Archive for the ‘Area Activities’ Category

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.

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 Garlic Farm in West Granby CT Is a Unique Destination for All!

August 23rd, 2011 by nancyross

Garlic Farm Braid

The Best Garlic Ever!

The Garlic Farm in West Granby CT is a destination not to be missed!  In June, they tease you with their harvest of garlic scapes (stay tuned for more on that subject next June), and then the big season soon begins thereafter with the most wonderful bounty of fresh vegetables and, of course, GARLIC! 

The Garlic Farm market is located in a vintage barn on the property, with beautiful fields of pick-your-own zinnias out back.  Bushels and baskets overflow with bright colorful vegetables, all of which are grown pesticide-free in accordance with the Northeast Organic Farming Association. 

Garlic is sold by the head, by the bunch, by the pound or by the bag, and garlic braids are available in late summer.  At the Dutch Iris Inn, we use all of the Garlic Farm’s delicious produce in our breakfasts as often as possible.  As a matter of fact, we always use locally grown and seasonal ingredients to start your day at the inn – everyone becomes a locavore at our breakfast table!

When you visit the Garlic Farm, you will find freshly harvested vegetables as they become available throughout the season:  onions, shallots, leeks, scallions, hot and sweet peppers of many varieties (love those cubanelles!), eggplant, tomatoes (heirloom and modern – try the Fourth of July sweeties early in the season and the German Stripe beauties later on – heavenly and tomato-y!), summer and winter squash of all kinds, pumpkins, basil and more.  As for the garlic, it is flavorful beyond belief.  Once you taste it, whether fresh in vinaigrettes and the like, cooked into savory dishes, or roasted and spread on fresh baked bread, you will truly be amazed at the difference locally grown garlic makes. 

Garlic Farm Barn

The Garlic Farm Barn

…and speaking of bread, Collinsville Bakery offers some of their special breads at the Garlic Farm as well.  One of our favorite summer suppers to make at home is a Caponata Panini, full of sautéed Garlic Farm produce, sandwiched and grilled on Collinsville Bakery bread.  Yum! 

Selected conventionally grown produce from nearby family farms is also available, including sweet corn, berries, melons and seasonal orchard fruits.  So, what better way to spend your day than to come out and support your local farms?  Visit the Garlic Farm at 76 Simsbury Road in West Granby CT, open daily into October from 10am – 6pm.  They are just 8 minutes away from the Dutch Iris Inn …we’re spoiled by being so close!

Celebrate 20 Years of Farm Fresh Ice Cream at the Gran-Val Scoop!

August 11th, 2011 by nancyross

The Gran-Val Scoop - Dairy & Gourmet Ice CreamThis nearby farm has been family operated since 1903, and the Brown Family has made this ice cream hot-spot a favorite among the locals.  The Gran-Val Scoop is located in Granville MA – the town just north of the Dutch Iris Inn (Granby CT).  In 1991, the family started making its own homemade ice cream from the fresh milk produced on their dairy farm.  They make over 24 flavors of gourmet ice cream using many local ingredients like maple syrup, wild blueberries, peaches and more.  “The Scoop” also offers frozen yogurt, sherbets and sorbets (sorbets are dairy-free).

The farm continues to raise milk cows and a variety of other animals, such as sheep, goats, chickens, llamas, and rabbits.  Kids and adults alike enjoy visiting the animals and feeding the goats.  We enjoy every visit, and we visit often!  For those that know The Scoop and all if its animals… Taco the Donkey is currently out of town on a breeding project.  You can follow him on Facebook – yes, donkeys like to keep in touch, too!

Summer at Six Flags New England Theme Park – Fun Fun Fun!

August 11th, 2011 by nancyross

Whether you are in the mood for thrill rides, easy rides (if you like a slower pace in life), or water park excitement, Six Flags New England is packed full of summer fun!  So many guests at our inn have taken the plunge (literally, at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor) into a crazy day of outdoor adventure.  Spinning, swinging, looping, brain-scrambling rides abound, if you dare.  High-flying rides that catapult you into the sky, or turbo-drop rides that … well, you get the picture.  To balance those dizzy spells, there are many traditional family rides like bumper cars, the scrambler, tea cups, balloon race, and the like.

Six Flags New England Hurricane Harbor Water ParkA bonus for summer includes a second park within Six Flags New England:  Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.  “Bottom line:  You’re gonna get wet.”  Entrance to this water park is included in your tickets to Six Flags New England.  Tackle the award-winning Tornado, catch a wave in Commotion Ocean, or float the day away in Hurricane Bay.  There are so many water rides to try, that you’ll want to get there early and stay until you feel waterlogged.  Bring your suit and prepare for a wet and wild experience.  Six Flags Hurricane Harbor is open through early September, so you still have time to prolong your summer fun!

Excursions along the Farmington Valley Greenway: Rosedale Farms & Vineyards

August 11th, 2011 by nancyross

Rosedale Farms & VineyardsAnother jaunt down the bike path leads to a gem of a place that has been providing local produce to the community for over 90 years…and now wine!  Rosedale Farms & Vineyards, located in Simsbury CT, has been a delightful resource for buying local.  Fresh-as-can-be vegetables, fruits, flowers and other delicious offerings are available at this roadside farm store.  What makes it extra-special is its expansion into wine.  This 5th-generation family farm also has a beautiful 4-acre vineyard.  Flavorful red, white and blush wines are available for tasting on Saturdays and Sundays 12noon-5pm, July through October.  Rosedale wines have won several awards, and they are a popular destination along the Connecticut Wine Trail.

