Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.


October 2010

Changing of the seasons

Macedonia Brook State Park. Kent,CT

Without a doubt, fall is out as we change gears here in Litchfield county and get ready for a very long winter, as every winter is here in the hills. This autumn season has been, without a doubt, spectacular. It started out early but as it does every year, the foliage really entertained not only the locals, but all of our tourists as well. Leaf peepers from all over the world came to the area to enjoy the sights, as well as supporting many of the local businesses. As a local leaf peeper myself, I enjoyed the array of photography I was able to capture throughout the season, which many of you had the pleasure of viewing on here as well as on my Facebook page and Facebook fan page. I was able to capture a variety of photography from places such as Kent Falls state park in Kent as well as some pretty great shots from Burr Pond in Torrington and many other places across the hills in between.

Though it has been a fantastic autumn season here in Litchfield county, I for one am excited to see what the winter season will bring. As a skier, I enjoy living close to the local resorts such as Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall to Ski Sundown in New Hartford. At a moments notice, I am able to hop in my car and arrive at these places in less than a half hour. Though winter is much more than just skiing here in Litchfield county. I’ve learned last winter that when it snows, it snows, and the landscape is transformed to a pristine blanket of white that will make anyones heart melt as the snow-covered hills seem to shine away. Some may argue that winter is nothing but a hassle as the roads become snow-covered and often times hard to travel, however I feel that you need to look at things in a different perspective and take the time out to enjoy the surroundings that are offered to us, and the winter season here in the Litchfield Hills surely reminds us that we need to do just that.

Cornwall covered bridge. Winter 2009-2010. Cornwall,CT

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Escape the everyday

Autumn foliage at Dennis Hill

Have you been searching for a unique place where you can go and just unwind without the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the real world? We have a variety of those locations across the Litchfield Hills but one in particular stands out from the crowd. Dennis Hill, located in Norfolk, is a quick escape, and a short drive to it’s 1,627 foot summit will have you head over toe as you take in the gorgeous views. On a clear day, you can see up to three states, including New Hampshire. A popular site that you can see is Mt. Greylock in nearby Massachusetts, but again this is only on an incredibly clear day.

On the summit, you will find a pavilion, which was actually once a summer residence of Dr. Frederick Shepard Dennis who was a very popular New York surgeon who gave this site to the state of Connecticut back in 1935. The 240 acres of the park are a popular site for hikers as an array of trails will give you some unique photo opportunities. I have had the pleasure to escape to Dennis Hill on numerous occasions and it is often a place I use to just escape the everyday and get lost in my thoughts and believe me, it really works!

Once you’ve  escaped the everyday and have decided that you had plenty of time to think, you might want to stop in town and have something fresh to eat. Infinity Bistro is just the place and a short drive from Dennis Hill. Located in the famed Infinity Hall, a popular music hall in the region, this bistro is ready to serve up on the best and is committed to serving you as much of the local flavor as possible by using local farms for its foods where possible. Not only does Infinity do a great job of serving you only the best foods from the area, but they also give you a rather unique experience as you step back to the Victorian era with its wood floors and natural colors that surround you. You can’t go wrong with this place! It’s the talk of the region and a popular tourist destination, not to mention it is just the thing to compliment your escape to Dennis Hill.

Summit Pavillion on Dennis Hill.

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Candy Bouquet opens Saturday

Candy Bouquet is ready to entertain your imagination.


If you are looking for something sweet in Torrington, you won’t have to look far come Saturday. Candy Bouquet on 274 East Main Street will be your one stop shop for everything sweetness and officially opens its doors to the Litchfield Hills community on Saturday. This isn’t your ordinary candy shop, however.  It is as bucolic as the Litchfield Hills and is ready to entertain your imagination, as well as your inner child. This place reminds you of simpler times, almost like it was a blast from the past and you are revisiting the 1950’s all over again. Though I wasn’t around in the 1950’s, I know a thing or two of what life was like back then from stories I have heard from the folks that I talk too, and they recall a time where life was at a slower pace, and Candy Bouquet is sure to be a place that will slow you down as you pause to take it all in. With all that candy, however, it won’t be such a long pause but it will most certainly be a very memorable one.

