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Do Every Blessed Town in Connecticut


Holy guacamole! It’s been a while (2 years, to be exact) and a lot has changed…the abridged version is as follows:  I became a “real” aunt, then got married and became a real aunt x5 (that’s 6 in total), traveled to the other side of the world to hold a koala, got a brandy new kitten, Betty Boop (pictured below in her “going to camp” outfit) and then finally settled back into normal life where my *husband* and I made our marriage goal, which is what this post is about.  That should pretty much catch you up.

Betty.jpg

After thinking long and hard, we decided that together we will run a race in every single town in our home state of CT – that’s 169 races!  I also want to disclose that I thought this was a COMPLETELY ORIGINAL idea – it was not, but I still think I should get creativity points, because I really did think I came up with this idea.  I even told Ben that at races we should make sure we tell every person we meet our plan so a few months from now people will see us and say “Hey look, that’s that power couple who is running races everywhere in the whole state”.  Obviously by this point we would have been on the news a few times, probably have a book deal, and definitely would have at least 2 body guards (we needed those ever since our appearance on the Ellen Show).  I mean lets be honest, we only have so much time to shake hands and sign autographs.

Anyways, since we have been dating we have run about 10 races together, but the trouble is they were ALL in either Hartford or Manchester…so we are pretty much starting from the bottom.  I have personally run races in about 20 towns, before I started dating Ben, but I figured it was a good idea to get really out of shape, fat and slow before starting this challenge with Ben – you know, to boost his confidence.  The good news is that the only place to go from here is up.  In the past week we have also added two more races to our repertoire: Milford and Enfield.

races.jpg

Race 1Hartford Scramble Series.  We ran this series together when we first started dating.  The Scramble series was a cool race where you ran through the woods and also in urban settings and finished off with a free taco and beer. (you’ll come to see that races that end in beer are our favorite).

Race 2Manchester Thanksgiving Day Road Race.  We ran this race when we were engaged in 17 degrees.  Frankly, it was one of the more horrific events of my life, but decided to do it that year instead of drinking at my brothers – stupid decision.

Race 3Milford Road Runners 5K.  We ran this race last week on the 4th of July on the face of the sun, a town also known as Milford, CT.  I ran into an old friend, who told me at the starting line that it was a hilly course, and I’ve never heard a more true statement.  The first half mile was directly uphill…somehow I made it, but it wasn’t pretty.  While Ben pranced through the course waving an American flag like a true Patriot, I barely slogged over the finish line.  I think its clear that the sunglasses were weighing me down.

milfor.jpg

Race 4:  Enfield Celebration 5K.  We ran the Enfield Celebration 5K on Saturday, and it was literally even hotter than the 4th of July. Perfect.  My only goal was to keep up with the 83 year old man who (obviously) was drafting off me.  At mile two we turned onto a hill similar to Mt. Everest – that’s where I lost Tom.  I hope in 50 years I’m still as ambitious as he is.

Anyways, per usual, since all the registration information and reminder emails harped on the importance of bringing your ID, I forgot mine at home.  This has happened to me on several important occasions, including a brewery visit for my dad’s 60th birthday and also at my own sister’s Bachelorette party.  So I had to do the usual – rely on my charm to get me to the other side (except for the brewery time when my mom got me in by “pulling a JoAnne”).  Luckily, I was able to get into the beer tent.  Unluckily, we parked “inside” the parade route, so also had to sit through 40 minutes of boy scouts, wheely-popping shriners, karate kids, home improvement companies, and no less than 4 million sirens.  cool.

Races_4.169

If you have gotten this far down the page, god bless!  Going forward, I’ll update more regularly with Do Every Blessed Town In Connecticut (debtiConn) updates!  I may even pop in with other fun and interesting things that I come across, because after all, Erin (still) Has Thoughts.

xo

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New Hartford Wineries 2 of 2: Connecticut Valley Winery


The Connecticut Valley Winery was the third stop on our 3 stop wine tour a few weeks ago. The tasting station was pretty busy, and we had already done a couple earlier in the day, so we decided to just get a bottle of wine and enjoy it with our snacks.

Address: 1480 Litchfield Turnpike New Hartford, CT 06057

Cost For Tasting: $8, however we just purchased a bottle for about $14.

