Necker’s Toyland in Simsbury CT - hands down, the best little toy store around!

December 9th, 2011 by nancyross

The very best toys EVER, so many of which are not found in the big box stores, are what make Necker’s Toyland the most cherished, child and parent-pleasing family run business in the neighborhood.  Folks come from miles away to step into a world of toys in the most unique little shop that has been beloved by so many for so long.  The moment you step inside, the child within is reborn.  Simply put, they have really cool stuff!

Necker’s was a familiar place throughout our childhood, as it was a nearby hardware store with sleds and toys out front – a temptation for us as we caught a glimpse of the store every Sunday on the way home from Church.  As the business passed on to the next generation, the little yellow store evolved into the toy store that everyone (and we mean everyone) counts on for fun and unusual toys…toys that become treasures to every child receiving them. 

As an adult, you can spend hours looking at all the wonderful offerings, and you will surely stumble upon toys from your own childhood.  The store is set up so that you can easily find what you need – whether it be for a boy or girl, certain age group or category of toy.  Dolls & plush toys, transportation toys, magic tricks, arts & crafts, musical toys, puzzles & games, books, scientific exploration, dramatic play, manipulatives, and toys for outdoor play for all seasons… snow is coming, sleds and saucers for all! 

You will find new and trendy (trendy with staying power) toys and games, and Necker’s carries a multitude of products Made in the USA.  Yes, Slinkys are still made in America!  Owner Debbie Necker and her gang are very helpful and knowledgeable.  When we go in and ask, “What should we get for a 6 year old boy?”, we leave with the most incredible toy that has “wow” factor.  There is something for everyone here – infant, baby, toddler, three +, tweens/teens (how hard are they to shop for?!) and adults (wonderful board games and nostalgic toys).  Necker’s Toyland is one of our favorite feel-good places to go…make it yours, too!

Necker’s Toyland is located at 1591 Hopmeadow Street (Route 10) in Simsbury CT…just 4 minutes down the road from the Dutch Iris Inn.  You can also follow Necker’s on Facebook.

Our Favorite Loaf of Bread…for now, that is!

December 8th, 2011 by nancyross


Our Favorite BreadWhether it be the holidays or just a day that requires the comfort of a loaf of homemade bread, we have the perfect recipe to share with you from King Arthur Flour.  Raisin Pecan Rye Bread is a soft, slightly sweet light rye bread that is perfect on its own, slathered with butter, or toasted as an accompaniment to breakfast. 

Since we began baking and serving this bread at the Dutch Iris Inn (sorry…not every

Prepare the Biga

morning!), we have been getting compliments galore.  We credit this enthusiasm to King Arthur Flour, where we found the recipe not too long ago.  Throughout this blog, you can see a pictorial rendition of the bread, but be sure to visit King Arthur Flour’s website to get the recipe for yourself!  FYI - We like to experiment with recipes… our photos also show a non-pecan/non-raisin loaf where we substituted fresh orange zest.  It was a delicious variation, yum!

Dough Preparation

For those of you who do not know King Arthur Flour and love to bake, you MUST visit their website, request a catalog, or make the pilgrimage to Norwich Vermont.  We have been going to the store for years, back when they were just a little building that soon grew and grew, then a new building, which has been growing and growing.  KAF offers bakers every possible known product to make the most delicious breads, cookies, pies and more.  Their website is chock full of recipes and tips, the blogs are very helpful and entertaining, and there is something for everyone. 

Ready to Rise

Not a baker?  They have great mixes.  Gluten Free?  They have a full line of gluten-free products for baking.  And take a closer look at your “baking needs” aisle in the grocery store.  Many stores across the nation carry King Arthur Flour products.

For those of you in the know about KAF, America’s oldest flour company, you understand exactly why we encourage others to become followers.  Isn’t it grand to be able to support an employee-owned company, located right here in New England, one who also recognizes the importance of domestic products and high quality?  The expertise from their resident bakers is unparalleled, with their blogs, hotline, and of course their courses. 

Fresh Baked from the Oven

You can easily attend courses and demos across the country, and a wonderful variety of classes and workshops are offered at the Norwich VT location as well.  So, roll up your sleeves, open that sack of flour, and begin!

