Monday, December 30, 2013

My Word of the Year (WOTY)

I noticed last week that several of my blogging friends were posting about their #WOTY.  It's not exactly the same idea as what you'd find named as the Word of the Year for say, 2013 (I've read that "Selfie" is the word of the year.)  It's our own personal theme, or special word that will be a focus, or reminder.  I remember certain years at work, some of my associates had goals prominently displayed on their desks as their motivation.  I'm all for that.  My desk has travel photos from France and a small artifact from Tuscany.

This isn't the same as a goal or motivation.  It's a reminder of what's important.  It took me all of 5 seconds (or possibly less) to pick mine.  It was on my wrist.

I come from a HUGE family.  You have no idea.  (But here's a clue - between both sets of grandparents, they had 20+ children!  I have A LOT of aunts & uncles, and an even larger number of cousins!!!)  I only know 2 other people who have bigger families than mine, and they're both French-Canadian like we are.  

For me, Family is about selflessness, love, generosity, responsibility.  I come from an amazing family who is always there for each other.  Who share their time and talents generously.  Who give their kidneys to save each other.  I kid you not - this has happened three times that I know of!  They take care of each other.  I have had the best role models I could possibly ask for.  I try to raise my own children with the lessons they've shared with me.

In my life, I consider there to be 3 branches of family.  First is that by blood & marriage.  It is our extended family, our nuclear family (and even the exchange student we hosted until a few weeks ago, who feels like my 3rd child and the other two consider a big brother.)  Another is my work family.  Some of these people I've worked with for 13 years and we've been through a lot together (births, deaths, weddings, divorces, tears & laughter.) Last is my community and friends family.  You know how you have some people who you are just connected to, who feel like family but aren't actually related.  This community also rallies around you when things are tough, brings meals and offers of babysitting.

I am so genuinely grateful for the people who are or feel like family to me.  Life can be short, and I don't always express how much I appreciate others. 2014 is a year to honor and celebrate family and to care for one another.  Family.  My Word of the Year.   

Monday, November 18, 2013

Missing: My Gardening Mojo

I've lost my gardening mojo…and my favorite soufflĂ© dish…and several other casserole dishes for that matter.  After many years of my bakeware not reappearing (if you happen to have them, I miss them and would love them back) I've given up hope on them.  My gardening mojo is another story.

There are two factors that fed into my disinterest in my garden.  The first was the discovery of snakes in there.  I seriously need to use a repellant of some type.  The second factor was not keeping a garden this  past Summer as we were away.  I did a Spring garden, which kept us eating lots of greens, asparagus, spinach and shallots.  Then we whisked away for the rest of the Connecticut growing season.  I came back to a jungle that even my intrepid neighbor was afraid to enter.  

Sadly, I have no interest in cleaning up the garden for Winter.  Not at all.  What a mess.

The (delicious in cocktails but highly invasive) mint has jumped another 4 feet into the garden, taking over a now 7x5 ft square.  While it smells divine to traipse through it, it needs to be put back in it's place.

Then on Saturday my first (and by far the earliest one I have yet to receive) 2014 seed catalog arrived.  That sparked a visit to my local library in an effort to find gardening books to help fire up my mojo…

So I'm on a quest to find that mojo…and probably a new soufflĂ© dish.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The BHHS Transition

The big day we'd all been waiting for finally arrived a few weeks ago and our company, Prudential CT Realty is now officially Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England Properties!  The company launch party at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, CT was SO MUCH FUN.

My East Hampton & Colchester Offices took a party bus to the Launch Party after a Pre-Event Party in our office.  Such a great group of agents.  I'm lucky to be a part of this family.

All smiles in the theatre! (That's my amazing associate Carl Guild.)
The more formal announcement part of the launch included a few words from Ron Pelletier, Earl Lee, and Candace Adams.  The part that caught me off guard, that really moved me, was how heartfelt and genuine their messages were.  I posted on Twitter, that when Earl Lee got choked up, I got choked up too.  Candace thanked us for trusting her as our leader.  It could have been the champagne talking, but I wanted to hug both of them.

