never sleeps.

It’s a great city, and we’re fortunate enough to live so close to it. Last week, I took a trip down to see the World Trade Center site down in lower Manhattan. I went along with my mother, and though we didn’t have a reservation, it was still fairly easy to get a free ticket from the visitors center to get into the memorial.

On April 30th, One World Trade Center, otherwise known as the Freedom Tower, became the tallest building in NYC, just a week after our visit. It’s quite remarkable to hear that. Many doubted we would we build that high again, but we proved to those who terrorized us that we are not afraid and refuse to live in fear.

During our visit, we entered the memorial with chills. As we walked towards the pools of flowing water cascading into the earth where the towers once stood, all we could visualize is what happened there back on September 11th, 2001. The horror of those two towers collapsing was in the back of my mind as I looked up to the sky and then back down into the pool surrounded by the names of those who perished.

I remember that day. I remember it well. I was sitting in English class at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury, CT. Our teacher turned on the television and the entire class stared in shock and awe of what we were witnessing on screen. At first, it was like a movie, but we soon realized this was real. This was 9/11. We watched as the second plane hit the tower. We watched as the towers came crumbling to the ground, and those below scrambled to save their lives.

Images of that day all came back to me during the visit. It was hard. Very hard. Knowing that so many innocent lives perished on the very ground we stood on was not easy acknowledging.

As we walked around the memorial, we saw visitors who wept, then we saw visitors who didn’t know what kind of expression to wear. It was a silent place, not many voices to listen to other than the bustling sounds of lower Manhattan. My guess is many were lost in thought just as much as I was.

It’s great to have a place to go to where will never forget the images of that very day. It’s clear that New York will never be the same, but in the end, the height of the Freedom Tower signifies just how much stronger we have become.

I can’t say enough about the weather this week. As much of a skier as I am, this spring like weather has indeed hit a sweet spot with me. As if there were much of a winter around here anyways, right mother nature? I swear, she has really been some kind of mother this year, not much of one to me! I’ve been begging and begging for snow, dancing my legs off into extreme amounts of pain, only to get a mere few inches that’s gone the next day. Not exactly the kind of snow I was dancing there for oh mother of mine high in the sky!

I’ve made the most of whatever winter we did have. I skied endlessly up north most days in the northern Berkshires and in the Green Mountains of Vermont. This week, however, has made me start getting in shape for my next sport of choice; mountain biking. Yes, from skiing to biking, I’m all about conquering those mountains in some kind of form! I’ve been at the gym faithfully all week long working one on one with my personal trainer who’s getting me in shape for post ski season. There’s a specific line of workouts dedicated to getting you ready for the next season. As a professional skier, its important to maintain good shape.

Today, my personal trainer kicked me square out of the gym. With temperatures climbing close to seventy degrees, and noting that I had already been at the gym for little over three hours, I was kicked to the great outdoors to enjoy an afternoon of mountain biking around Burr Pond in Torrington. Ever been there? It really is quite the place this time of year. For starters, its not as busy as it during the summer months. The tranquility will really reel you in, and so too will those gusty winds kicking about. Burr Pond is one of my favorite Torrington destinations. You can’t beat bliss!

I drove around the entire park trail today which encompasses all of Burr Pond. Normally, this run would take me at least a good 45 minutes, today well over that considering we are in mud season here in the Berkshires! Mud is everywhere from the recent snow melt. Riding through the mud isn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, its quite entertaining as you’re kicking up the mud and trying to dodge boulders at the same time. I believe I already painted the picture for you of just how entertaining it could be!

So, as all of us around here throw open the windows and gear up for spring, lets not forget to venture out to some awesome Litchfield County destinations to get in touch with the great outdoors again. After all, with the winter we had, we deserve it!

“Stretch to downward facing dog!” snaps the instructor on my Gaiam Yoga DVD. “Bend farther down!” he continues to bark. “Now, bend even farther, and breathe.” he says so calmly when I’m in the toughest physical position in my life!