Hiking through the Mary Edwards Mountain Property in North Granby CT

October 25th, 2011 by nancyross

When does a hike become a truly emotional experience?  When the land upon which you are walking has a direct connection to your own history.  Fall ForestMary Edwards, who for a long time owned the house that is now the Dutch Iris Inn, generously donated land to the Granby Land Trust for everyone to enjoy.  The Mary Edwards Mountain Property trails offer a variety of hikes, where you will come across stone walls, brooks and streams, ponds, “Mary’s Rock,” a view of Springfield MA and more… all from atop the rolling hills of North Granby.  The low-lying ground vegetation, laurels, burning bush and other beautiful underbrush provide an intricate weave of natural beauty.  The sugar maples, spectacular birch trees, evergreens, oaks, and every other kind of tree typically found in New England show off their glory year round. 

Which season is best for a hike?  The answer could be argued in every direction, but one thing is certain, all of the many trails near the Dutch Iris Inn are unforgettable no matter what time of year you visit. 

Mary Edwards

Mary Edwards in 1932

Winter:  The quiet hush of snow among towering trees, when cross-country skiing and snowshoeing bring us outdoors; Spring:  Walking the soggy forest bottom to see the bright green growth that nature puts forth; Summer:  Hiking through lush greenery and coming upon nature in full bloom and views of the rolling hills; Autumn:  This is New England – need we say more about the way we feel when fallen leaves crunch under foot?  Come soak in the awesome autumn colors of the Mary Edwards Mountain Property, offering you an experience like no other!

While in the area, be sure to stop into some of our favorite places in North Granby:  Lost Acres Orchard (orchard, farm store, “quilt happenings”), Lost Acres Vineyard (new winery & vineyard – see our previous blog), and Sweet Pea Cheese (best goat and cow dairy products around!).  North Granby has beautiful countryside, we sure you will enjoy your time there.

Want to learn more about the Granby Land Trust or become a Property Steward (we are!)?  Granby Land TrustIt is so satisfying to enjoy these natural landscapes and make sure they remain the way nature intended.  Generous folks (like Mary Edwards) who have donated land, those that look after the properties, and the energetic volunteers that perform the work to maintain them are dedicated to making a difference in preserving our natural heritage.  For this effort, we are always thankful.

A New Connecticut Winery Is Born! Lost Acres Vineyard in North Granby CT

October 20th, 2011 by nancyross

At long last, the new winery and vineyard that we have been waiting for has finally opened its tasting room – hooray!  LAV Wine PourLocated in a beautiful area of North Granby, Lost Acres Vineyard is a peaceful and yet festive destination for those who enjoy trying different wines.  Kevin and Michelle, winemaker and proprietors, are some of the most hospitable and upbeat hosts you’ll ever find in this neck of the woods.  Their enthusiasm for their wines spreads throughout the place, and everyone who stops in is sure to enjoy themselves. 

Taste the various reds and whites that they have created, and you will get a feel for what is to come year after year.  As their vineyard continues to thrive, the view from the barn deck becomes more spectacular as the day goes on, with the sun hitting the grapevines and reflecting beautiful hues of green.  Be sure to take advantage of the extras you can purchase in addition to the wine.  Sit back and enjoy a cheese platter to accompany your glass of wine, while overlooking the vineyard.  What could better?

The tasting room is located inside the barn, and what a lovely indoor venue to enjoy while sampling wine.  The post and beam construction of the barn is fascinating, the center fireplace is beautiful, and the art work that is displayed on the walls truly draws attention.  A little tidbit of interest…  Lost Acres Vineyard held an art competition among local artists to choose a label for their wines.  The oil painting that was chosen is hanging in the tasting room for all to enjoy. 

For those of us at the Dutch Iris Inn, the opening of Lost Acres Vineyard means yet another fun place for our guests to visit.  One of the most popular things that our guests love to do is to visit the local farms, orchards and wineries in the area.  Now they have one more stop to make – and only a stone’s throw away!  Lost Acres Vineyard is located at 80 Lost Acres Road, North Granby CT 06060.  They are open for tastings and wine sales on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through January 2nd, 11:00am – 6:00pm.  Keep in touch – they have special events at the vineyard as well.