Next about 1600 people enjoyed champagne, food & wine and mingled and celebrated!  It really was a party!  I would share more photos, but I don't have everyone's permission (not everyone wants to be shown with a glass of wine in their hands. I respect that.)

Honestly, it has been completely the opposite of the last transition I experienced when Pru bought out my last company, The Beazley Company.  Now that I look back at that past change, I realize part of the energy last time around was a "Beazley Agents vs. Pru Agents" vibe.  You were one or the other, and for a long time, the Beazley Agents had this bond, like a secret handshake club, and we were a family.  I felt like it took years for us to really take on the new identity.

This time around, we're all in this together, all working on rebranding, and laughing together when we (and by we I mean me) introduce ourselves as "Lynn Minnick from Pru" before catching our mistake and correcting ourselves.  We're doing our best to answer our phones with the new name (and it's a mouthful!)  We have an amazing rebranding team working for us.  We're helping each other fix the glitches and come up with creative ideas. We're having fun with social media.  We're insanely busy.

This time around, it's completely different.  It's exciting.  It was handled so much better - I've said it before, but kudos to our leadership & teams who brought so much good energy to this transition. It also coincides with that fresh start that Autumn always brings me. Out with the old:

Buh-bye old Blue & White. 
And in with the new! (Everyone is buzzing about our new name!) Speaking of new, we also have several new agents coming on board this month...coincidence? Welcome to all of them!  They have great timing.  (Also I'm excited because I'm officially a Mentor to one of the new agents!)

So this is what I've been up to for the past month.  Can you tell I'm proud to be a part of it?  Because I am.  I'm confident in our leadership, in our IT Department (because I know they'll take care of the little things we're finding that need to be tweaked) and in our marketing people.  I'm also very excited to see where things will go from here.

(PS - if you want one of my sassy new business cards, let me know and I'll pop one over to you!)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

...and My BIG Month Continues!!!

September started right HERE!
It turns out, September continues to be a BIG month for me.  For a few reasons:

My blog, even though I had to change the name (remember when I had to do that here) had an anniversary this weekend and I'm now in my 6th year!  6 years!  I'm pretty sure that calls for cheesecake.

Work is busy with several new clients and the return of a few old ones!  I was in direct competition with several other Realtors for a listing (the seller admitted interviewing several agents, and even called me back for a 2nd interview) and got the listing.  I also picked up new buyers who based their decision to work with me from their impression of me on this blog!

On the home front, my oldest child reaches double digits this month.  While that wasn't a surprise, becoming the host family to a 16 yr old Romanian exchange student was!  We had been asked to host him for 2 weeks at the beginning of school, and we were already completely attached to him when we were asked if we could continue to host him through Thanksgiving.  It was a sense of relief that we weren't going to have to send him off to someone else.  It's amazing how quickly someone can feel like family.  Being parents of a teenager is new territory for us.  Luckily this boy is so well mannered.  We're half-considering sending our kids to his parents to Romania in the hopes they would work their magic on these 2 monkeys :)

Just kidding.  They're angelic, really.

My company's transition to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England Properties happens next week.  The excitement is palpable.  It's SUCH a different vibe than when we went from The Beazley Company (I loved that company - all of us did) to Prudential CT Realty. That time it was just sprung on us with no time to process it.  We were expected to celebrate it on the spot at this huge meeting, but really our heads were spinning and we had a million questions.  This transition is being handled so well  (kudos & thanks to our company's leadership teams!)

Now here's the thing about this month.  I am constantly in a state of feeling grateful.  For all of it.  For a really successful real estate year.  For having been able to take the entire summer and spend it having such an amazing adventure with my family.  (I'm still on a high from that trip!  I'll have to share some of the highlights with you.) For standing on the sidelines of the soccer field at 9am on a chilly Saturday morning and cheering on my goofy kid who is dancing on the field (and making all the parents chuckle) after his 4th goal.  For clients who text me photos of their ratty furniture being torched in the backyard.  For amazing real estate co-workers who know what they're doing and who step up to help each other.  For walking around apple orchards.  For sharing in one of the most intimate and beautiful weddings (congrats David & Lisa) I've ever experienced. For amazing friends and family and teachers and Greek food.  For opening our hearts & home to a 16 year old stranger from so far away.  For all of you.  You may not be big commenters, but I know you're there, week after week, because I see the web traffic numbers.  I'm grateful for you.  Cheers to September!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My 14th Year in Real Estate and Big Changes!

