Sunday, August 26, 2012

St. Therese's Parish Picnic - Branford, CT

This weekend we were honored to attend St. Therese's in Branford, CT Annual Parish Picnic.

St. Therese's, the gem of the east shore, was established in 1927 in its first location on Thimble Island Road in Branford, CT.   In 1968 the Parish moved to its current location on Leetes Island Road in Branford, CT.  In 2006 Monsignor David Walker was named the Parish's sixth Pastor.

The Church's mission statement reads as follows:
The mission of Saint Therese Parish is to further develop and sustain a Christian community in which parish members of all ages, individually and together, grow in faith, worship, and service and to celebrate and extend to everyone the Gospel messages of love, hope, and justice.

Their annual parish picnic exemplifies just that!  Parish members, as well as their guests, happily gather every year to celebrate their faith, and enjoy the final bounties of the season.  This year, over 100 adults and 25 children gathered on the lawn of the Owengo Beach and Tennis Club in Branford, CT to once again enjoy the hospitality of the congregation.
Unfortunately, the 2011 parish picnic was cancelled due to Tropical Storm Irene's pounding of the east coast that day (8-28-11). Instead the congregation held a fall festival on the parish property in its place a few weeks later. It was a common theme today to think of all those who suffered at the hands of Irene and to remember where we all were a year ago at that time.  So many lost their homes, suffered property damage, or, at the very least, went days without power.

Today's weather was reason to celebrate - it was a beautiful 80 degrees with no humidity and a wonderful breeze coming off Long Island Sound.  It was a day to rejoice!

Everyone was enthusiastically greeted on arrival and "checked in" by members of the wonderful Parish office staff.

We started the day with clam chowder, hot dogs, and hamburgers... well as many delicious salads and sides, all prepared by good Christian woman (one of my favorite lines from Steel Magnolias) and, of course, good Christian men.

Everything was delicious - and I need to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the men and women who take the time out of their busy schedules days and weeks ahead of time to begin preparations for this wonderful picnic.  Also a big thank you to all those who work the picnic, year after year.  Please know that your service is very much appreciated!

This year's parish picnic also featured the music of the Larry Ayce Band who serenaded and entertained all in attendance with some classic country music, as well as some "oldies".  
There were even some who braved the grass surface to dance!
There was time to quietly reflect
and the opportunity to visit.

All in all - it was a fun day for everyone!

and the day ended with some terrific desserts!

We were all able to enjoy some quality family time...

and catch up with old and new friends.

105 Leetes Island Road
Branford, CT 06405

Thank you to Monsignor David Walker of St. Therese's
Jane Rosenthal, owner of Owenego Beach and Tennis Club
for hosting a wonderful event and gathering!

Visit St. Therese's and tell them Home Place sent you!

Home Place - St. Therese's Picnic 2015 

Did you attend any picnics this week?
Does your parish have an annual event that you attend every year?
I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tubing down the Farmington River in CT

If you're not quite ready for white water rafting but want to spend an afternoon having a river adventure, then the Farmington River Tubing experience just might be right for you!
Located on Main Street, New Hartford, in the Satan's Kingdom State Recreation Area the  Farmington River Tubing's 2.5 mile jaunt down a portion of the the Farmington River is a fun way to spend a hot summer day!   Satan's Kingdom State Recreation Area also features access to hiking trails and a public launch for canoes and kayaks.  

After parking (free parking) you'll need to go over to the "Waiver" area to sign a consent form.  Children 10-18 years old will also need to sign their consent and also have a parent or guardian sign responsibility for them. 
Be sure you read all the information and cautionary warnings.  
After signing waivers, you'll proceed to the payment trailer where waivers are submitted, and one adult will also need to complete an information paper with name and address; make, model, and license plate of car in their lot; emergency contact information; and, of course, pay the nice folks.
Payment for the tube rentals is $20.00 per person with weekday/non-holiday discounts of $2.00 off.  You must also leave a deposit, and management recommends that you leave your car keys for this deposit. Great idea! - As this ensures that you don't lose your car keys in the river (!!!) and allows you to lock all your personal belongings in your car.  There are also more informational signs that I would highly recommend that you read posted on the trailer that detail water level instructions, etc.
You'll then proceed to the tube and life preserver area.  You must wear a coast guard certified life preserver (you can bring your own if you wish - see details on their website).  
Tubes and life preservers are color coded for weight and height.  Before heading down to the river you will hear a safety talk about what to do if you are ejected from your tube during one of the rapids.  

