And the Journey on the Wine Trail continues…..

So we decided to follow the Connecticut Wine Trail this year, after the good time we had at Gouveia Vineyards.  This time we headed up to Chamard Vineyards in Clinton to have our passports stamped and taste some of their local vintages.

Chamard

Reading up on the vineyard before heading out, I found interesting that the vineyard was owned by a researcher with an interest in genetics, particularly sequencing of the genome.  Originally starting as a 5 acre vineyard it currently has 20 acres of vines growing.

Just like Gouveia, we drove by rows of grape vines on our way up to the stone house where we samples five different wines from their locally made selections.  Once parked, the distance grape vines overlooking the water fountain caught my eye.  Their website made mention of weddings hosted there and I could see the allure of a vineyard wedding.

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Inside, I found the stone house very elegant and the staff very pleasant and accommodating.  We sampled our five wine selections as well as a Sangria that the bartender just brewed before purchasing our favorite wine for our growing collection.  The Sangria left me wanting more, so needless to say we stopped on the way home to pick up a few ingredients and made a quick batch to enjoy outside on the deck.

While I was disappointed when I read the sign stating “no outside food beyond this point”, I did find Chamard to be a beautiful place to visit with an elegant vibe for more adult oriented get-togethers.

A Visit to the Vineyard

We all have that perpetual “bucket list” of things we want to see, do, or be before we give the bucket a final kick.  A visit to Italy has been on mine for a long time.  It doesn’t help that I’ve watched Under the Tuscan Sun numerous times (last time was just a few weeks back).  The ever eternal romantic in me wants to see the Amalfi Coast, tour the vineyards, stroll the market places, track down my roots and see where it all began.  With my Master’s Degree just about completed, maybe I can start thinking about that trip finally.  For now, I’ll settle for the ambiance of local get-away’s that until this past weekend have never seen.

For a taste of Europe, who knew that 20 minutes away were these fabulous vineyards with wine tastings, fields of grapes, and a cozy place to relax with friends and food.  Yes, I knew we had vineyards in Connecticut but haven’t been….until now.  We took a trip to Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford with some friends to see what I’ve been missing.

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The long driveway up to the Stone House had me in awe.  The Stone House itself was just beautiful with it’s exterior masonry finish and wood beams inside.  We took a tour of the vineyard and cellars with the owner Joe where we learned about the different grapes planted and used for making the delicious wines offered.  The cellar housed the stainless steel vats and barrels used for the fermentation and storage of the grape juice on its journey to being wine.

We learned interesting tidbits like the delicate cycle of temperatures used while the grapes fermented or the fact that authentic cork from the cork tree is not harvest-able until the trees are well past 25 years old.  Amazing that in just an hour a handful of people can fill a 1000 bottles of wine at the winery.

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The wine tasting itself was fun to say the least.  For $7, we each got to sample five different blends of wines from white to red.  Needless to say, the lightweight in me was feeling pretty good by the time I sampled the final wine.  Doesn’t help that I did this on an empty stomach!  We chose a bottle of wine to enjoy with our “picnic basket” dinner and wandered outside to find a table.

It was so peaceful overlooking the fields as we ate I can only wonder why I hadn’t done this sooner.  We ended our meal with locally grown strawberries covered in chocolate.

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With the sun setting over the vineyards, good food, wine, and company, this is a place to put on the must-visit list.  With a 2013 CT Wine Trail passport stamped at  just 16 of the 32 Connecticut vineyards, you could be eligible for prizes that include a trip to Spain.

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Grass fed fast food….???

I dropped my ever so handsome son at his job at Big Y this morning and browsed the store to do my shopping.  I promised him I wouldn’t embarrass him (not like I would??) and went on my way.

My ultimate goal is to switch over to more organically grown and local foods over time.  Today’s trip included organic strawberries.  More expensive then their conventional cousins ($1.50) I’ll admit they are more tasty.  Even better are strawberries from Pell’s….so looking forward to June!

