20-years ago, I landed in the middle of nowhere.
Well, not exactly, but it felt that way. I’d left Long Island and the New York City art scene for rural eastern Connecticut. Talk about culture shock! Unlike the western side of Connecticut, which has a strong New York influence, the eastern part of the state is peppered with pockets of culture among the many farms.
I’ve discovered many hidden gems over the years and have grown to love the farm-to-table green eco-conscious and made-by-hand businesses in and around my community.
This holiday season, I’m sharing some of what I love most about living in rural eastern Connecticut. These businesses align with the Kristen Mara brand values of sustainability, quality, and kindness to others and our earth. I hope you enjoy this thoughtfully curated virtual basket of my favorite things, from my heart to yours:
Located in my small town of Lebanon, CT, Sugar Maple Farms has made honey and maple syrup for over 30-years. Every year I include maple syrup, maple candy and maple butter in my Christmas packages to my family out west, and they’ve grown to love these sweet treasures just as much as I do.
My kids always make sure that I get enough maple butter for us too - a delicious addition to our winter table (no counting calories allowed)!
Photo credit: Sugar Maple Farms
Like Kristen Mara, Treefort Naturals is committed to protecting our environment. This is just one of the many reasons I’m in love with my friend Jess’s brand. Her handcrafted natural soap and skincare products are made with ingredients from the earth, the trees, the farm, and the sea. Located close to me in the nearby town of Colchester, CT, I adore her soaps and lip balms, not to mention they’re perfect for gifting!
Photo credit: Treefort Naturals
What happens when romance and a love of beer collide? A brewery is born! Owned by the son of my former boss and his wife, the Beer’d duo has grown their love for each other, for craft beer and a home-brewing hobby into a thriving business. With creatively crafted beer and fun swag, Beer’d Brewing is one of my faves! The brewery is located in the stunning renovated Velvet Mill factory building. Built in 1888, Velvet Mill is a venue for a thriving creative community of artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses.
Photo credit: Beer'd Brewing
Being surrounded by dairy farms means if you love cheese, you’re in luck! One of my favorite spots to shop is Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, CT. Run by a mother and son team, Cato Corner makes their cheese from their herd of cows, and it’s phenomenal! I love to indulge for special occasions, dinner parties, and a yummy family treat. Plus, it’s fun to visit the farm and have a chat with the cows!
Photo credit: Cato Corner Farm
Beautiful, functional, and eco-friendly, could The Vegan Potter be more aligned with Kristen Mara? I don’t think so! Beautiful pottery made by a lovely human in Stonington, CT. Artist-Owner Lyndsay Meiklem Dean has had a love affair with clay that spans two decades. Her love for her craft is evident in her original and distinctive work.
Lyndsay’s original studio was one of the first places I sold my jewelry, so she holds a special place in my heart.
Photo credit: Glaze Handmade
Local wine and baked goods in one place? Hello! In the neighboring town of North Franklin, CT, a scenic drive past many farms takes you to Arrowhead Bakery and Winery. There’s a beautifully renovated barn overlooking the vineyards, which feels more like California than Connecticut. My weekly trip to pick up bread (ok, I admit, apple pie too…) for my family, fiance, and his parents is a must! Oh, and don’t get me started on their decadent chocolate chip cookies. Yum!
Photo credits: Arrowhead Acres
What started as a hobby for Cassandra and Drew Archer has grown into a creative brand featuring handmade leather goods. Like Kristen Mara, Blackkat focuses on the quality, sustainability, and functionality of its products. I love their work for all of these reasons and because it’s simply amazing. Located not far from me in Chester, CT, all of their work is created in their studio and sold in their brick-and-mortar shop and online.
Photo credit: Blakkat Leather
Tasty inspiration close to home. With his many years of culinary expertise, Chef Tyler May has built a fabulous farm-to-table restaurant only 10 minutes from my house. Dedicated to supporting local farmers, the staff at Stone Row takes a team approach to delight their customers. Egos are left at the door, and everyone is a valued part of the business. The incredible food, the gorgeous Brooklyn, NY-style decor, and their solid core values are among the reasons why I love to eat at Stone Row.
Photo credit: Stone Row
When this tea-loving lady sips coffee for a special treat, you know it’s good! The Grounded Coffee Company, an intimate, earthy yet modern little coffee shop, is big on flavor and philosophy. Like Kristen Mara, Grounded Coffee Company purchases supplies worldwide, with mindfulness towards worker safety. The shop is 10-minutes from my house in Willimantic, CT, so we love to pop in for a warm caffeine boost or a sweet indulgence.
Photo credit: Grounded Coffee Co.
I hope you enjoy this virtual gift basket all year long!
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My daughter, dancing for joy because it's Holiday time in our quiet corner of Connecticut!