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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

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When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

I have been living in my house for nearly five years. Five years doesn’t exactly seem all that big of a deal until one day you sit and stare at the amount of stuff you have accumulated and just cry “Ohhh my!”. I literally just found myself having one of those moments. Over the past five years I have accumulated enough stuff to fit in a Donald Trump penthouse. In those five years, I’ve probabally spent what the Don rakes in per year.

It’s hard to imagine how much we bring into our homes and never end up really using. Why, I have stero systems I haven’t used since my first year in the house, curtains I’m clearly never going to use again after hoarding them into a closet three years ago, and books that are simply collecting dust thanks to my ipad and iPhone. So, now the question I’m facing is just what in the world do I now do with all of this wasted stuff that, quite simply, is just stressing me out.

I can think of a number of solutions. A bonfire seems rather appropiate and so does hiring a team of people from Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Then, there’s always the good old, let’s just pack everything away in the attic or garage and pretend it simply doesn’t exist further enhancing the problem because I’m going to have to get back to it eventually. It’s apparent that none of these options seem appropriate and I’m just going to have to dive in and tackle it my own way. Now, just what way is that exactly.

My friend, The Decorating Dork, seems to have a solution for me as she is faced with a similar situation. She is taking part in a project being called Tackle It Tuesday. This project is a 52 week house cleaning challenge in which members attack one specific area of their home each Tuesday and share these expereiencs in a Facebook community or on their own blog, broadcasting their challenges and successes to their friends, family, and even total strangers. Talk about a great way to stay motivated and stick with it! With a project like this, I’m hoping that my house will start to look like a Trump Tower Penthouse.

So, while I’m not saying I’m a hoarder, I am saying that even a little clutter can add stress to your life. Sometimes, we all need to step back and take the time out to tackle it before all that wasted stuff gets a hold on you, and it can!

Clutter in your home is known to increase stress and anxiety levels, enhance or create depression, and can also create potential health problems from allergens in the home. While I never thought of having all this stuff meant anything to me, like some sort of status, at the time I purchased it all, I was indulging in what is often referred to as retail therapy. Well, this therapy has now led me to needing therapy for my home! The next time I’m out indulging in retail therapy, I’ll remember that it looks better in the window at the store.

Oprah has put together some unique ways to unclutter your life. By doing just so many little things, such as staying more organized and trashing or recycling things that you don’t really need, you could potentially become a much happier person. Since I’m pretty happy with my life, I know my clutter isn’t that bad, but even still it could become that bad!

So, as I write this and stare somberly at the mounds of stuff I have to tackle, I give you this piece of advice; don’t become the next television star of Hoarders.

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Social Media Minute: The Social Media Lifestyle

It’s about 7AM and the sun starts shining through my window to wake me up. As I awake, I quickly reach over to my iPhone to glance through Facebook and Twitter status updates that I missed from overnight.

Around 7:30AM I’m checking into my morning shows via my GetGlue app which are then shared out to my social media sites so that my family and friends can see what shows I’m tuning into.

8AM, I’m out the door and making a stop out to McDonalds for breakfast where I check in via my Foursquare app. As I’m sitting down for breakfast enjoying my cup of coffee, I’m enjoying the conversations I’m having with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

This, is the life of a social media guru. I’m constantly connected throughout the day. With Facebook, I can scroll through my feeds and event invites to see what is happening and where I what I want my agenda to be for the day. It’s also on Facebook where I’ll share the pictures I have taken throughout the day, including places I’ve checked into.

Some say, I’ve gone too far with being socially connected, others say it’s an addiction, but is it really? Is constantly being connected to the world really such a bad thing? I beg to differ. My connection to the world around me, and essentially a world that’s always at my fingertips, has deepened my relationships amongst family and friends and has helped to foster new friendships from people I otherwise wouldn’t have met.

Take the Foursquare app for instance. While sitting in line at the drive thru of a local McDonald’s, I checked into the establishment utilizing Foursquare while at the same time, one other person had checked in just seconds before me. That person, was the driver of the car sitting in front of me. We connected via the app and met in real time with a friendly wave.

Living a social media life isn’t hard, and with the advancements of today’s smart phones, there’s certainly not a lot of hard work involved either. Social media has essentially made the social world much simpler and user friendly, even to those who are otherwise introverts. Would it shock you to know that I too was once an introvert and to this day, still display a bit of it? Judging by my social platforms, you would have never known!

So the next time you’re contemplating about how much you are using your social networks, take a second look. You may not be using it enough or to it’s potential. There’s a greater good out there and social media can help you get there, one connection at a time.

Social Media Minute: Introducing Timeline

Changes are coming once again to your Facebook account. In just about a week, Facebook has given users notice that they will transition users personal pages to the new timeline format. Timeline is a hip new way to explore life on Facebook. Think of it as a diary of your entire life portrayed right in front of you in a virtual world, right up from the time you were born.

Many users had shielded from activating timeline on their own for the fear of change, but fear not. Timeline is about to be a huge part of your life, and you’ll be looking at your life you never have before. With timeline, you’ll have the ability to see what kinds of relationships you used to have or what kinds of things you had posted to your Facebook wall.

It’s time to welcome change, not shield it. If you’re like me and live your entire life on social media sites, you’ll fall in love with timeline. Check out the video for a brief overview of what’s coming your way.

