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Stamford

Bar Taco

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222 Summer Street, Stamford
20 Wilton Road, Westport

I’m reading Memoirs of a Sociopath and am convinced that everyone is a sociopath. At least the charming ones among you are sociopaths. So if you’re planning to manipulate me in cruel and sadistic ways, I have one thing to say to you: please don’t. I’m far too easy a target (to which my kids will happily attest.)

Who you should manipulate are the folks who decided we can no longer loiter with our margarita by the waterfront at Bar Taco in Westport. You see, our thrills are simple: we like to sip excellent cocktails while watching cars clear out of the parking lot across the river. So why destroy them? Either competing bars are envious of this recreation, or too many ducks are suffering blows to the head from falling glasses.

But aside from the occasional disgruntled duck, Bar Taco remains the suburbanite’s answer to nightlife. It’s crowded, scene-y, energetic, and kid-friendly. It’s also a restaurant, but most people don’t get too worked up about that. Me, I’m not crazy about most of the fare. But some people enjoy it. Take that however you’d like.

Robin’s note: During one of my many ventures to Bar Taco, the hostess spotted parents with a young girl waiting for a table. The little girl was dying of boredom and starvation, so the hostess ran over and gave her a coloring book, crayons, and chips. Nice touch, Bar Taco hostess.

Click to read the rest ... "Bar Taco"

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Stamford     Westport    
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 • Permalink

Little League Challenger

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Darien, http://www.dybs.org
Norwalk, http://www.leaguelineup.com
Stamford, http://www.leaguelineup.com
Wilton, http://www.wiltonlittleleague.org
Fairfield, http://www.eteamz.com
Greenwich, http://www.littleleague.org

I was never very good at sports. I loved them, though, and signed up for every thing: basketball, softball, field hockey, lacrosse… back when we signed up for sports and were spared the disgrace of try outs. It was common knowledge I’d be useless with a ball but, shoot, I could yell and cheer louder than anyone else on the team. So I did, and instead of runs, baskets, goals, and things that actually won games, I made them very noisy. And I did get a few Spirit Awards…

When I read about the Challenger Division, a team of mentally and physically challenged children playing baseball with the help of volunteers, I was touched. Here is an opportunity, I thought, to reward spirit and teamwork as the end result of a game: a laudable, often overlooked goal, and I bet I’m not the first cheerleader to agree.

What they are: “…a program that enables mentally and physically-challenged youth to enjoy the full benefits of Little League participation in an athletic environment structured to their abilities.
“The philosophy is to give all children the chance to play baseball in a setting that is fun and supportive. A big part of this, for the players, is to experience the sense of belonging that comes with being a part of a team, as well as the spirit of friendly competition through games with other Challenger teams from neighboring towns. In Challenger baseball, scores don’t count - everybody is a winner. It’s all about acceptance, self-esteem, positive learning experiences and team spirit.”

Click to read the rest ... "Little League Challenger"

Give     Darien     Fairfield     Greenwich     Norwalk     Stamford     Wilton    
Wednesday, May 07, 2014 • Permalink

Friends of Ferguson Library Used Book Shop

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One Public Library Plaza, Stamford

I come from a long line of book lovers. My dad used to bring home cases of dusty books from local library sales with such provocative titles as “Twelfth and Thirteenth Annual Reports of the Bureau of Animal Industry for the Fiscal Years 1895 and 1896.” I… never read it. Nor, I suspect, did anyone else except my dad and the author. But I do, as many of you, read anything on the Top 10 bestseller list. Which you can get on the cheap at the Friends of Ferguson Library Used Book Shop, operated by Stamford library volunteers.

Who they are: Volunteers who stock and sell “quality used books at reasonable prices to provide financial support for the mission of the Friends of Ferguson Library.” (website)

What they do: Proceeds from sales of music and books support special library programs and, through their Friend-to-Friend Program (F2F), provide free books to select Stamford non-profit agencies to “serve as a free community literacy resources.” Special gifts to the library include transportation for children to and from the library and a special reader for people with macular degeneration. Through F2F, the library has donated over 200,000 books to agencies since 2003.

What you may not know but should:
  1. FF has a rare and collectible book section, including a free training program to teach volunteers how to recognize and value prized publications.
  2. Since 1981, FF has sponsored author luncheons as a “thank you” to the community it services. They have hosted such literary luminaries as Frank McCourt and Elizabeth Strout.