Listen to them...this is for your safety!

You'll then bring your tube down to the river to begin your afternoon of fun!
You'll launch from their trail
...and float down the 2.5 mile area supported by the Farmington River Tubing 
The water was cold in the refreshing type of way but I can imagine on a cold day it might be uncomfortable.

While most of the trip is floating there are some portions that are rough 

Note:  The picture above is courtesy of Farmington River Tubing.  See more on the Farmington River Tubing Gallery.
However, most of the trip is spent relaxing in the gentle current.  

There are some portions that are quite shallow, especially when the water level is low.
Be sure to look for wildlife along the way.  We saw the cutest little duck.  You can't see it well here...but he had a mullet...or a mohawk.  In any case...s/he was cute!
Again, on one of the days that we went the water was so low that you often times had to get up and walk as we were getting stuck in some of the shallower areas.

Look for the blue tube hanging from the tree that signals the end of your "float" and designates the area where the bus awaits you.
You'll walk up a pretty steep incline to the bus.
Where you'll then board the bus that brings you back to the parking area.

You'll return your tubes and life preservers to their original areas.
And conclude your day of tubing!
Some additional notes... 
  1. Bring cash.  No other form of payment is accepted.
  2. Wear sunscreen!  Remember that the sun's rays over water are often intensified.
  3. Be sure each member of your party knows how to swim. This is important! There are a few areas of the river that will bounce you around and it is possible to be ejected from your tube.  (It happened to me!)  
  4. There is an age requirement of 10 years old but I would also add that your 10 year old must be an adventurous type.  If they don't like to get splashed, or bounced into strangers (on a busy day there are lots of tubers in the water) then this might not be the river trip for you. 
  5. On the other end of the age and health spectrum, I should also add that you must still be spry enough to be able to get in and out of a tube at ground level easily.  On low water level days you may get "stuck" quite often on sometimes slippery rocks, so you must be able to get out of your tube and maintain balance on slippery surfaces as you maneuver yourself to deeper water areas.  
  6. You must also be able to paddle yourself frequently to get to these deeper depth areas. 
  7. Bring a change of clothes for your return trip home. There is an area for changing (see red cabanas below) as well as porta-potties (blue).  If you are traveling a distance like we were (approximately a one hour drive from Branford, CT) then you will welcome the opportunity to return home in dry clothes!
  8. Anything you want to bring on the water with you (like a camera) pack in a water proof plastic bag.  Anything you carry WILL get wet!  Repeat:  It. WILL. Get. Wet.  Your hands are constantly in the water so simply handling my camera (taking it in and out of the plastic bag) meant that it got a little wet.
  9. Do NOT bring your cell phone!  Appreciate nature and the people you are with without bringing a phone with you.  It is likely that even with a protective plastic bag it will get a little wet.  It may even fall into the water. Don't take the risk of damage or loss.  Leave your cellphone in the car!  (your fellow tubers will thank you!)
  10. Wear water shoes or sneakers.  The paths are pebbly and can hurt bare feet.  (yes,  I was barefoot and it hurt!).  But also be careful of slippery rocks if your water shoes are non-grip.
  11. Clear a block of time.  I went twice this year, and the first time the water level was higher (faster current) and it took us 2.5 hours to go down the river.  The second time the water level was very low and it took a full 4 hours to go down the river.  This increase in time was due to the fact the the current was very slow and we got stuck on rocks several times and had to maneuver our way out.
  12. It was my personal observation that on the weekend day that I went (Sunday) there were more young adults and couples with an average age 20 to 35 and the river was packed with tubers.  On the weekday that I went (Friday), there were many more families with adolescents (average age was 12-25) and it was much less crowded.  Both days were over 80 degrees and the water temperature was perfect (cold but not frosty).
  13. Review the website for warnings & rules and information  before you go.
  14. Be smart and safe. Follow the rules and respect your fellow tubers.
Changing areas in red to the right and "facilities" in blue to the left.