This September is a BIG month for me!  Not only does this launch the beginning of my 14th year in real estate but there are big changes happening in my business.  Know what's crazy about that?  A kooky palm reader in Ogunquit, Maine predicted a big change in my company 8 months before we knew anything about it, and she had it down to the month!  (When she said it to me at the time, I didn't think twice about it, and I didn't believe anything else she said either.  Now I'm thinking a return visit to Ogunquit isn't such a bad idea.  Maybe she can tell me where the buyer is for a million dollar listing I've been hoping to sell!)

On September 25th, Prudential CT Realty is closing its doors, and reopening the next morning as Berkshire Hathaway Home Services - New England Properties.  Say that three times fast!

Yes, THAT Berkshire Hathaway.  Warren Buffet is my new boss, so to speak!  While there is always a little uncertainty in a time of change, there is such a positive buzz about this rebranding.  It makes for an exciting & fresh 14th year for me, that's for sure!  We have a launch party the evening of the 25th where we'll get our new schwag/name tags & some schmooze time.  I just heard today that Earl Lee and Ron Peltier from BHHS will be there too!  I'll be tweeting live from the event - watch for updates & photos (and maybe more announcements!) on my twitter feed: @lynnminnick.

While I do joke around a lot, I do take my business very seriously, and as a business move, I'm very happy with this direction we're taking.  It's a very powerful brand and I think it's going to continue to grow.  Prudential was a very strong company to begin with, and we have an amazing leader in Candace Adams and our leadership teams.  (Seriously, I was at our corporate headquarters the week before we left for Europe and I was all starstruck seeing Linda St. Peter and Melissa Riley!  In my book they're like real estate royalty!!)

So I'll be answering the phones at the office on the afternoon of Saturday September 28th!  Give me a call (860.267.4481) if you want to hear if I can get the new phone greeting correct, "Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England Properties, formerly Prudential Connecticut Realty.  This is Lynn, how can I help you?"  (Is it cheating if I write it on an index card next to the phone?)  

The look of my website will change to the signature cabernet & cream, along with my business cards & signs.  I hope you like them as much as I do.  While a lot of things may change with this new beginning, what won't is my dedication & enthusiasm for my business and my clients.  I'm so grateful & excited to be starting my 14th year!  Speaking of new beginnings, Happy New Year, or Rosh Hashanah to my friends celebrating! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Have children, will travel!  Yes, we're doing it again, and I couldn't be happier to spend some real, quality time with my family while we embark on this year's European Summer Adventure.

"Look kids!  Big Ben, Parliament..."

I'll admit, it's not all sunshine & rainbows traveling with 2 young children.  There will be plenty of days when we need a little space to ourselves...when tired kids will whine and staying patient will be a challenge.

A lot of people ask how we do it.  The travel part.  For me, it takes a boat load of planning ahead to make things go smoothly.  Seriously - I spent a year on this next trip.  (It can be done with less time, of course, but we can only travel in the summer due to hubby's work.)  It's a whole different approach than the carefree days of college and pre-children travel when we'd come roaring into Bordeaux at 1am looking for a hotel room.  It's also much easier to plan thanks to the Internet and the help of sites like Trip Advisor where you can read reviews & look at photos to help find the right places to stay or visit.  Or Homeaway and other home booking sites, or find so much helpful information on blogs :)

Some quick tips: Fly non-stop as often as possible.  Changing planes & worrying about making or missing connections is even worse with children in tow. Pack snacks and activities for the plane & airport.  Let the kids get their wiggles out by running around the terminal before boarding.  We fly to Europe on overnight flights, in the hopes that children will sleep most of the trip.  Since they're getting a short night, we make sure they're well-rested prior to the trip.  As in "get to bed early for at least a week before we leave" well-rested.  That helps with the jetlag a bit too - resetting their internal clocks - but is harder in the summer when it's still light out and I'm trying to put them to bed.