There’s just something about Yoga. Most people recommend it. They say it’s most likely one of the most vital physical activities you could partake in. Well, that phrase was all my personal trainer needed to hear when she ordered me to start Yoga twice a day at home. (Are personal trainers hired to kill you?)

“Breathe, just breathe. In and out, feel your breath.” that lovely voice from the DVD says. Yeah, I’ll feel my breath, if I can catch it first!

It’s been nearly a week since I began my now daily yoga routine, once in the morning before work, and then again right before bed. I’ve got to tell ya, the AM Yoga is the one I look forward to the most. As soon as I hop out of bed, I don’t reach for the cell phone or flock to the coffee pot, I run right over to my Yoga mat and begin the half hour exercise. After about two hundred or so in takes of oxygen, twenty or so different stretches, and one deep meditation session, I can’t believe how awesome I feel afterwards. I feel wide awake, without the coffee! Not only that, but I feel eerily calm, and for those who know me, you know I suffer from ADD so calm is usually not in my vocabulary!

As I go throughout my day, I continue to feel revitalized and refreshed. It’s like some sort of super charge. I’m not exactly sure how to explain it, but I know I’m in a good place, even after I get barked at in the morning by some instructor who bends into pretzel figures so calmly!

People often ask me, “Mike, why are you so darn happy all the time?”. I often come back with the response of “Why, should I be miserable or something?”. It’s a question that is posed to me everyday. Some wonder if it’s the gallons of coffee I drink a day.

Sorry, it’s not the coffee, though I guess it helps. There’s no wonder drug I take either. There’s no such thing as happy pills, nor do I plan to market such an item in the future. If you really want to know why I’m so happy, spend a day in my shoes.

I’m naturally an easy going person, that’s a given. Not much bothers me. In fact, there was once a cow who sat right in the middle of the road on my way to work and had me running behind for about fifteen minutes. Most people would be angered. I couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably. I mean, how often can you tell your boss you’re going to be late because a cow is your traffic jam.

You see, I remain a pretty positive person because of the way that I see things. It’s all a thought process. Oh sure, I could have chosen to yell out a few choice words at that cow, but do you honestly think that cow would have understood a word I said? No! That cow would have just starred at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I don’t speak cow! Instead, I sat and laughed all about the scenario. Yelling would have just stressed me out, but not that cow. No way.

Being perpetually happy isn’t hard work at all. You just have to adjust your thought process. Why should we be negative all the time? Where is it going to get us? Well, for starters, it’s going to give us a one way ticket to the emergency room. Stress kills, but laughter is the best medicine. Nice connection there, right?

We only live once, and it is up to us to live the life that we want. Should we walk around pouting that we have to go to work, or that we have to do other things that we don’t enjoy doing? Not at all. Think about this for a second. Many of us don’t enjoy going to work. We whine all about Monday. What if we changed our thought process. Work pays the bills, which otherwise wouldn’t be able to be paid without a job, then we’ll be begging to work. See! I totally just changed the thought process, and just like that, instant happiness about going to work.

I challenge you to become a better you. I challenge you to change your thought process. Life is what you make of it. Will you be the one yelling at a cow that doesn’t understand you?

It’s cold. Period. There’s no question in my mind that the place to be is indoors, but am I really the type of person to just stay in my home all day hibernating my life away from the elements? Not at all!

Today, I took a ride out to Cabella’s in nearby East Hartford. Cabella’s, for those of you who don’t know, is the worlds foremost outfitters specializing in outdoor essentials. The store is large and packed with wall to wall merchandise for the outdoorsmen at heart. Everything from hunting equipment to fishing boats and ski jackets can be found in this paradise.

That’s not all. If you’re looking for a day trip to a museum, think Cabella’s! Inside, you’ll find an aquarium packed with some of the largest trout you have ever seen. It’s like spending the day at an aquarium, and the best part about it, it’s absolutely free! Not only can you can you catch a glimpse of fresh water fish, but you can also explore stuffed wildlife statues that will have you thinking you just made a trip out west to the mountains.