Not only will this place help you relive some childhood moments, it is also sure to be a hit with the kids, after all what kid doesn’t enjoy candy? I can’t think of too many who don’t to be honest with you and this is sure to be a store that they will flock too when they get home from school. It’s location is great and even though it isn’t in downtown, it is in close proximity where perhaps those who wine and dine in downtown can take a short stroll to this great corner location for a delicious treat or two. Tara Lindberg-Stevens, who is in charge of this whole tasty operation, has quite the following. Candy Bouquet is on Facebook and has currently just over 230 fans. With Tara’s positive energy, it is no wonder why she has the loyal following that she does! I have had the pleasure of meeting Tara a few times here in town and I must say she is really a personality plus, which really comes in handy when you are making the community a sweeter place to be.

Thank-You to Fazzino Photography of Torrington for all the great photos!

Local Litchfield Hills Joe Kopler is also involved in the work of everything sweetness. The sign "Welcome to the happiest corner in Torrington" is one of his work of arts! Photo credit: Fazzino Photography

Mike Valletta can be reached for comment at:

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Natural gifts done the local way

Bailey McMillan Artisan Perfumes

The autumn season has just about ended here in Litchfield county and we all know what that means, the holidays are right around the corner. It’s a special time of year, a time to spend with family and friends as we exchange gifts with one another as a way of saying thank-you for all they do throughout the year. With so many gift options out there, as well as advertisements constantly in our faces, it is still important to support those independent small businesses of ours who work tirelessly to make our communities a better place to live and work.  One local business is doing just that, and they are making the world a bit more brighter in their own unique way. Meet Melanie McMillan, a local artisan who owns Bailey McMillan Artisan Perfumes. These perfumes are anything but ordinary, they are extraordinary! The core mission of Bailey McMillan Artisan Perfumes is to create all natural products in very small batches to ensure the highest of quality as well as for the products to bring joy to those who use them.

Melanie is as extraordinary as her perfumes. A former seminary student, Melanie considers this her true calling and is incredibly passionate about what she does, in fact she puts her heart and soul into it. She creates a variety of products, all ranging in price from $8-$150. This years fall-winter collection is the most extensive ever. Products like Aromatheraphy room sprays are available and come in two scents: a combination of lavender and bergamot, or you could try a seasonal favorite of cloves, cinnamon, pine, orange, and myrrh. Not only do these room sprays smell as good as they sound, but they also offer many antibacterial properties as well, surely helping matters during the cold and flu season. Another product offered is a perfume oil, which is packaged in a bronze, roll on bottle. It features the all-natural scents of blood orange, Boronia, vanilla and sandalwood. It is sure to make a great gift this holiday season, especially for those interested in the rare and hard to find.

If you are ever in doubt that the local scene doesn’t have that much to offer, the answer to correct you is right under your nose. Bailey McMillan is a Litchfield county resident and based right here in Torrington. She has a nose for this stuff but a passion to share it with you as the essence of the spirit is in all of the companies perfumes and aromatheraphy products, and once you discover these fantastic products, you too will have that same passion to share it as well.

Winds of change at The Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival. Photo courtesy of Mike Agogliati of The Register Citizen.

The Harvest Festival, which took place in downtown Torrington on October 22nd 2010, was without a doubt a huge success. A crisp autumn night here in Litchfield county warmed the hearts of many as they flocked to Main Street to join in the festivities. Many understood, however, that this festival was much more than just a festival, it was all part of bringing downtown Torrington back to life. After all, we can’t revitalize our community without first incorporating the community in the efforts, and this was a terrific way for everyone to show their support to the local businesses who are putting everything they have into bringing back our downtown.

Due to my overnight work schedule, as well as my rather long commute from Litchfield county, I was unable to attend the Harvest Festival. The magic of local radio, however, brought all the energy that was downtown through the speakers of my car. WAPJ, 105.1FM based out of downtown Torrington, did a fantastic job of covering the event. They brought onto the air people such as Mayor Ryan Bingham who was incredibly energized about the event and loved seeing the amount of support for the local businesses. He said something along the lines of “This is the best place to be right now on the earth”, and I couldn’t agree with him more. Where else can a community come together on a frosty New England night just to have a little fun while supporting such a fantastic town that is willing to do everything it takes to turn around its downtown.

Without a doubt, downtown Torrington is on the move. With projects such as Torrington Downtown Partners, which members of the community are able to have a say of what they want to happen with one entire city block by buying shares starting at $100, the future of Torrington is looking brighter as a community comes together to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.There are those, however, that still wish to sit on the sidelines and watch as all this progress takes place, though slowly that sideline is becoming smaller as more people are beginning to realize that our downtown is coming back to life, and they want to be a part of it.

Mike Valletta can be reached for comment at:

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Bucolic New England

Delicious apples are just waiting for you to enjoy at an orchard near you.