I would highly recommend the Farmington River Tubing adventure as a great way to spend a hot afternoon in Connecticut.  

Visit Farmington River Tubing 
and tell them Home Place sent you!

Farmington River Tubing
92 Main Street
New Hartford, CT 06057

For additional pictures visit: Home Place Farmington River

Have you had any fun adventures this summer?  I'd love if you'd share them below!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Brunch at Jalapeno Heaven in Branford CT

During the month of August 2012 Jalapeno Heaven is featuring a scrumptious brunch - and last Sunday I was invited to be part of their promotion and partake in sampling some of their yummy brunch offerings.  Well --- OF COURSE I said YESSSS!!!!
Jalapeno Heaven is owned and operated by Gail and Hector Flores. I've been a friend of the Flores family ever since they returned to Connecticut.  Gail was born and raised in Branford, CT but moved to Florida in the 70s. Hector originates from Zacatecas Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was 18. Hector and Gail met while she was managing a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale and they married soon thereafter and returned to Gail's hometown in 1985 to fulfill their dream of starting a family and opening a restaurant.  Their beautiful daughter Nicole was born in 1987 and they opened their Mexican restaurant in Branford CT on Cinco de Mayo weekend in 1992.

I joined Nicole for brunch as soon as the restaurant opened at 10am and because we were "first" we contemplated whether to eat on the patio or in the dining room.

Air conditioning won out (83 and humid outside) and we started off with a mango mimosa to cool us down and celebrate Nic's last weekend in CT before returning to her work in upstate New York.

I ordered the Mango Mimosa, a frosty and refreshing libation - the perfect blend of bubbly Asti Spumonte sparkling wine and mango puree, with a sugared rim. Yes. I. had. a. drink. at. ten. in. the. morning. Don't judge!  (smile)
Also available was a Karma Tequila Bloody Mary, made with a balanced mixture of Karma Tequila, tomato juice, with a blend of spices, garnished with celery, lime and a salted rim.

And of course I had coffee! This is how it should always be served!  
See the steam coming off the top?  

Followed by a fruit plate which consisted of a fresh fruit salsa served with cinnamon sprinkled crispy flour tortillas.
Nicole ordered the Huevos Con Chorizo, three eggs sauteed with Chorizo sausage, served with home fries, refried beans and soft flour tortillas.

She piled the still warm tortilla with a mixture of everything. ( I helped myself to  She let me have a fork-full of the egg and chorizo mixture.  DELICIOUS!)

 I ordered the egg, potato, and cheese Breakfast Burrito.  Look at this beautiful baby!

Golden crispy on the outside and as light as air and fluffy on the inside.  Oh and cheesy, in fact, nice-n-stringy-cheesy!   My burrito was cooked perfectly.  My only regret was that I didn't ask for some tiny minced jalapenos to be tucked inside for a quick burst of heat with every bite.  And lazy me.  There are always jalapenos on the table at Jalapeno Heaven.  I could have just added my own!
Everything was OH SO GOOD and I was honored to be invited and  sample some of these brunch treats!

Thank you Gail, Hector and Nicole!  

Link to their brunch menu: Jalapeno Heaven August Promotional Brunch Menu  
and remember there are only two dates left to this special promotion!  Check out the Lobster and Scallop Omelet on page 1!  (I'll be there for that next week for sure!!!) Or the Chipolte Shrimp Omelette.  Or the Mexican Eggs Benedict. Ut.OH. So little time left. So many choices!!!

Come down and enjoy this promotion while it lasts
(Final dates 8-19-12 and 8-26-12)
and tell them Home Place sent you!

Jalapeno Heaven
40 North Main Street
Branford, CT 06405

Disclaimer for the folks in the back:  I was a guest of the Flores family for brunch but the opinions expressed are those of my own.

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