The Pumpkin Patch - An October Tradition in Granby CT

October 6th, 2011 by nancyross

Each year, directly across the street from the Dutch Iris Inn, South Congregational Church’s lawn is covered with beautiful pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors.  It is quite a sight to see, and a visit to The Pumpkin Patch has become a Granby tradition for many families in the area.  Pick a PumpkinPumpkins and gourds are everyone’s favorites for autumn decorating, and the selection at The Pumpkin Patch offers great inspiration for holiday displays and pumpkin carving.  The beautiful setting is a wonderful photo opportunity, too! 

The Pumpkin Patch tradition was started many years ago, with the special efforts of a select few from South Church who wanted to help support the pumpkin growers and offer a way to raise funds for outreach activities that Church youth and members participate in throughout the year.  This festive endeavor has become well known throughout the region.  People come from near and far for the varieties offered here.  As for us, here at the Dutch Iris Inn, we cart wheelbarrows full of colorful pumpkins across the street to decorate our grounds for the fall – and you’ll find them indoors, as well.

Pumpkin Patch

Create an autumn excursion around your visit.  Driving down Salmon Brook Street, where beautiful sugar maple trees line the street, you’ll appreciate New England’s landscape and the colorful harvest that adorns the South Church lawn.  After you have made your pumpkin and gourd selections, stop at nearby farms to pick apples, watch cider pressing, munch on some cookies and other baked goods, and stock up on your local canned fruits and vegetables for the winter.  With the chilly air coming into the area soon (it has been a warm summer!), we look forward to crisp fall days and the slow approach of the quieter months to come.

The Evil FruitThe Pumpkin Patch is open throughout October.  You may come by to select your pumpkins and gourds 7 days a week:  Monday through Friday noon – dusk, and Saturdays and Sundays 10am – dusk.  It’s a lot of fun – bring your family, neighbors and friends!

The Concord Grape…How Sweet It Is!

October 4th, 2011 by nancyross

Concord Grapes - Round 2We are so lucky to have beautiful Concord grapes dangling from the grape arbor in our yard each year.  These sweet purple jewels are a special treat for the early fall harvest.  Friends of ours with thriving vines also take in bountiful bushels of grapes which they share with us each year.  We cherish these beauties and utilize every drop of juice we can get!  This year, we made our usual stock of Concord grape jelly, enjoyed the juice at breakfast, and we made our favorite sweet treat – Concord grape sorbet.  (More about the sorbet later) 

For those who like a little history…  Ephraim Wales Bull developed the Concord grape in 1849, according to the Concord Grape Association.  He planted around 22,000 seedlings on his farm outside Concord before he found the ideal grape.  This hardy grape ripens early (September, in our yard here in Granby CT), thereby escaping the killing frosts that are just around the corner.  The Concord grape has full-bodied flavor, beautiful blue-purple skin, and the aroma of the ripened grapes is unbelievable.  We enjoy walking beneath the grape arbor before harvest, breathing deeply the scent of sweet grapes that matches no other.  

All of the grape concoctions that we prepare at the Dutch Iris Inn begin with the Concord grape juice itself.  When we first began, we boiled the grapes down, put them through a food mill or cheese cloth to get as much of the juice as possible.  This labor intensive process took quite some time, until we learned of a way to extract the juice from all of the grapes within an hour or two – without the mess.  A friend of ours, a quintessential New England woman (and former military nurse), loaned us her stovetop triple-boiler juice extractor that she has been using for about 40 years.  Before you knew it, we had a couple of gallons of grape juice, and we were on our way to jelly preparation. 

We put up many jars of Concord grape jelly once again, having plenty to share with our guests at the breakfast table throughout the year.  For those of you who enjoy canning, you may understand the attraction of canning Concord grape jelly and juice – this all happens after the hot summer season, so the kitchen does not become a sweatshop the way it does when canning the summer harvest!

As for our Concord grape sorbet, it is a very simple process.  Here’s how we do it:  Mix 4 cups of Concord grape juice with ¾ cups sugar in a saucepan.  Heat gently and stir constantly until sugar dissolves – the mixture does not need to boil, it just needs to get warm enough to melt the sugar.  Remove from heat and allow to cool; chill in refrigerator.  Add 1-2 Tablespoons vodka to the sweetened grape mixture (this keeps the sorbet from freezing rock-solid), pour into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer the Concord grape sorbet to a freezer-proof container, cover and freeze until firm.  Serve and enjoy – and think about us as the sorbet passes over your lips, and your lips turn purple.  You’ll feel like a kid again!