Don't overbook your days. I fully expect the first 2-3 days to be shorter (and the children a little tired) due to adjusting to the time difference.  Usually 2 major activities per day is all they can handle, and we split up from time to time and one parent will go do one thing (ie. my older child was very excited to spend a day in Pompeii while my younger would have been bored) while the other does something else.  I also try to fit in special activities that the children like (Julien has picked the catacombs of Paris and visiting a glacier as high on his list for this upcoming visit.)  Sometimes we're surprised when we take them somewhere and it turns out they're not at all interested, "NOOOOOO, not another chateau!!!!" was often heard on our last European vacation.  Who doesn't love a good chateau?  My children at that particular age, apparently.

Since having children we also rent houses or apartments when we travel.  It's more relaxing to have a home base and a little space to spread out.  My requirements are: laundry facility, good central location, outdoor eating area.  For properties outside the cities I always look for a house with a pool.  There has to be something special about it.  Several times we've rented vacation homes with other families and it's been wonderful.  We don't always want to do the same things, but for breakfast and in the evenings we often share a meal and drinks by the pool.  We shop at the local markets and most often eat 2 meals at "home" and pack a picnic blanket/tablecloth and do picnics for lunch or have lunch out.  We also bring our reusable water bottles and fill up as we go.  Dehydrated children are just cranky and no fun.

I'm also big on doing travel journals - there are some good online articles on how to make that fun for the kids with ideas like doing "highlight graphs" for the day or other ways to get creative.  Sometimes it's recorded on postcards.  A funny "journaling moment" from our last trip though was discovering that the kids had gotten hold of the camcorder (does anyone call them that anymore or is it just me?) and recorded their own documentaries and those are just priceless.  (And crooked and likely to cause motion sickness, but still priceless!)

Do we forget to pack things?  Of course!  The good news is we can pretty much find whatever we need while we travel and we find lots of other cool stuff.  Except sometimes WiFi, but that's getting better :)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

GREEN Gifting Ideas

Recently someone in my office asked me for advice on gifts.  I always try to be thoughtful in my gift-giving, and it's no surprise I try to give GREEN in most situations.  There are hundreds of environmentally-friendly gift ideas out there.

Spring through Fall, the garden nursery or garden center is my favorite GREEN gift resource.  Here's my brief guide for various gifting situations:

Real Estate Closings
I've been known to give hydrangea bushes as a real estate closing gift to clients who told me they loved the blossoms, or would miss the beautiful hydrangea they'd planted at their old house. For houses with hooks on the front porch begging for plants, I've brought over beautiful hanging baskets. If it's off-season, I've provided a gift certificate to a local garden center so the new owners could purchase plants when planting season comes up.  In the Fall I've given bags of Spring bulbs to plant, along with bulb planters and garden gloves, or potted mums to brighten their doorsteps.

In the event that my clients do not fall into the category of those who enjoy planting/yard work, a bottle of good organic wine has taken the place, and at one time I did buckets of non-toxic cleaning supplies for move-in day.

Adventure Vests!
Christenings & First Communions
As long as there are no allergies, I've given raspberry canes to plant for little ones.  Blueberries are lovely too, but they require a 2nd bush in order to fruit, so if you're going in that direction, make sure you have 2 blueberry bushes.  It's very sweet to get a call the next Summer and hear that little Olivia is picking her own raspberries in the yard and they're delicious!

Party Favors
We hosted a garden-themed birthday party one year and the party favors were flower seed packs and sturdy plastic trowels.  They were a big hit and we hear that thanks to us there were lots of nasturtium, morning glories & marigolds in everyone's yards that summer!