In the mood for a hearty meal? Cabella’s has you covered. Sit back and relax as you dive into fresh venison or pulled pork with Cabella’s very own cafe.

If you ever thought a day trip was out of reach, think again. Cabella’s has everything for the perfect day out with the entire family. A store so large, you could not only spend a whole day there, but you could also get lost!

For more information, visit: http://cabelas.com/cabelas/index.do

This has got to be one of the best weeks of my life. Not only will I be making my way up to Vermont to check out Killington Resorts winter Dew Tour, I’ll also be covering it!

You see, it all started when an email came to my inbox last week asking if I would like to be a brand ambassador for AT&T at the Dew Tour. AT&T has this cool new tablet from Pantech called the Element, which is essentially like apple’s iPad but waterproof, and they’re looking for people who are social media savvy to give it a whirl at the hottest event in the east.

I just couldn’t say no. The opportunity was much too large to pass up. An all expense paid trip to Vermont AND I get to try out this awesome tablet? An opportunity like this only comes once in a lifetime, and I know I would be kicking myself if I turned it down. It’s like a dream come true!

I’ll be at Killington on the 19th and 20th covering the event live using AT&T’s Element tablet PC. While there, I’ll be using the tablet to capture pictures and video of all the hottest athletes in action, plus even get a few interviews with some of them!

I’m not exactly sure what to expect. It’s a huge deal. I’m eternally grateful for all of it. As they say, all good things come to those who wait. I’m a patient person, but I can’t tell you how much I just want Thursday to be here already!

Remember last year when we were buried up to our eyeballs in snow? We would often reference our homes to igloos as we mingled with other Eskimos who braved the elements that was the winter of 2011.

This year, exact opposite. After a shattering Halloween snow storm that left many stranded and without power, snow storms have been far and few in between. In fact, it’s even been rather spring like without people even going as far as to lay out on their decks and sunbathe, in January!

Well, it seems mother nature has finally come to her senses, maybe. We’ve already figured out that she’s in need of a mental evaluation, but now I think she remembers it’s January.

This morning, many of us in Litchfield County woke up to a few inches of of snow, enough to make us realize that it’s still the dead of winter. It’s a nice gesture, but I’m worried about what kinds of tricks mother nature has up her sleeve now that she realizes she has forgotten about Connecticut this winter!

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Last night, I was watching one of my trusted news sources, NBC Connecticut, and as I was watching I happened to notice that they were airing a story that took place here in Litchfield County. I was all ears. Anything to do with the local area I immediately want to know about, even if I already know about it! This story, however, I hadn’t known about and I was very excited that I was learning of a new place to discover, and what a place it was indeed. Located in the sprawling countryside in between the rolling hills of Litchfield and Thomaston lies a place called Daffodil Hill which is known to be quite the magical place this time of year as a sea of daffodils take front and center and sprawl themselves across quite a few acres of property that eventually lead to a majestic countryside pond. Daffodil Hill is fairly easy to get to as it lies right off of Route 254 at a place called Laurel Ridge Farm. It is here where people of all ages come to enjoy the beauty that is Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills and it is also here where many photo enthusiasts both professional and non-professionals, come to take in the sights as they work their lenses and capture everything that this landscape has to offer.

It had been my first visit to Daffodil Hill and I was in awe of what lay in front of me. This sea of daffodils came complete with rolling hills, a majestic pond, and a slew of rock walls that bordered the property. This was paradise to me as I can literally sit here for hours on end capturing the essence of daffodils through the lens of my iPhone, which amazingly takes fantastic pictures which you can see for yourself in this column. As I walked through the field and down the hillside, I couldn’t help but reflect on just how special life really is. So often, many of us take it for granted but when you see sights such as this it’s easy to get lost and bask in the glory of life.

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