Here in New England we have an amazing opportunity each and every fall to experience such a fantastic season that unfolds in front of us. The leaves turn magnificent shades of a variety of warm colors as our cool autumn nights lead to early morning frost. Many of us here in New England also enjoy all that we get to experience such as a trip to a local orchard where we can pick our own apples right off the trees and bring them on home to whip up a classic American apple pie topped off with crisp vanilla ice cream.

This year was the first year for me to discover the local orchards here in Litchfield County. I have always frequented Rogers Orchards on the top of Southington Mountain in Southington, but this year I wanted to explore the orchards here in the Litchfield Hills as so many people have bragged to me about them. I decided to take their word and set off to explore one local orchard that was anything but ordinary, this place was the bucolic New England you have been searching for. Ellsworth Hill Orchard & Berry Farm located in Sharon just up Route 4 is quite the amazing experience. Folks come from all across the globe just to discover this place and it’s no wonder why. It sits atop a hill and overlooks some incredible views of Litchfield County. The orchard is the highest point of the farm and is one of the best places to catch these views. The orchard is, of course, a great place this time of year as you get to pick all your own apples to bring home. This is an exciting event that the whole family can enjoy and is really fun for the kids. Ellsworth has done a great job of planting and maintaining these apple trees over the years and it is visible by the delicious apples that they produce.

Be a kid again!

Ellsworth offers you every kind of apple you can imagine. Everything from Macoun to Northern Spy is just waiting for your enjoyment. My personal favorite is the Golden Delicious, which is perfectly described in its name! A splash of sweetness with a taste you just can’t beat. Speaking of tasting, your probably going to want to walk it all off. Ellsworth has a unique treat for you. Have you ever dreamed to be a kid again? Well, here is where that dream can all come true! Ellsworth offers you a giant corn maze that you will make you want to play hide and go seek and relive all those great childhood memories. The corn maze is also very educational, however, as you are given a crossword puzzle to fill out as you’re searching for clues inside the maze which are questions that you have to figure out the answer to. It’s an amazing experience you’re not going want to miss out on, it was possibly the best hour I’ve spent today.

Once you’ve found your way out of the maze, check out the retail store, which is actually a barn that was built back in 1740! Talk about history. There were certainly many generations of families that have passed through these doors. Step inside to a rustic barn with a real cider mill! Be sure to get a glimpse of that and learn all about the process of what it takes to make apple cider. It’s quite the process! This store is sure to delight you, however, as you get a taste of the local flavor. Ellsworth offers you everything from apple cider to baked products that are sure to delight. Though take your time. Your going to want to stay here for a while and take it all in as you are smack dat in the middle of simpler times, and what an experience it is.

Take a step back in time at Ellsworth.


Mike Valletta can be reached for comment at:

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Thank-you, everyone

As a writer, it is extremely important to be connected to my audience. If I can’t be connected, then I have not done my job well and have lost touch with my audience. Many of you are probably wondering why I have been absent from posting anything in almost a week, which for me is incredibly unusual. Unfortunate circumstances have occurred this past week in my life as a dear childhood friend sadly passed away last Wednesday. It was a tough loss suffered for me as I would have never thought for a second that something so unfortunate would happen so soon to one of my friends I grew up with. It was an eye-opening experience and a wake up call telling me that life is incredibly short and can end in a split second. We never know what is going to happen day-to-day or even hour by hour. Life is truly fragile, which is why we should live every moment of our lives as positive as we could, even through life’s toughest moments.

I want to thank so many of you who have written in to me expressing your condolences as well as sharing your stories of losses as well. Your words have helped me to move on and get through this very rough time in my life. All of your words, however, have made me think of something else as well. It has made me think of just how strong our Litchfield County community really is. A community that has come together to offer their support and compassion. It has all been really touching and I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done to help me get through such a rough time. Now, however, it is time to move on as I begin yet another chapter in my life.

Mike Valletta

Mike Valletta can be reached for comment at:

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In the heart of autumn

There is no doubt that we are smack dat in the middle of an amazing autumn here in Litchfield County. The trees have magnificently turned the hillsides into an explosion of colors, and that is just the start. Autumn may be the changing on the leaves, but it is the experience that brings so many to our region. This autumn, I have traversed the Litchfield Hills countryside countless of times, each time noticing the fantastic changes that have taken place, but at the same time experiencing the magic of the season.

Still River Pond in Torrington in all the amazing glory that autumn has to offer.