Birthdays & Anniversaries
I've been known to bring a rose bush for birthdays & anniversaries, and I have a neighbor who plants a tree or specimen bush for each anniversary.  Their yard is like a park!  I knew another family who planted a flowering pear tree for each of their grandchildren one year for their birthdays, and the children came to help "take care" of their trees.  We've given bluebird houses and I've seen bat boxes given as gifts.  I've given young children gardening baskets of tools, seeds, aprons & garden ornaments and they've just loved them, as well as the makings of a fairy container garden that I assembled myself, though the garden centers now sell pre-made kits.  My little one is currently growing cactus she got in a biodome kit.  My 9 yr old is fascinated with carnivorous plants at the moment, so I imagine that a pitcher plant or venus fly trap might hold interest to other budding scientists like mine.

The "adventure vests" (technically they're fishing vests) have been one of the GREEN-themed gifts that gets the most use for us.  I got them from LL Bean for the kids and a little friend for Christmas one year, ordered them a size or 2 larger than needed.  The larger ones come with a built-in whistle and we attached magnifying glasses, little flashlights & carabinieres.  The kids filled the zippered pouches with bandaids, observation notebooks, ziplock bags for collecting things... you get the idea.  My little ones still wear them all the time for any outdoor/discovery activities.  If you saw our photos from the Great Park Pursuit then you saw the vests in every photo!  Other friends have liked them so much that they've gone out and bought them too.  You don't have to go to LL Bean, they're pretty easy to find!

Another very well-received gift has been membership to science centers/children's museums.  With the reciprocal programs available through the Association of Science-Technology Centers, membership to one science center includes admissions to approximately 200 other participating science centers across the country.  This one is a little pricey though, but a great family-friendly gift, and so educational.  One year, in lieu of other gifts (because do we really need more toys?) we asked the grandparents for an ASTC membership and planned trips based upon the locations of the science museums we really wanted to visit.

Visiting science museums using our reciprocal membership!
Thank You & Appreciation Gifts
My favorite Administrative Assistant has always enjoyed receiving plants and this year I mixed it up and gave her potted herbs for her garden. I was thrilled to see that this year, in lieu of cut flowers for the directors and team involved with the school & local musical productions, that potted flowers and hanging baskets were handed out to be planted at home.

In Honor Of/In Memory Of
Some towns have memorial gardens where you can buy a plaque or a brick and have it inscribed with the name of your loved one and the proceeds go to maintenance of the garden.  In some places you can even buy a bench.  I know of several people who have planted their own memorial gardens or trees honoring family members.  We even had a rhododendron planted in our yard for many years in remembrance of a beloved family dog - it was called the Sadie Bush.  They're all really lovely ideas.      

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Bittersweet Week in Real Estate

It is said that Realtors are some of the happiest people.  It's really hard work, but it's a great gig.  The part I didn't expect though, was how bittersweet it can be.  After working hand in hand with clients for sometimes months, they're like family to me.  We share the ups & downs, we laugh over kooky houses, we drink coffee, I fall into gopher holes (do homeowners REALLY not know there's a big hole in their lawn?) we write contracts over wine & pizza, we race to see new listings, we pick ourselves up when deals fall apart, we stop the car & jump out when we realize we're covered in ticks from walking through someone's overgrown yard, I bring the flowers and we stage the photo shoot...

I just had one of those jam-packed weeks where I experienced the whole gamut of real estate ups and downs.  It was wonderful and exhausting all at once.  Two listings I'd loved having closed, and both sets of homeowners headed out of this area to start new adventures.  After spending so much time together, it's like going through withdrawal.  I also met new clients, showed lots of properties, received 2 sweet thank you cards from clients and 1 from a fellow Realtor, taught a mobile app class, had buyers back out of a deal, did volunteer work, and wrote my article for Realtor Magazine's YPN blog.  I was also asked to talk at a global symposium, and I'm flattered, but there's just too much on my plate right now.  Then to end the week we had houseguests for the weekend, which was relaxing and exactly what I needed after my busy week.