Ranking: 6 – wine was good, however the tasting room was small and there was limited seating outside. It also seemed that there was a large banquet area. So, it may be a nice place for a wedding reception or large party, but for a small intimate setting..ehh…

Tastings are offered on Saturday and Sunday from 12–5 pm. During Wine Trail Season (May–November), tastings are offered Thursday–Sunday from 12–5 pm. We chose one of their red wines: Black Tie Cabernet Francm which as stated on their website, is “an elegant and sophisticated red table wine, robust with a dry, silky finish”.

CT Valley Winery

winning wines

Kate

the spread

the vineyard

Fathers Day Fun Day!


This Father’s Day I decided to ask my dad if he wanted to do something with me.  Every year for Fathers Day, Christmas, and his birthday I get him the same thing – a gift certificate to the bike shop he frequents.  This year I decided to mix it up.  My dad chose the route:  the Nipmunk Trail, which is 34.5 meandering miles of blue-blazed trails throughout Connecticut.  We picked up the trail right down the road from UConn and started on our hike.  Since we got about 9 inches (literally) of rain last week, there were some really muddy parts and lots of small streams that we had to find ways to cross.  I, of course, would find the most narrow part of the stream with a big rock in the middle to make a safe crossing.  My dad, on the other hand, would tightrope walk across a thin (and seemingly unreliable) fallen tree or branch.  Luckily he made it every time, but I was completely fine taking the “safe route”.

map

dad and taz on the trail

We walked about 3 miles out, seeing a bunch of cool things:  We crossed over a little bridge with a HUGE crayfish on it.  It was dead, but it was still cool…taz thought so too.  There was also a lot of huge trees that were uprooted and had fallen over.  Taz had a great time swimming in the river next to the trail, but at times seemed a bit stressed because of the currant.

Taz on the nipmunk

taz swimming

taz and dad

sign

upturned trees

chair

erin and taz

snake

Finally we made it to the Gurleyville Gristmill.  I’ve never heard of this gristmill before, my pops discovered it on one of his long bike rides around the state, so that is where we hiked to.  Come to find out the Gurleyville Gristmill is the state’s only remaining stone grist mill and was built back in the 1720’s – that’s almost 300 years ago!!  I guess my gram is right – they just don’t make things to last like they did “back then”.  Another interesting fact:  the mill was operated for years by the family of Wilbur Cross, a former Connecticut governor.  We were able to go inside and check it out.

grist mill home

grist mill sign

grist mill

dad at mill

me and dad

After we made it back to the car, we ended our afternoon with a trip over to the UConn Dairy Bar.  The UConn Dairy Bar sells ice cream, and other dairy products, produced by the UConn Creamery, and has been doing so since the early 1900’s.  As to “not spoil our dinner” we each only had one scoop, but man-o-man was that enough.  I couldn’t have eaten two scoops if I tried!!  I got Cake Batter ice cream, and my dad got Toasted Almond Amaretto and both were delicious.

UConn Dairy Bar

UConn

We had such a great day, I’m thinking we should not wait until next Father’s Day to do it again!!

Devil’s Hopyard, East Haddam, CT


Over this past weekend, me and Taz went on a nice hike over at Devils Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, CT.  The park was significantly further from my house than I expected.  For some reason I thought it was only about 25 minutes away, but really, it was an hour.  boooo.  Anyways, it was absolutely gorgeous out, about 50 degrees without a cloud in the sky.  Of course, being me, I always wish for it to be warmer, but hey, at least the sun was shining.

I had some major issues with this hike, which I’m sure does not come as a surprise.  I started out on the Orange trail (which for some reason in my head I thought was the Yellow trail, which could have been part of the problem), and things were going well for a while, but after I hit the scenic overlook (see pic below), things got hairy and I got lost.  Must have been those devils in the hopyard.  Anyways, Taz and I were hoping all over the dang yard…we kept thinking we were back on the path, but then the path would disappear again and we were basically just walking through the woods.

Eventually I came to this road, and decided to it was in my best interest to walk back on the street…We had already walked about an hour and a half to two hours and we had 2 more stops on our Sunday Funday Adventure before going home…and the way this was going, it really could have taken all day!  All in all, we had a great time though, see for yourself:

Taz posing by the State Park Sign.  What a handsome fellow

Taz posing by the State Park Sign. What a handsome fellow

Me and Taz taking a quick scenery break

Me and Taz taking a quick scenery break

Waterfall along the way

Waterfall along the way

Me and Taz at the waterfall.  He was a bit stressed.  I think it was probably because he fall in a waterfall as a puppy and was having terrifying fashbacks.  He was willing to take a quick picture near the falls, but only one! haha