The Granville Harvest Fair returns Columbus Day Weekend 2011

September 29th, 2011 by nancyross

Neighbor ScarcrowThe small town of Granville Massachusetts hosts a not-to-be-missed annual 3-day Harvest Fair that offers the quintessential New England fall festival experience.  Along a 1-mile stretch on a scenic country road, Route 57, you will encounter 6 main venues that offer food, crafts, art, music and festivities for the entire family.  This year, 2011, the Granville Harvest Fair runs October 8, 9 and 10, and as always, has free admission.  Shuttle buses from parking lots are available all around the area – but be sure to walk everywhere you can and soak in the beautiful autumn colors that surround you!

The main venues include the Town Green, the 1802 Meeting House, the Federated Church, Granville Library, the Village School, and new this year the Noble & Cooley Drum Factory and Museum.  Granville Civil War DrumThe Town Green, at the intersection of Routes 57 and 189, is set up like a bazaar, with over 30 vendors and crafters offering a variety of hard-to-resist creations.  And don’t forget to participate in the Scarecrow Convention!  The other venues offer beautifully hand-crafted items as well, various demonstrations, and you will find tasty treats along the way.  Hot apple pie and fresh cider pressing are just a few of the culinary temptations you will encounter, as you stroll from place to place.  

Love quilts?  Don’t forget to stop in the 1802 Meeting House where the Granville Quilt and Needlework Guild showcases their most amazing creations.  Love tractors?  The antique tractor demonstration area is always a popular stop.  Love antique cars?  The antique car show takes place all day Saturday.  Love history?  The town itself is a gem of historic architecture – small and quaint, surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes, farms and orchards.  Cheese WheelIn the center of town, you must visit The Granville Country Store, famous for its Granville Cellar Aged Cheddar Cheeses as well as other necessities you expect to find in a village general store. 

The Granville Harvest Fair draws people from all over Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New York and beyond.  How can such a small New England town pull off such a wonderful country fair year after year?  Volunteers make it all happen – people taking the time to provide a fabulous and exciting destination for their neighbors during our beautiful fall season.  Come and enjoy a piece of small-town New England at its peak!

Hayes Maze in North Granby CT is now open - the best Corn Maze around!

September 28th, 2011 by nancyross

Love a good corn maze?  Try your skills at this one!  A tradition that everyone in town looks forward to is the Hayes Maze located at 151 East Street in North Granby CT.  Stanley Hayes and his family choose a unique design each year, planting and hand-pulling the corn to create the most amazing designs for their corn maze.  Last year, the Hayes Maze depicted several well-known monuments.  Look at the photo here…can you identify the monuments in the corn maze from 2010? 


Hayes Corn Maze

The Hayes Maze has many twists and turns, and you’ll have such a festive time working your way through the maze.  To help you along, there are special stations set up within the maze that have questions for you to answer.  Each answer takes you in a different direction.  Answer the question correctly, and you’ll be on your way through the maze.  Answer incorrectly, and you head off in a dead-end direction.  New this year, for added fun, are 5 paper punch stations that are hidden throughout the maze. 

Want an added bonus to your trip?  Visit SweetPea Cheese, adjacent to the Hayes Maze.  SweetPea Cheese is part of House of Hayes Dairy Farm, and the Cheese Shop is open 10:00am – 7:00pm daily.  There you will find fresh goat milk and cow’s milk, yogurts and award-winning cheeses.  They have a variety of cheeses from which to choose, all freshly prepared on premises.  You can view the cheese preparation through the windows inside the shop.    GoatThe Dutch Iris Inn’s favorite goat cheese is the Chevre made at SweetPea Cheese.  …truly the best you’ll ever taste.  Really.  But we digress…we’ll share more about this cheese destination another time.  Let’s go back to the corn maze!

Bring your family out to the farm for a fun fall excursion.  The Hayes Maze is open Fridays 4:00-9:00pm, Saturdays 12noon-9:00pm, and Sundays 12noon-6:00pm.  If you come after dark for your corn maze challenge, be sure to bring a flashlight with you!  Admission to the Hayes Maze is $7.00 for Adults, $5.00 for Children 5-13 yrs., and Free for Tots (4 yrs and under).  Groups are also welcome, but please call to make arrangements ahead of time.