I get a lot of phone calls from people considering transitioning into real estate.  They always say that they can tell that I love my job, and they want to know how much work is involved, how competitive is it, what does it cost to run my business, etc.  My favorite question: what's the best part of the job?  My answer is pretty much always the same - how many new friends we make, families who become like our own extended family, and that moment when we walk into a house and instantly see the look on our client's face that says "this is home."  That part gets me EVERY time.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

On My GREEN Nightstand - The Upcycle

The stack of books on my nightstand keeps growing (to the point that I had to make 2 stacks - the bigger pile is on the lower shelf!)  It's an interesting mix though.  I love to read.  I wish I had more time to do so.

The GREEN book I'm reading is The Upcycle (Beyond Sustainability - Designing for Abundance) by William McDonough & Michael Braungart.

The book starts with this one statement, alone on a page:  "The goal of the upcycle is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy, and just world with clean air, water, soil, and power - economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed."  It is followed by a forward written by President Bill Clinton.

Though I did not read it's predecessor, Cradle to Cradle, the book takes the ideas from Cradle to Cradle as a foundation and builds on them, based on the experience of putting the ideas from the first book to work.  The premise is a simple idea, really, that can be used by each of us all the way up to big corporations: moving from the idea of being "less bad" to the planet to being part of the natural cycle of regenerating it.  So not just the ideas of reuse & reduce, but design it better in the first place so you don't create waste to begin with.  "Eco-effectiveness can actually create endless resourcefulness."

This book is optimistic, thought-provoking, and for me, inspiring.  "Upcycling eliminates the concept of waste."  That's a big idea.  Let's not aim for just doing less damage to the earth, but let's find ways to turn opportunities into abundance.  Let's be creative and find solutions.  Let's thrive.  Let's make things healthful instead of less dangerous.  The caveat: finding a substitute takes work and time.  It takes innovation and values.

Of course reading this brings me to GREEN living in a real estate perspective, from the design and wellness elements.  As a GREEN Certified Realtor ® I always look at real estate from that perspective (well, ok, that and resale value!)  For example, last weekend I was showing a tiny condo.  The whole place fit into my kitchen, and had very little natural light or ventilation.  The buyers were really attracted to the very low price tag but I was worried this wasn't the kind of place that felt healthful or where they could thrive.  It was so poorly designed.  The price tag absolutely reflected it.  I was completely relieved when they called back that night to say they had decided not to put in an offer.

My favorite parts of the book are the examples the authors share of how and where creative solutions came about and the big focus is energy.  It's the kind of book that makes you think.  Happy Reading!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Little Village Gets a Charging Station...

East Hampton's historic village center is being put on the map again...the map of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Connecticut, that is.

Congratulations to our little town for:
1. Participating in the Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge
2. Earning enough points/community rewards to get us a FREE EV (electric vehicle) charging station
3. Reviving the Clean Energy Task Force

The Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) Energy Challenge has 14 towns in CT participating and has been going on for about 3 years.  The goal is to get the residents to reduce their energy usage by 20%.  One of the ways people started getting involved was through Home Energy Solutions energy audits, like the one my family did in 2009.  (You can read about my energy audit here.)

By the way, on the leaderboard for participating towns, East Hampton ranks #7 out of 14!  Not too shabby.

Yesterday, July 26th, at 11am, I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Electric Vehicle charging station in the village center of East Hampton.  There are no other charging stations around us for at least 15 miles.  The town's Economic Development Commission worked with the Town Council and the CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection in choosing the Airline Trail trail head in East Hampton's village center as the location for the charging station.  The town hopes that the station will draw drivers of electric cars to stop in the village center to charge up and while they do they can frequent the many small businesses in the center, or take advantage of the newly extended Airline Trail for recreational purposes. EV car owners will know about the location of the station because it will be added to the directories of charging stations which comes up right in the car's navigation systems, on apps and online.

Someone pointed out to me yesterday at the ceremony that it's kind of rare that East Hampton is on the cutting edge of something like this, or that we'd be in the category of "Early Adopters" (as it's referred to on the GREEN bell curve) as having a charging station.

