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Mike Valletta

Storyteller. Photographer. Traveler.

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Litchfield Hills

Summer, Where Are You?

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There’s no doubt that this has been a long winter for us in New England. The days were cold. The nights were even colder. The snow was, well, let’s not even talk about the snow. The fact of the matter here is, that sometime after forty inches, we grew anxious for spring to come, and quite frankly what was another couple of inches on the ground this past week in Connecticut to top things off.

Yes, winter. A season we all love to hate. As a skier, however, I usually live for winter! Not so this season as I was out due to a medical condition. Oh sure, it was great to look at, but now I know just how all you snow haters feel; exhausted!

Like many, I got out to enjoy the tease that mother nature threw at us. Saturday was nearly fifty degrees and Sunday was nearly sixty! All this after having a foot of wet snow dumped on us on Friday. I mean really, I don’t know what that nutcase we call a mother was thinking. Clearly she just needs to be medicated and thrown into rehab. Actually, a padded room sounds more justifiable.

I took a walk around the trails here at home in Torrington. Burr Pond offers a fantastic setting if you’re looking to unwind and unplug a bit. A nice trail that, unfortunately was still very snow covered, ropes around the entire length of the pond and offers some pretty fantastic views of the area from it’s upper slopes. I do this walk quite often, though due to my condition as of late, I’ve had to make sure I bring along a hiking partner in the event that I collapse…in the snow. Thanks, mother nature. Natural padding. I get it. You’re looking out for my best interests. You can stop though, really.

On the horizon, however, there’s talk of more snow for next week. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. Am I the only one dreaming of summer nights on the beach with a tent and a bonfire? That day still seems so distant.

Therapy Through Nature in the Torrington Backwoods

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” -Albert Einstein

The recovery process since my motor vehicle accident has been a long one. Each day, there seems to be a new bump in the road of life. Through it all, however, I have found a great sense of therapy taking in the fresh air as I hike along the trails by my Torrington, CT home. It is here that I am surrounded by nothing but an ample forest and solitude. Hiking along the trails is something I normally do, though as of late it has allowed me to reflect on life and be thankful that I have been given yet another day to walk along the trails.

We take so much for granted. Waking up is not always guaranteed. We live such busy lives. We often forget to unwind and enjoy what we have around us before we simply lose out on the opportunity, then we live with the regret. I believe one of the biggest take aways from this whole experience has been to unwind. Stress plays a major factor in the disease. There’s just something so great about getting up in the morning and hitting the trail, each day seeing something totally new that you didn’t see the day before. These are the little things in life that make us smile, and often because we’re so busy, we don’t take the time out for ourselves to enjoy it.

So many of you have asked me what is my secret to remaining so strong in the recovery process. While there is no doubt this is one of the ways, I am also fortunate enough to be surrounded by such great company on this road of life. Wether it’s going out to dinner, or sharing a few laughs together on social media, I feel truly blessed to have each of you in my life in some way, shape, or form. They say you are the company keep, and that couldn’t hold any more true.

When life comes at you fast, take the break you need. Go out and find yourself. There’s a whole world outside your door just waiting for you to explore, and here in the Torrington backwoods, the exploration has continued to help me remain positive while appreciating the present and looking forward towards the future.

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs

Happy in a Sad State

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Okay. So recently Connecticut has been labeled a sad state in terms of state rankings based on tweets. This study just so happens to come from one of the happiest states, Vermont. Now, generally I would agree whole heartedly about particular areas of Connecticut being just downright miserable. Those in the inner cities and larger metropolotian areas seem to be the most stressed out, and for good reason. Violence plagues those areas, but what about those of us in the rural corners of Connecticut, are we part of that equation at all?

Roughly about five years ago, I moved to the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut for a change of pace. Life is slower in good old northwesten Connecticut. The people are generally friendlier, and life is anything but normal. In fact, my life has become much more entertaining and carefree thanks to that good old mountain attitude carried with some backwards ways of life. Life, at least in this part of Connecticut, is very much a replica of the happiest state, Vermont. We are surrounded by natural elements. Towering pines, flowing rivers, lakes with mountain vistas, and old world country stores where you can get a cup of coffee and chat with your fellow neighbors. The life I live, along with many others in this part of the state, is a happy one.

With low crime rates, an abundance of fresh air, and a life of calm and peace, we are far from the least happiest people on the face of this earth. I would welcome the people who did this survey to reconsider their stance on labeling a state as happy or not happy. Just because one particular area has an infestation of negativity, does not necessarily mean thier attitude represents the state as whole. In fact, you may want to ask our city slicker weekenders why they bother coming up here if it’s such a horrible place to be. I’m sure they will be asking you what you mean by horrible. It’s downright gorgeous, and though we are a small state, we differ in so many ways.

Leave Inspired: How One Art Gallery in Torrington Plays a Big Role

What is it about art that seemingly takes us to a world away? Art is funny like that. We stare at it. Admire it. Laugh at it. Think about it. In the end, we get lost in it, and as we do we find ourselves almost in a parallel universe. Why, you could almost find yourself taking a mini vacation. Okay, but without the sound effects.

There’s one artist I really admire, even to this day. He’s the Norman Rockwell of Litchdield County, Connecticut. He’s an inspiration to my dreams and he’s very much an inspiration to all. Joe Kopler, based right in the rural city of Torrington, Connecticut is a small town man with a big heart, and his work reflects it.

Joe has an art gallery located right in his home, a bit unique, but once you spend time there you will suddenly find yourself getting motivated to go out and do the things you inspire to do. Quotes such as “Time is a river, you can choose to ride the positive river flowing through life or you can choose to fight the current struggle to stay in place.” blanket his art gallery.