Granby Artists Association 10th Annual Open Studio Weekend, October 8 & 9, 2011

September 6th, 2011 by nancyross

One of our favorite events that happen here in Granby each year is the Granby Artists Association Open Studio Tour on Columbus Day weekend.  It never ceases to amaze us how many talented individuals we have in our community that excel in oil painting, wood working, watercolor, pottery wheel and claypottery, jewelry, calligraphy, cartooning, glassworks, photography, furniture and more.  Open Studio weekend is always at a beautiful time of year, with peak fall foliage providing the backdrop for a spectacular drive from studio to studio.  This year, the dates are Saturday & Sunday October 8th and 9th, 2011, 10am – 4pm each day. 

It is always a pleasure to meet the artists, talk with them about their craft, learn a few new things – how surprised we were to learn the intricacies of cartooning, and what it takes to produce a final draft!  Having the opportunity to see artists working with media that is not so familiar to us is a real treat.  We always come away with a better appreciation for the talent that surrounds us every day. 

Like previous years, you can participate in the “Passport” program while on tour.  Simply pick up your passport at the first studio you visit, have it stamped, and then have it stamped at all the other studios you tour that weekend.  If you get stamped by at least 12 of the 18 open studios, your name is entered into a drawing for a $250 gift certificate that you can spend at any studio(s) on tour. Paint brushes

For those who have stayed or visited us at the Dutch Iris Inn know how much we enjoy showcasing Granby art throughout our home.  Some of these pieces we found during Open Studio, and others we selected at various shows and from art stores in the area.  On the open studio tour, wonderful masterpieces of all kinds are available for show and for sale.  Come take a look and inspire your artist within!

For a map of the Granby Artists Association 10th Annual Open Studio Tour, visit the association’s website at  Why not get the best New England autumn experience around?  Forest fireSoak in beautiful fall foliage colors created by nature and view beautiful artwork created by our talented community artists.  See you on tour!

Granby Connecticut Celebrates 225 Years!

September 5th, 2011 by nancyross

Our beautiful New England town of Granby invites you to celebrate its 225th birthday!  October 1, 2011 will be the biggest day of celebration with a parade winding through our historic center to Salmon Brook Park, followed by a full day of festivities including rides, games, food, music, and spectacular fireworks sponsored by Windsor Federal Savings Bank.

Prior to this event, a fabulous evening at historic Holcomb Farm is planned on September 10thwith live music by “Still Above Ground” (classic rock), dinner and cash bar, 6:30-11:00pm. 

Still Above Ground

Still Above Ground

Contact the Dutch Iris Inn if you would like to purchase tickets in advance at $60 per person, or you may purchase tickets for $70 per person at the door.  Proceeds help benefit the BIG celebration on October 1st.

Pre-celebration events have been happening all year long.  Several that attracted much interest were the Awesome Auction held on Lake Manitook and Antiques Appraisal Days, where everyone attending could have up to three antiques appraised by experts.

These fund-raising events, as well as the sale of Granby 225 mugs, puzzles, magnets, tree ornaments and Granby artist calendars all benefit the BIG celebration on October 1, 2011.  The Granby Chamber of Commerce joined in the efforts by decorating the town with banners. The banners have the Granby 225 logo and can be found all over town, especially downtown where most of our small businesses are located.

Fireworks DisplayIf you have ever visited Granby CT, or simply passed through it, you know it is worth taking a closer look.  We are the northern-most town in the Farmington Valley, where settlers found beautiful land, rivers, hills and meadows in the late 1600s.  Our town offers breathtaking countryside, with so many places to explore.  Granby is quintessential New England, with its winding roads, historic homes and barns, white steeple churches sprinkled across the landscape, and four distinct seasons to enjoy.  We welcome you to visit our town as it celebrates its 225th birthday – Granby Connecticut, 1786-2011!

More details and a complete schedule of events can be found on the Town of Granby’s website.  Contact phone numbers, events, and a complete schedule can be found there. See you at the Granby 225th celebration!  GO GRANBY!