The ceremony was short & sweet.  There were a few speeches and Jackson Chevrolet was kind enough to drive over a Chevy Volt electric car to demonstrate the use of the charging station.  Notable attendees included Town Council Chairperson Sue Weintraub, Town Councilman Kyle Dostaler, Town Manager Mike Maniscalco & his assistant, State Senator Art Linares, State Representative Melissa Ziobron, Economic Development Commission representative Jamie Bell, alongside a few residents and media.

So what does it cost to use the charging station?  Right now, it's FREE to users.  I was told the cost was approximately $1.67 to charge the car, or maybe per hour - it wasn't clear exactly, but the cost is pretty minimal.  Eventually the town will likely install a credit card swipe system to the charging station and you'll pay it that way.  I see it as a good thing for the town.  The local businesses in the village center can now add to their websites that they have a charging station nearby, and hopefully anyone coming in to charge will stop and frequent our village merchants.

Congrats, Belltown, for getting a little bit GREENER this week!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's Time for Farmer's Markets!!!

I'm a HUGE fan of shopping Farmer's Markets during the season for all of the things that I don't grow in my garden, and for some of the special things like freshly baked breads and artisanal cheeses.  Like you, I have favorites markets to visit, but I'm always open to trying out new ones.

This is a short video I really liked called How To Shop at a Farmer's Market and it was filmed here in CT at the Westport Farmer's Market.  Check out how creative their produce signs are!

How do you find the farmer's markets?  The State of Connecticut Department of Agriculture's 2013 brochure lists this year's "certified" Farmer's Markets, but there are many more that pop up without being on the list, as well as several special market events, like one of my favorites in the entire state, part of Old Lyme's Midsummer Festival, the Market En Plein Air.  (This year's festival is July 26 & 27.)

I've blogged about Farmer's Markets previously in the posts Good News for Alternative Energy in CT & Farmer's Markets, CT Farmer's Markets Opening, and GREEN Summer Finds - I don't want to rehash what I've said before, but just remind you that the markets are open or opening soon!  I'm so excited!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Rainy Day Realtor Realism

We're in for loads of rain the next few days as Tropical Storm Andrea hits the South (stay safe my friends!) but that doesn't stop me from going out to show properties in the rain!  This is what I wore to go show a condominium this morning in the pouring rain:

This is what I should have worn:

Photo from Northern Safety & Industrial 
The place was beyond disgusting.  I'm still too traumatized to talk about it.  I had to go home to take a Benadryl and a shower afterwards.  The sellers had 2 full days notice that we were coming, but couldn't be bothered to pick up the the dirty laundry we had to step over to go up the stairs, or the cat poop on the floor.  I can't even tell you how bad it was.  2nd filthiest place I've ever shown.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Charter School + Urban Farm + Environmental Education Center = Awesome

This weekend, for No Child Left Inside's Great Park Pursuit, combined with CT Trails Day, my family ventured down to New Haven to the Common Ground High School, Urban Farm and Environmental Education Center.  Until last week, we had no idea there was a charter high school hidden in the woods in New Haven, or that New Haven even had any woods!

We were not disappointed with our choice of places to visit.  Common Ground was pretty amazing, and a school I would choose to attend if I had the choice.  Or maybe attend as a summer program. Which, by the way, they do offer.  They also have vacation camps, open farm Saturdays, and host special events such as birthday parties.

We enjoyed touring the gardens, hiking the trail to the summit of West Rock Ridge, visiting the chickens, turkey, ducks, goat & sheep, the greenhouses, peeking into the school building, and making our way up to Judges Cave.

I found the hike to be challenging because it was fairly steep, but there were children of all ages hiking along side us, and my little ones thought it was fine.  Plus the view from the top was fabulous.

The youngest in our family very much enjoyed the poultry yard, where she was allowed to pet or pick up any chickens who would allow it.