Rosedale Farms & Vineyards teams up with the Max Restaurant Group for special evenings including farm tours, wine tastings, four to six course feasts created with Rosedale’s farm-fresh ingredients.  Chef-to-Farm dinners are held on Thursday evenings throughout summer and fall.  Other local farm dinners using the farm’s produce pop up throughout the summer as well, keeping Rosedale Farms & Vineyards a community favorite.

The Bleu Willow in Simsbury CT - Party and Shopping!

May 28th, 2011 by nancyross

Yesterday, I (Nancy) went to one of my favorite shops – The Bleu Willow, located in Simsmore Square in Simsbury CT.  Laura, the owner, hosted a very nice springtime open-to-everyone reception, and I had so much fun talking with her and her colleagues, and sharing stories with the other shoppers.

I have followed this store from its birth in Granby CT to its relocation in Simsbury CT (thankfully,  just a few miles south of us).  It is definitely one of the best “feel good” places around.  This shop is exquisitely designed, stocked with wonderful vintage-hip finds, both trendy and antique, and has many unique artistic treasures.  The Bleu Willow offers an eclectic mix of antique and vintage pieces, as well as beautiful reproductions, that Laura has found in her travels – architecture, trinkets, new design trends – as well as the most fabulous artistic décor, accessories, furniture, and specialty gifts that are designed by local artists.  The jewelry is beautiful as well (and fun to try on!) – all designed by talented artists.

Here at the Dutch Iris Inn, we have several beautiful items from the Bleu Willow intertwined throughout our home, including unique pieces from the local artists.  One of our most commented on pieces is our Halloween tree, which is a beautiful table-top sculpture created by a talented artist from Simsbury.  Come visit us in October, and you’ll see it for yourself!

The Bleu Willow prices really and truly fit everyone’s budget…really.  Whether you are in the mood to shop, or simply in the mood to be inspired, The Bleu Willow will provide a fascinating experience for you.  At the moment, I have my eye on several garden gate pieces on display, and an old section of decorative curved fence…and then there is that little glass-glitter sign…and the decorative clocks… and the old vintage hooks… and on and on… I hope all of these are still there when I return!  But if not, that’s OK.  Laura always brings fresh items into her shop, so I am never without a new find to love, purchase, and cherish.  “Vintage Hip, Simple Living” is what The Bleu Willow is all about.  Check it out!

Spectacular Garden Tour - Open Garden Days at O’Brien Nurserymen

May 24th, 2011 by nancyross

We always enjoy working in our gardens, digging in the earth and watching nature take its course. Over the past few years of owning the Dutch Iris Inn, a good friend of ours, John O’Brien, has helped us plan beautiful landscaped gardens and borders around our property. His artistic abilities and never-ending knowledge of horticulture makes him very well known in our neck of the woods…and he’s a great guy all around! He specializes in hosta, America’s #1 selling perennial, but he offers so much more to complement all gardens.
John’s home is also his business location – O’Brien Nurserymen, a specialty nursery here in Granby CT. His property is landscaped to the hilt (of course!), and a trip to his place is like visiting an arboretum – only better. John opens his grounds to the public on “Open Garden Days” during designated weekends April – October, and it is truly like strolling through a fairy tale when you visit. We spend hours roaming the lawns, walking among the trees and woods, stopping to admire the streams and pond. There is so much more to absorb when you visit, and John truly makes you feel at home. We would like to share with you some excerpts from John’s annual newsletter for 2011:

“We [have assembled] a plentiful array of fantastic plants to tempt you with. Actually, it’s a year round job acquiring plants to have new and exciting selections on hand. Our extensive display gardens feature over 1,900 hosta varieties as well as other shady characters including epimediums, woodland peonies, primroses, spring ephemerals, tricyrtis and arisaemas. The gardens also include a wide variety of unusual dwarf conifers as well as over a hundred varieties of Japanese maples. We also carry other gems, such as coralbells, daylilies, sedums, and daphnes.” …and don’t forget ferns, alliums, ornamental grasses, flowering trees, and on and on we go. “We continue to add new display gardens for your viewing pleasure. On occasion, we have customers arrive in the morning when we open, and then we are amazed when they reappear from the display gardens in the afternoon.”

O’Brien Nurserymen’s Open Garden Days have themed weekends – highlighting what is in season, offering expert advice on all things wonderful. His 2011 Open Garden Day Weekends run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (and Memorial Day) on the following weekends: April 22, April 29, May 13, May 20, May 27, June 3, June 10, June 17, July 1, July 8, July 15, July 29, August 12, August 19, September 2, September 16, September 30, October 14. Visit O’Brien Nurserymen online at http://www.obrienhosta.comfor more information and to view a listing of his beautiful garden temptations.

Pick Your Own Apples, Nibble on Cider Donuts, and more!

October 7th, 2010 by nancyross

Apples Abound!Enjoy apple season at Bushy Hill Orchard or Lost Acres Orchard, just minutes from the Dutch Iris Inn.   Bushy Hill Orchard is open Fri-Sun 10am-5pm; Lost Acres Orchard is open every day throughout the fall, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm and Sun 12:30-5pm.  The onsite Creamery at Bushy Hill Orchard is open, and don’t forget to indulge in the wonderful farm kitchen goodies at Lost Acres Orchard…take some fresh cider home, too.  You’ll thank yourself later!