Joe is a positive vibe for Torrington, as well as Litchfield County. His art inspires. He even inspires me to continue writing this blog, and to keep doing the things I love! (Wow, art does all that?)

You’ll notice something a little different about Joe’s work, however. He isn’t your everyday artist. His art is sculptured, almost three dimensional so it’s as if you’re really there in the painting! I have a few hanging up on the walls at home, and after a long day at work, it’s great to come back home and get lost in his paintings. I love to just sit back on the couch and let my imagination run wild.

More recently, Joe’s artwork has been helping me to recover. I was in an accident back in December and I’ve been spending a lot of time at home. Glancing up at his paintings and dreaming about far distant places has been very theraputic. I can’t say that about many artists.

So Joe, thank-you. Thank-you for creating the wonderful works of art that you do. Thank-you for continuing to inspire me, and many others, to become better people. I couldn’t have done it without you and your art. Thank-you, for being you.

For more information, check out his website!

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Battening Down the Hatches

Living at or above 1,000 feet is often a joy, especially during the winter time when the snow really piles up. During the fall, the views are picturesque. During a hurricane, nothing is all that joyous!

The talk today has been how bad the winds from Sandy are going to be, especially at the higher elevations like we have here in Litchfield County. The talk of 60-80 mph gusts throughout the duration of the storm will have anyone at high altitudes shaking, and with the amount of trees that surround us, well you get the picture. It’s going to be scary!

Power outages are a sure thing. Already prepared for that by stocking up on candles and the essentials. We’re now less than 48 hours from impact. Many of us have already battened down the hatches. All that is left to do is wait. If the forecast plays out exactly as it is planned, then Litchfield County will be spared the significant rains, but won’t be spared the damaging winds. Much of my property has been cleared off. Oh, how I wish I lived in a field without trees around though.

Remember, get prepared for the worst. Not that the worst will happen, but it’s better to be safe then sorry. Spend the day today gathering last minute things and connecting with friends and loved ones. We’ll get through this!

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Snowshoeing in Northwestern Connecticut

What is it about snow that brings out the kid in you? It seems for me, each time it snows, a bit of childhood comes back with it. Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much, then again, I could just be wildly insane. Either way, when there’s a snow day to be had, you can be rest assured I’m out there enjoying every minute of it.

While most days I’m up in Vermont out on the slopes, this past Sunday morning I got to finally test out my snowshoes I had received for Christmas from my mother. Here in northwestern Connecticut, there’s plenty of places to explore, but considering it was 10AM and I had just got home from a long 12 hour overnight shift, I wasn’t looking to travel any further than right in my own backyard.

I decided to hit up the Still River Greenway in Torrington. While it’s a great place to walk and bike during the summer, it’s also the perfect place to snowshoe and cross country ski during the winter. Not too many people would think of a greenway to be a year round place of refuge, but indeed it is.

Parking my car at the entrance by Winsted, I strapped on my snowshoes and away I went. The trail isn’t maintained during the winter so snow is a guarantee after any snow storm we get. The surroundings were actually quite peaceful as not a soul was in sight, except for the random passing of vehicles on Winsted Road, of course, which isn’t exactly the harmonic sounds of nature, but none the less, a relaxing experience away from any hustle and bustle.

The best part about snowshoeing the greenway is that it’s flat. No need to try and manage your way around boulders or occasional tree roots that will have you falling flat on your face! As an inexperienced snowshoer, it’s probably not best that I attempt any of that just yet. I do need my legs to ski for the rest of the winter, otherwise I might just suffer winter depression like the majority of folks! Then again, that may stop me from doing anymore snow dances for the rest of the winter.

Litchfield County Gets a Taste of Winter, Finally

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!

Featured post

Winter Bliss in Torrington

Sometimes, so many of us get lost in the whirlwind of everything in life and forget the world around us. Sometimes, that world, is just better when it’s left untouched by human hands.

As Henry David Thoreau once said: “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

It doesn’t get much better than a visit to Torrington’s Burr Pond State Park. A visit today shows a slight ice formation on top, not yet ready for ice skating though!

Eggnog Like it Used to Taste

Those are the exact words as it’s read on the bottle of eggnog I just picked up from Arethusa Farm Dairy in Bantam. It’s not your everyday eggnog. Forget everything that you have ever tasted before and take a taste of times forgotten. Consider it a trip back to yesteryear, a bit of Christmas past if you will. Packed with rich ingredients of milk, cream, whole eggs, pure vanilla cinnamon, and nutmeg, this eggnog has a memorable taste that you’ll never forget and will leave you asking for more.

I got a tip from my good friend Daniella Forte from The Litchfield County Times that it was the best eggnog she had ever tasted so naturally that was my cue to taste it for myself. I’m like a guinea pig when it comes to anything regarding food. A mans gotta eat, right? Might as well try it all! Though I’m not exactly sure where it ends up. That’s another story.

Today, I walked into the farm dairy located on Route 202 in Bantam and demanded I try a sample of this so called best eggnog. Happily, they offered a sample. I wasn’t at all shy. As soon as they handed it to me, down it went! Gone in seconds. I couldn’t help but look around for just another sampling. The rich, creamy eggnog tasted just like it was made from scratch without any extra ingredients. I couldn’t believe it. I just had to have a bottle of this for myself, so of course, that’s exactly what I did. I purchased their collectors bottle right from the fridge. Even the bottle brings back memories of a Christmas past! Remember the days the milkman came to your door to deliver glass bottles of milk? That’s exactly what Arethusa has brought back to life!

The good old days. A simpler time now steeped back in history but brought to life by a local farm dairy. Thanks to Arethusa, I suddenly found my Christmas spirit.

To learn more about Arethusa, visit: http://arethusafarmdairy.com/main.htm

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