In the meat section, I spied Strauss Brand Grass Fed beef patties.  Picking up a package, I also picked up the Big Y brand of patties to do a little comparison taste test.  Both 15 percent fat content and about the same weight, the grass fed patties were only $1.20 more for the package.  Buying this gave me a flashback to one of my graduate classes and a book we were assigned to read.  Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma traced each food source from its origin to the dinner table.  Chapter four in particular touches on cattle and how they are fattened for slaughter.  The grass fed cow takes longer to fatten than the feedlot cow, but ultimately is a healthier meat with better fats.  The feedlot cow, on the other hand, is fed corn to gain weight quick, but their digestive systems aren’t designed to handle this diet.  So in comes antibiotics, hormones, and other food additives.  And out goes a meat with more saturated fats and traces of chemicals.

I finished my shopping but not before harassing my son a little while he bagged my groceries (okay….I couldn’t resist).  I spent the rest of my day building my appetite for my burger taste test (pick up my daughter…paint part of coop….drop off my daughter….work on coop run….pick up my daughter….continue on coop…) before taking a power nap.  My wonderful other half took it upon himself to barbecue our dinner and had lots to insight as he played chef-for-a-day.  I noticed on the grill that the grass fed were a little smaller and he commented that they cooked up quicker than their rival.  On the plate, they looked similar.  We went without ketchup and the like so we could taste each burgers flavor.  I could taste a difference in one over the other.  I found the conventional burger to be a bit more bland than the grass fed.  My partner felt that the grass fed burger had more of a meatier taste, while the other tasted more like fast food with a greasy feel.

The Strauss website explains each of their grass fed meats and the health benefits associated.  Good for you, the cattle, and the earth.  Love their motto, “Nature gives.  We accept.”  Family run business…made in the USA….and healthy.  You’ve got my business.

Next shopping trip…free range chicken….

Coffee, anyone?

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Good ole cup of Joe.  Love the smell….warm and well, so coffee-like.  I don’t particularly care for the taste of coffee, but I do love the smell.  I could sit in Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks and just inhale the goodness….

But I digress.  Last fall, on a whim, I joined the ranks of Keurig owners and bought my first Keurig coffee maker for the family.  It was easy to program, quick to make a cup of coffee (or tea and hot cocoa), and just fun to work.  My Dad was spending mornings at my house installing a new bathroom and once I showed him how to operate it, he was hooked.  The newness wore off quick and the guilt set in…particularly when I saw how many coffees a week we went through and how many of those cups were being thrown out.  So I set off to find a more environmentally sound coffee for the Keurig and was pleased with what I found.

100_1525We bought the adapter for the Keurig and found that it works well.  Scoop the coffee into the basket, place into the holder, screw lid on and pop into the coffee maker (after removing part of the Keurig where the adapter fits).  You can choose from any of your favorite coffees and it’s a lot cheaper in the long run.  Folgers runs $11.49 for 33 oz. (regular price at Walgreen’s)  With the suggested servings per container of 270, that’s only 4 cents per cup!  Only draw back for my boyfriend is the fact that he gets up a 5 a.m. and is not necessarily coherent enough at that time to deal with the extra steps nor does he want to spend the time at those wee hours of the morning.

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I searched the internet and found the Green Cup coffee pods and adapter on Amazon.  The adapter is $4.99 (plus shipping) for a set of two.  It can be reused over and over, is dishwasher safe (if only I had one…) and made in the Connecticut (love local buying!).  The coffee pods fold neatly into the adapter and fits into the holder where regular Keurig K-cups fit.  At $9.99 for 18 pods, you’re looking at $0.56 per cup.  Flavors are limited to a few flavors and the closest store for me (Whole Foods) is 20 minutes away.  Another drawback according to the BF is that if you don’t fit the pod into the cup properly, you’ll get a watery cup of coffee.  Overall, I do like the fact that there is no plastic components to the pod and it is totally compostable.  Major plus in my book.

100_1522 I’m finding BJ’s Wholesale Club is going more and more environmentally friendly.  Stopped there today and left with SEVERAL Earth friendly products.  We found these little gems a while back and while not totally plastic free, they have a significant reduced amount of plastic on them and if you’re so inclined you can cut off the bag part for the compost pile (right, honey??).  Made by the Roger Family Company, we purchased the San Francisco Bay brand Rain Forest Blend and as my BF puts it, “Best dang cup of coffee I’ve ever had!”.  Committed to organic coffee growing, we also like them because they have the easy of the K-cups, with less plastic, and a cheaper price tag.  At $29.99 for a box of 80, that’s $0.37 per cup!  Not bad for staying out of the Dunkin Donuts drive through.

For me, I’ll stick with my tea with honey.  And thanks to my Keurig, I can get a cup of hot water in no time.