Meanwhile I was oohing & ahhing over the gardens.  Their market garden supplies the school cafeteria as well as farmer's markets and farm stands.  They use sustainable farming practices like rain barrels and are organic, though not certified organic.

It all equated to a really nice family outing and lots of opportunities to talk about sustainability.  I have a feeling we'll be back with friends for an open farm day and maybe see if we can volunteer to help with something while we're there.      


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

CT Trails Day is This Weekend

When I saw the brochure at my local library - CT Trails Day Celebration - I was amazed at how many great events will be going on this weekend in over 150 of our state's 169 towns!  There are so many special events this year that they had to spread them out over the course of the weekend - so you have to fit at least one event into your busy schedule!  A little dose of nature does wonders after a stressful, busy week.  (Also it does wonders at calming me in the middle of a busy workweek when I can squeeze in a lunchtime hike through my local state forest with a friend!)

Some of the special events include: guided/nature/educational walks, oxen rides, geocaching, paddling (canoe & kayak), trolley rides, letter boxing, trail maintenance, picnic while listening to a jazz band, rock climbing, trail runs, biking, orienteering, educational walks, waterfall exploring, trail biking, horseback riding, beach walks, stand up paddle boarding, and of course, hiking.  Some require pre-registration, so have a quick look at the brochure online to see if you need to call ahead!

Another wonderful thing about this event: parking fees will be waived at participating parks!

The other thing I discovered once I went online, was that the website for the CT Forest & Park Association is REALLY good!

There is something for everyone this weekend.  Connecticut, as far as outdoor recreational activities go, you rock!  Happy CT Trails Weekend!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Six Main in Chester, CT - Part I

I've been meaning to write about an outstanding vegan experience I had - sorry it's so late in coming!  It was the end of last August when some friends decided it was time to try out the new vegan/vegetarian/raw restaurant Six Main in the very quaint village of Chester, CT.  It was a Friday evening, end of the month, after a particularly hectic Summer of real estate, and hubby was taking the munchkins to fencing lessons.  I was IN!

The restaurant is situated in the 100 year old former Chester Savings Bank, so already it has character, and a dedicated parking lot.  As a farm to table restaurant, chef Rachel Carr creates dishes from food locally & organically grown in Old Lyme at Upper Pond Farm.  The menu is always changing to reflect what is in season, and sometimes they'll have a featured ingredient of the week and base the menu on that item.  The recent prix-fixe menus have been very interesting!  The restaurant also offers cooking classes, and I just learned from their Facebook page that they have a "grab & go" fridge and the raw vegan blueberry lemon cheesecake is in there!  (I'm not offended if you stop reading here and head over to Chester.  The cheesecake is worth it.  Also, while you're down there, head across the street to Simon's Marketplace and pick up 2 baguettes.  They will likely still be warm from the oven.  You absolutely need 2 of them because you WILL eat one in the car on the ride home.  Trust me on this one.  My children call this the Simon's Salty Baguette Rule of 2.)

The first delight was arriving to find champagne flutes set at our table.  As it turns out, 2 of our husbands had conspired & ordered us a bottle of prosecco!  (Husbands take note - that's a brilliant & romantic gesture.)  Another delight was watching our waiter fawning over one of the ladies at our table and bringing her a cocktail he thought she'd enjoy!

What can I tell you about the fresh, seasonal menu?  That EVERY item our group of 5 ordered was delicious - we definitely passed the plates so everyone could try!  We were a table comprised of dairy-free, gluten-free, vegans, vegetarians & 1 omnivore (I may have been the only non-vegetarian) and we were all floored by our dinners and desserts.  These were some of the dishes on our table:

This next photo was not on the menu at the time, but I'm seriously hoping it's available during my next visit!  I found it on their Facebook page.  The more I look at it, the more I regret my Kung Pao lunch.  This would have been SO MUCH better.

I'm particularly excited to be going back to the restaurant next week with some of the same friends and a few more, for what promises to be a repeat of our lovely evening.  Just pouring through their recent pics of menu offerings on their Facebook page and I can't wait to see what will be on the menu next week! They've even added a bar since my last visit.