Me and Taz at the waterfall. He was a bit stressed. I think it was probably because he fall in a waterfall as a puppy and was having terrifying fashbacks. He was willing to take a quick picture near the falls, but only one! haha

2013 Fight For Air Climb


fight for airTypically throughout the spring and summer I spend many a weekend morning up early to run in races.  Some of them are for fun, and some of them are for causes.  This past weekend I did a race much different than one I’ve ever participated in before called the Fight For Air Climb.  The Fight for Air Climb is a unique type of race that took place in downtown Hartford at City Place.  Its not a road race or a trail run, but rather a “vertical race” where we ran up 34 flights of stairs at City Place.  A good friend asked me to do this with them and I was was intregued, partially because I have never run in a “stair race” before, but mostly because the money raised goes to the American Lung Association, which is an amazing organization that works to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung diseases, like asthma, emphysema and lung cancer to name just a few.  This is something close to my heart as my mother lost her mother to lung cancer years before I was even born and I currently have other family members suffering from the same disease.  No one should have to struggle to breathe, something that most of us can do so easily and naturally.

photo 2The race itself was…interesting…to say the least.  There was a few hundred participants, all raising at least $100, but some over $1,000 for the American Lung Association.  How it works was that everyone lines up and every 20 seconds a person starts up the stairs – this minimizes the “stampede” effect.  I thought, since I work out frequently and am in pretty good physical healthy, that this would be easy.  I mean really, whats 34 flights of stairs?! (That’s totally obnoxious to say, right?  Don’t worry, I “got mine”).  The stair climbing portion, was in fact easy…What was not easy was breathing.

I’m going to say this in the nicest way I possibly can…whoever thought that having hundreds of people tramp up 30+ flights of stairs in a completely 100% enclosed area with absolutely ZERO ventilation is an absolute idiot.  No, seriously.  If I knew who the person was that made this decision I’d tell them to their face.  My legs were fine, but for about 10 hours after the race my throat and lungs burned with every breath I took.  I literally had that irony-blood taste in my mouth for the remainder of the day (I finished the race before 10AM), and consequently 3 days later I’m still coughing so badly I’m literally hacking things up.  Its not pretty.  I’m sorry for the detailed description, but its the only way to really paint a picture for you!  Apparently this is “how it feels to have lung disease”.  I’m sorry, but I really don’t think it benefits anyone to make lung disease more prominent. I thought we were trying to raise money to prevent lung disease, not spread it!!

Me and some of my teammates outside City Plaza before the race!

Me and some of my teammates outside City Plaza before the race!

Though the actual race has passed, I still have a few more weeks to collect donations.  If you’d like to support the American Lung Association (or my horrific experience this past weekend), please click HERE and click on the “make a gift” link underneath the thermometer.  I’m sure just about everyone knows someone suffering from a lung disease, no matter how big or small it is, and any donation to this amazing cause (even if it’s just a few bucks) will really add up and help make a difference!

Bucket List: Case Mountain


Growing up around the corner from Case Mountain, in Manchester, CT, I can easily say that I’ve hiked there hundreds of times in my life.  Since this is one of the hikes on my Bucket Lists’ 50 Hikes in CT I decided this would be the perfect time to put a different spin on the hike.  Those of you who live in Connecticut know that the state has been closed down for the weekend but for those of you who don’t, we got between 24 – 40 inches that got dumped on us, depending on where you live, and it has really put a damper on this weekend’s activities!

snowshoes

I was actually supposed to do this hike with my pops yesterday, but unfortunately the roads were still impassable, so we couldn’t go.  I did go today, though, and was able to convince my seester to come with me.  Let me tell you – if you’ve never been snow-shoeing, it ain’t as easy as it looks.  We started out on the Carriage Trail and were the first people to pass this trail.  With over 2 feet of snow on the trail, it was ridiculously hard, especially going up hill.

Me and Taz towards the beginning of the hike

Me and Taz towards the beginning of the hike

We took turns being “the leader”, as the leader was basically doing all the hard work and the follower was basically just stepping in the other’s footprints.  When we were just about to hit the summit, we noticed that the Blue Trail, which also leads to the summitt, was packed down from fellow snow-shoe-ers. Since we had already spent over two grueling hours trudging through the deep snow, we decided to take this already-blazed trail.