Autumn is all about some classic R&R. You just can’t beat it. Wether your unwinding by visiting one of our many vineyards like Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen or your taking in the scenery at one of our many lakes as the colors of the leaves reflect off of them, autumn really is a season to be one with as your taking in the cool autumn air. I have visited many places to enjoy the scenery though one in particular that was close to home really took me by surprise. Stillwater Pond in Torrington is unlike anything I have ever witnessed before.  Take a short hike from Stillwater Pond Road, into the woods through the tall pines and find yourself on a grassy dam that overlooks the pond. It is without a doubt, incredible. The hills seem to flow right into the pond as the pond gently flows itself into a waterfall that is just to the left of the dam. This is an experience you won’t want to miss out on.

Speaking of experiences, you may get a little hungry after all this breathtaking scenery. Torrington has something really unique to offer you that you absolutely must check out. It has a little more character than most places, in fact once you find it you’ll be blasting off all around town with it. It is called Rocket Fine Street Food and they are located in a few different locations, though mainly in the parking lot at Oddo Print Shop on East Main Street in downtown. They have some amazing offerings and source much of their food as locally as they possibly could. Green chilli cheeseburgers are just the start, though this time of year they have started serving an old New England classic; apple cider donuts! If you are looking into tying in food with your autumn experience in the Litchfield Hills, this has to be on your to do list. Be sure to tell them I sent you as Joe and his wife Patricia work incredibly hard each day to bring you the best that Litchfield County has to offer.

Once you’ve fueled up with Rocket, you’ll be set to explore the hills. You can take on the challenges of hiking places like Haystack mountain in Norfolk which is home to a stone tower that overlooks the Litchfield Hills and the Taconic mountains of New York to the west. It is here where you can really get some spectacular views of the foliage as the landscape paints an explosion of color as the valley below flows like waves in the ocean.

Now is the time to really explore Litchfield County, or as I like to call it “The LC”. Foliage comes fast around here, and leaves just as fast as it comes to town. Where there is color one day, there may not be color the next day. Those cool, crisp autumn days lead to even colder autumn nights, which for us is the perfect time to get those fireplaces up and running.

Pond at Haystack Mountain in Norfolk.

Mike Valletta can be reached for comment at:

Be sure to check us out on The Register Citizen. Northwest Connecticut’s Local Newspaper:

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Sweet deal from Candy Bouquet


Candy Bouquet

I can’t even begin to tell you how attracted I am to something sweet. Sugar is by far an incredible weakness for me. With its eye appealing packaging and its lucious taste, it’s no wonder why we are so attracted to this stuff! Tara Lindberg-Stevens of Candy Bouquet here in Torrington is marketing for that exact appeal. Since we all can’t seem to cut the addiction, we might as well enjoy the sweeter things in life. I did a story during the summer on Tara while she was a vendor at Main Street Marketplace in downtown Torrington. She had an undeniable amount of success down there and many asked her where her store was located. To their surprise, Tara didn’t own a store at the time, which is exactly what triggered her recent events. Tara will now be opening up a Candy Bouquet at 274 East Main Street in Torrington. If you get a chance, stop by and check on her progress, you’ll definitely want to keep in the know about this store opening up. It’s packed to the brim with sweetness and will sure to be a delight for the whole family.

Tara has long been a follower of mine on Facebook, in fact, I believe she was among the firsts! Recently, I had a contest going on my Facebook Fan Page for the blog offering up a $25 Gift Card to Brazen Betties in downtown Torrington, which would be given to the 300th fan. Sure enough, just the other day the 300th fan came along and off went the contest! Tara then decided to offer up an amazing sweet deal I just couldn’t help but to pass up, she wanted a part in my contests. How could I deny Tara, I’m all for making our communities sweeter places to be as it is, and so is Tara and her very successful Candy Bouquet business. Tara’s sweet deal is not for me, rather for all of you! She is willing to give away a free candy bouquet to the 400th fan of  “In touch…with the Litchfield Hills” on Facebook. These candy bouquets not only make for a great afternoon delight, they also make for great gifts! They come in an array of shapes, sizes, and styles and are suited perfectly just for you.

This is definitely one sweet deal you just can’t help not to pass up!

Join the Facebook Fan Page by clicking HERE!

Mike Valletta can be reached for comment at:

Be sure to check us out on The Register Citizen. Northwest Connecticut’s Local Newspaper:

Become a fan on Facebook! Friend Request Mike! Follow us on Twitter!

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