It’s Personal…

OK, I decided it was time to go through my cabinets, drawers, showers, and closets and take inventory of my families personal care products.  We truly have too many.  My family has over 80 different hair, face, body, and teeth products…and that’s not including perfumes, colognes, and my daughters personal makeup case.  And each of these products have a long list for ingredients…..names I couldn’t even begin to pronounce much less know what they are.  Yet, daily my family and I spreads them from head to toe without much thought.

The big question is how safe are these products when used on a daily/weekly basis?  Chris Prelitz (Green Made Easy: The Everyday Guide For Transitioning to a Green Lifestyle) suggests using the Skin Deep Website (www.cosmeticsdatabase.com) to compare personal care products.  The site takes into account the various chemical ingredients in over 79000 different products included in its database. It then gives each product a rating with regards to toxicity, carcinogenic properties, and the like.  The scale is from 0 through 10.  Zero to 2 are considered low risk, 3 to 6 are medium risk, and 7 to 10 are high risk.

To save myself from going through ALL of my products, entering them into the website, and receiving a rating, I just focused on the most used products.  So how do we fare:

 

  • Sadly, my favorite hair care product (Biolage) received a 6.  Other shampoos (Pantene, Suave, and Avon) received scores of 4 or 5.  Trying to keep it local and easy to shop for, I headed down to Walgreen’s and browse their (small) natural product section.  I walked away with Yes to Cucumbers Shampoo, which has a rating of 3 on the Skin Deep scale.  Trying it once, it had a decent lather for my medium length hair.  Curious how other’s work, particularly Burt’s Bees which makes a bar shampoo which received a rating of zero.  Maybe that will be on the next shopping trip….
  • Happily, all of our toothpastes are within an acceptable range, with Tom’s of Maine of course at a solid zero.  We have the usual toothpastes Crest, Colgate, and Listerine and all are either 2 or 3.  Nothing there to change.
  • We also have the usual suspects for body deodorants (Secret and Axe) and they range between 3 and 4.  Could be better.  Of course, there are obviously brands on the market to try, including Crystal deodorant which I picked up to give a try.
  • Body soaps also pass the test with a 1 for Dove and an acceptable 3 for Irish Spring.  Shave creams also not too terrible, both Skintimate and Barbisol run about a 4.
  • For my face, I knew there was a reason why I like Nu Skin.  It isn’t on the website so I entered each ingredient in to see how each fared.  For the Rejuvenating Cream, out of the 36 ingredients, 26 were either a zero or a one.  Seven more fell in the 3-4 range, and the final three each fell in the 6-8 range.  Not bad.

I thought I would try to make something homemade so I decided on shaving cream.  Several sites used a variety of ingredients.  I wanted something simple with limited ingredients.  I love this website (http://www.littlehouseliving.com/easy-homemade-shaving-cream.html ), with pictures and recipe included as well as other areas of interest for future chapters.  So off to Walmart I went, and bought Lou Ana Pure Coconut Oil, 31.5 ounces for $5.98 and Burt’s Bees honey and shea Body Butter 6.5 ounce for $12.97.  I already have olive oil, so the cooking began.  I should note that after purchasing and mixing the ingredients, I noticed that my shea butter was not the same as the littlehouseliving website’s shea butter.  I stuck with it anyway and tried out the mixture.  One leg with the homemade recipe, the other with Skinimate lotion.  Results:

Homemade:

  • Melted onto my skin as I spread it
  • A little rough to drag razor, but still able to glide
  • Legs were shaved well, no stubble
  • Afterward, smooth feeling
  • Approximate price: $6.00 for 7 ounces (as made with Burt’s Bees shea butter)

Skintimate:

  • Spread well
  • Easier to glide razor
  • Legs shaved well, no stubble
  • Afterward, my skin felt a little drier than the homemade
  • Approximate price: $4.88 for 7 ounces (if not on sale)

Convincing my boyfriend to try the homemade as well, he felt satisfied with the results.  Interestingly, he felt that after shaving by spreading a thin layer on his skin seemed to calm razor burn.  He also recommended aloe in the mixture, which we’ll try next time.

My mistake in purchasing the wrong shea butter made it originally pricey.  I purchased from amazon the correct shea butter which was significantly cheaper.  I’ll be back to revisit this recipe when my shipment comes in…..