Kate on the trail

Kate on the trail

Seriously, it was touch and go there for a while.  At one point I even said out loud – and completely seriously – “This must be what its like to climb Mount Everest”, OK, maybe I’m a little dramatic, but seriously, It was tough.  I guess it didn’t make it any easier for me that I fell more times than I’d like to admit.  Take it from me, if you fall, while wearing snow shoes, into 2.5 feet of snow, it’s not so easy getting up-especially when you have a dog that is trying to “help” you.  Katie didn’t have this problem, but watching me go through this process time and time again was all the motivation she needed to make sure she did not have the same fate as me.

Me and Taz towards the beginning of the hike

Me and Taz on the trail – getting tired!!

We were ecstatic to reach the top – we didn’t die!  Saa-weeettt! #bestworkoutever!

Me and my sister, Kate

Me and my sister, Kate

A hike that normally takes about an hour took us just over 2.5 hours, but it was an excellent workout, which is EXACTLY what we needed after been cooped up inside for the last 48 hours eating, drinking, and basically being lazy.   I’m so happy that I was able to get at least one productive thing done this weekend, and another check off my bucket list!  Hopefully some of you were able to do something fun through Nemo!

Walks and Wines


This weekend has been absolutely GORGEOUS!  This is unusual for me to say in the middle of January, since it’s cold and I’m a huge wimp when it comes to anything under 50 degrees, but I was definitely able to see the bright side this weekend as I did lots of walks, hikes, and wine tastes!  Yesterday was an all-out adventure day for me and Taz and we had a fabulous time!  We decided to knock of some Bucket List tasks, and I thought I could use some alone time.  With the holidays, traveling and working a ton I don’t get too much of it.  Trust me, I’m not complaining in the least – I LOVE being around people, but sometimes it’s nice to have a day for yourself!

Mount Tom:

We started out at Mount Tom, in New Preston, CT.  This is, obviously, one of the hikes in my “50 Hikes in Connecticut” book, and I haven’t been there yet mainly because it’s about an hour and a half from where I live.  I got there, and was shocked that I was the only one there (come on people!  get off your couch and enjoy the wilderness!)!  The trails were covered in snow and there wasn’t great markings on the trees, so after taking one trail to a dead ends, I decided to roll the dice and follow the path that had footsteps on it in the snow, hoping that it would lead to the famous tower at the top of the mountain.  Though this hike was very short (just over a mile long) I thought it was great because  of the 35 ft tower at the top that is open for people to climb and see amazing views of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York!  As can you can (kind of ) see from my picture below, the wooden steps inside the tower are narrow and extremely steep.  Taz, who was not on a leash hung out at the bottom while I climbed to the top to snap a few pics, but got impatient quickly and climbed his way to the top as well…big mistake.  Once he got to the top, he was terrified to try to go back down, and I can’t really say I blame him.  I’m afraid of heights and wasn’t crazy about the idea myself.  The top 4 steps are exposed and in addition to being very steep, they were also covered with about an inch of packed down snow and ice.  After about 15 minutes of a pep talk, he finally agreed to carefully make his way down the steps.  He was very brave.  In addition to the actual hike, there is also a pond on the premise, Mt Tom Pond, where there was an ice fishing derby going on!  I’m not an avid ice fisher or anything, but I have been ice fishing a couple times with my bestie Stef and her crew in VT and I got excited seeing this derby because I know just how fun ice fishing can be!

Mount Tom Tower, and Me and Taz at the top with the view!

Mount Tom Tower, and Me and Taz at the top with the view!

 

see how steep the stairs are?  And also Taz was thirsty after the hike so indulged in some snowballs!

see how steep the stairs are? And also Taz was thirsty after the hike so indulged in some snowballs!

Hopkins Vineyard Winery:

From Mount Tom, our next stop was Hopkins Vineyard Winery.  This was a predetermined stop because both this winery and Mount Tom are close to each other, but not near anything else…literally.  I figured, while I’m out in the boonies I mineaswell kill two birds with one stone, right?

Address:  25 Hopkins Road  Warren, CT 06777 (860) 868-7954

Cost for a tasting:  $7.50 for a regular tasting of 7 wines (6 are already chosen, and you get to choose you’re 7th), then for an additional $2.50, you can sample their “ice wine”. (this also includes their signature glass).

Ranking:  8 (in addition to the tasting room, there is also outdoor seating and an “wine bar” upstairs from the vineyard!  Awesome!