Facebook Shakes Up the Locals

They say we should embrace change. We should welcome it with open arms and cuddle it like a cute little teddy bear. Well, I’m not cuddling the new Facebook layout like some cute little teddy bear, and neither are many of you as we all woke up today to yet another change Facebook has created, this time with it’s newsfeed.

For those of you out of the loop, Facebook has now customized the way you look at your newsfeed, almost like a daily newspaper. You have your top stories at the top, which are those Facebook thinks you’ll find the most interesting, followed by the most recent status updates from your friends. Well, if Facebook really knew me like it says it does, maybe it should get to know itself a little better. My top stories are those that are actually bashing Facebook for this very radical change. I haven’t met a person yet today that has approved of it. In fact, some of you have even gone on to nickname Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Suckerberg! I can’t attest that I have actually thought these things, but I do come close.

As a social media guru who lives every moment of his life through social media sites, it’s important that I know how to use it all times. When Facebook went and did a 360 this morning, I was like a lost puppy! In many ways, my social media guru attitude is slowly becoming obsolete as the change comes without warning or without anytime for me to get familiar with the new changes. Not cool.

Yes, it will take time to get to know this new frontier we have all woken up to this morning, but can’t the people at Facebook wake up and hear us? We don’t want change. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Period. I believe I speak for the majority on this one.

How You Can Help Japan

Like so many others, I have been paying close attention to the devastating events that have taken in place in Japan this past weekend. It’s heartbreaking to see so many lives lost, as well as families displaced and missing. One event after another. First, an earthquake. Next, a tsunami followed by explosions of nuclear facilities and volcanic eruptions. One has to wonder how much can one country take? The thought of something like this occurring here at home has crossed my mind numerous times this past weekend as I watched the events unfold on TV as well as across my news feeds on Facebook and Twitter. We have been very fortunate here in New England to not witness something as catastrophic as Japan, however it most certainly can, and will, happen one day in the future.

As someone who cares a great deal for communities, I can’t help but want to do my part to help those that need us right now in Japan, which is why I am donating $10 to The American Red Cross to aid in the recovery efforts of this horrible tragedy. Sure, it may only be a mere $10, however when you think of it on a larger scale, if everyone were to donate $10, it would have a significant impact. In this economy, even $10 may be hard to cough up. I feel, however, that whatever I needed that money for is not nearly as important as what the people of Japan need it for. These people need our help, and I’m most certainly not going to sit back and just watch the events unfold without doing my part. If anything were to happen locally, you can bet that I would do the same thing. In a different aspect, if anything this tragic were to happen to any of us, I’m sure all those people that we have helped will remember our giving nature and return the favor. We live in one world, and one world only. It’s vitally important that we help each other and act with selfless service, because no matter what we are going through, there is always someone else that is going through far worse.

Part of this blogs core mission is to connect the community, in more ways than one. Today, we are connecting more than the community. A new page has been adapted on the site to give readers a chance to help aid in recovery efforts overseas. The Japan Disaster Relief page will be updated frequently to give readers a wealth of information on ways to help with this devastating disaster. If you want to see a charity added, or know of anyone else that is helping aid in recovery efforts, please e-mail me at NorthwestCTMike@aol.com so they may be added to the page.

One world. That’s all we live in. It’s important to come together to help solve some of the worlds biggest problems because together, everyone achieves more.

Spring is in the Air

Everywhere you look, there are signs that spring is on its way. From the birds chirping as the sunrises in the morning, to the late sunsets at night, it’s not hard to notice that the groundhog was indeed correct this year, even after we swore that we wouldn’t believe a word that little thing said as we lay trapped in our igloos.

This winter has been harsh, there simply is no denying that. We had a weekly subscription to monstrous snow storms that didn’t want to go away back in January. To many, this was simply a nuisance, but for skiers like myself, it was an absolute paradise! I couldn’t have asked for a better winter as I continued to pray for snow while making enemies with the people around me, which this winter, there weren’t many. Yes, as much as I love winter, I haven’t exactly made a great deal of friends that share the same love I have, and to make matters even worse, many of those friends of mine refuse to make the drive to see me, and vise versa. It’s one of the many downsides of winter; social isolation if you will, and with the winter that we have had that practically left us trapped inside of our homes, many faced the same situation.

As someone who is usually very outgoing, it was certainly daunting laying trapped at home. Sure, Facebook was a great way to stay connected, but that can only do so much. Human interaction is essential you know, and don’t let anyone fool you! Once the storms let up, it was time for me to meet up with folks at the slopes, which was also short-lived thanks to yet another wicked bad storm heading our way.

Yes, you are reading this all correct. If this column sounds confusing to you, that’s because it is. I have a love/hate relationship with winter. I love skiing, I love the snow, but I hate the lack of social interaction. It was like I was an Eskimo stuck in an igloo in the middle of Antarctica! All by myself. Well, I can honestly say, now that the days have gotten progressively longer, and there has been a lack of severe storms, I have had a bit more social interaction in my life as the Eskimo in me gets shipped right back to wherever he came from. Maybe Antarctica, that cold, dark, remote tundra that I can’t bear to think about as the rays of sunshine flow through my window and awaken me each day.

Spring is almost here. It’s time to rise and shine and throw ourselves a party, which I believe is well deserved!

Here’s to the groundhog that brought the good news! Cheers!

Adding a Touch of Green in Winsted

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

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

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

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

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

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

EDITORIAL: Blogging Still Thrives

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

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

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

Crash Monday is coming to Torrington

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

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

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

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