I really enjoyed this vineyard.  The inside is very nice, and the staff was extremely nice and knowledgable.  Most of their wines are “Estate Bottled” which means that the grapes are grown on the premise and the entire wine making process happens there!  The one wine that I loved was “Peach Wine”.  The wine itself was made from fermented peaches, whereas most wines are made from grapes.  I thought this was really interesting…and even more delicious!  And, at $13.50, I thought it was only right to buy a bottle for a later date!  As far as my tasting, of course I had upgraded to the “ice wine”.  I’ve never had it before, and since this specific ice wine has won multiple international medals, including the “Finger Lakes International Wine Competition” (the Finger Lakes area has a HUGE wine country, so this is a big deal), I thought I better cover my bases and try it.  My wine connoisseur also had me try a sip of their “Night Owl Dessert Wine”.  It was probably because he was bored because no one else was there, but hey, I’ll take it.  While we were talking, he mentioned to me the Litchfield Hills Winter Wine Trail.  Its similar to the Wine Passport Program, but there is only 6 vineyards on it and it has to be completed between December 1 – April 1.  Cool, I’m sold on the idea!  After the tasting, Taz and I took a nice long walk around the vineyard.  It was a gorgeous day, and the vineyard was beautiful, so we walked around their 38 acres for about and hour and took in the fresh air and magnificent views.

Hopkinds Vinyard2

Hopkinds Vinyard1

Haight-Brown Vineyard:

After Hopkins, we were on our way home, when I saw a blue “CT Wine Trail” sign.  I thought to myself…I would be stupid NOT to stop.  Afterall, it was only about 3:30PM and I had no immediate plans to tend to!  So I followed the sign, not knowing where it would take me, and before I knew it I landed at Haight-Brown Vineyard.

Address:  29 Chestnut Hill Rd  Litchfield, CT 06759 (860) 567-4045

Cost for a tasting:  $9, which includes 9 wines and a signature glass.

Ranking:  6.5 (this vineyard was overly crowded and does not allow outside food to come in.)

I walked into the vineyard and was initally turned off.  To be honest, I almost walked right back out.  It was very pretty insides, but it was so packed you couldn’t even more. In fact, I had to put my name on the waiting list!!  Since I was alone, they were able to squeeze me in at the counter pretty quickly, but sheesh!  Once the tasting started, my wine connoisseur was telling me about the wines and about the vineyard itself.  Haight-Brown, founded in 1976 is actually the first vineyard/winery in Connecticut, and the ONLY one that has stools to sit on while you do the tasting.  The reason for this is that they got grandfathered in with the stools.  Other wineries cannot have them because it changes the winery from a “wine tasting” to a “bar”…details, details.  As I started observing my surroundings, I noticed something that caught my eye, the “Honey Nut Apple” wine.  Over the summer one of my best friends went to the vineyard and brought this bottle home and we drank it together as a regular white wine, where it really should be drank in small quantities as a dessert wine…whoops! haha.  I enjoyed the wine here, but more than that I enjoyed the people I met!  Carol and David, who found this winery the same way I did, were from New York and were probably in their late 50’s.  They were super nice and we chatted for about an hour, until I was ready to go.    Again after this vineyard, Taz and I took a walk around their beautiful property (which included plenty of outdoor seating for the warmer wether, and enjoyed the last bit of daylight before our trek home.

Haight Brown Vineyard

I guess all in all you can say it was a successful day!  Not only did I cross THREE items off my bucket list, but I also spent a beautiful day outside enjoying the nice weather, with my dog, and got to try some amazing wine while I was at it!    I’m pretty sure Taz had a great time too, minus the heart attack at the top of the Mount Tom Tower, because when I was ready to leave my parent’s house last night, he was sitting outside in the dark cold next to my car hoping I’d bring him home with me! 🙂

 

 

#CT Problems:


Uh oh….we could POSSIBLY get 1 – 3 inches of snow later today….CLOSE DOWN THE STATE! Living in Connecticut is interesting because we live in New England, but many people living here don’t really know how to act like New Englanders.  I am, knowingly, the worst New Englander ever in the sense that I HATE snow and cold, but where there is snow and cold, I at least know how to handle it.  While last year at this time, our state was blanketed with over 3 feet of snow, this year we have been much luckier and have had no  snow falls that left any lasting effects.  We’ve had only 2 “significant” snow falls and both were only a memory within 2-3 days after.  In fact, I think we have had at least 1 day a week that has been 50+ degree, and multiple days each week in the 40’s… now THAT’S my kind of winter!

Today, we are looking at the possibility of 1-3 inches and just about every school in the state has ALREADY planned for an early dissmissal.  For anyone that is reading this that is not in CT currently, as of right now it is SUNNY and 40 degrees…but it MIGHT snow later so lets all close up shop!  I just think this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen…seriously.

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