How you can help:
  1. Volunteer your time.
  2, Buy books.
  3. Donate clean, interesting books in readable condition.
http://www.friendsoffergusonlibrary.org

Give     Stamford    
Monday, April 14, 2014 • Permalink

Graze

Graze

http://www.grazedelivered.com

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Graze(Click to enlarge)

So this goat farmer walks into my house…

That could be the beginning of a great joke or a bad porn flick. But it’s neither. It’s actually true. He comes to my home on Monday mornings and delivers fresh milk, eggs, chef-prepared meals, and other organic treats directly from artisanal farms in Vermont. And the price? No more than what you’d pay at Whole Foods.

Graze, the brainchild of Christy Colasurdo, a Westport mom and former New York magazine editor along with husband, Doug, and Vermont friends Julianna and Steve (a former CFO of Heineken Americas. Yes, male readers: beer) allows Fairfield County-ers to enjoy delicious farm-to-table foods to which they would otherwise have little or no access (farmers aren’t necessarily great marketers and, to be fair, vice-versa).

Chef Neil whips up a weekly menu of prepared foods, including a soup, adult dinner, kids dinner, grain salad, vegetarian alternative, tea bread, cheese, and much more. His meals and soups are beautifully prepared from local ingredients (Misty Knoll chicken, grass-fed angus beef, freshly picked vegetables) and are surprisingly, and refreshingly, well-seasoned (whoever decided that organic meals must be low-sodium should be locked into a room of hungry pre-schoolers. And their moms.)

Christy tells me, “We have taken great pains to make sure every ingredient we use and every product we sell is not only delicious and nutritious and wholesome, but also sustainably and humanely produced. (We) work with small farmers who know and love their animals and treat them with respect.

Click to read the rest ... "Graze"

Dining     Darien     Fairfield     Greenwich     New Canaan     Norwalk     Stamford     Weston     Westport    
Wednesday, April 09, 2014 • Permalink

Little Black Dog Rescue

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http://www.littleblackdogrescue.org

We adopted a dog last summer - Addison, rescued from Puerto Rico. He’s a hybrid of, oh, 5 or 6 indeterminate breeds and it’s no exaggeration to say he’s the most amazing dog in the entire history of the world. So I was researching Playa Lucia, aka Dead Dog Beach, from where he hails. And I feel like someone just punched me in the stomach. Warning - the next paragraph is graphic.

Dead Dog Beach is a dumping ground for satos, or stray dogs. Up to 300 dogs at a time “live” there, abused and neglected, foraging for food, starving to death, and much worse. Not infrequently, men with guns or cross-bows use these dogs for target practice or hack them up with machetes. Others are poisoned or run over for by ATVs “for fun.” Those that don’t die from torture, starvation, or sickness are euthanized and tossed into the trash with hundreds of other dead dogs and puppies.

While this depravity is most pronounced in Puerto Rico, dogs are horribly mistreated and abused all over the United States.

To think this easily could have been our Addison’s fate is hideous.

Anecdotally, black dogs have the most difficulty finding adoptive homes. Reasons for this are conjecture, but theorires for “Black Dog Syndrome” include the Hollywood typecasting of black dogs in “evil” dog roles and that they don’t photograph well for promotional materials.

Amy Scarella, founder of Little Black Dog Rescue, has devoted herself to finding homes for these dark and deserving pups. She works with shelters in Puerto Rico, Georgia, and South Carolina to bring dogs to her home and foster families in Connecticut before matching them with the right families. All dogs are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and deemed healthy before they’re placed.

Robin’s Note: Adopt a dog this Sunday! On March 23, Doggone Smart, 15 Cross St, Norwalk, is hosting Little Black Dog Rescue and a posse of their cutest pooches, all eager for adoption. Please swing by between 12-3. http://www.doggonesmart.com


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Click to read the rest ... "Little Black Dog Rescue"

Give     Darien     Fairfield     Greenwich     New Canaan     Norwalk     Stamford     Weston     Westport     Wilton    
Friday, March 21, 2014 • Permalink

Fresh Air Fund

Fresh Air Fund

http://www.freshairfund.org

Last year my husband and I decided to host a 6 year old boy, Eddie*, from the Fresh Air Fund. For two weeks that summer I became the mother of 4 instead of 3. It was a living hell. Imagine a playdate that lasts 334 1/2 hours too long, riddled with late-night bouts of homesickness.

However, I liked Eddie. So, despite all reasons to the contrary, we invited him back this year. When my husband picked him up in New York, he exclaimed, “I can’t wait to see Miss Robin!” (Yes, I’m still waiting for my own kids to share such delight in seeing me.) He ran into my arms as though his whole year culminated in being with us once again. This time, we loved being together: the arguing mitigated dramatically, as did his homesickness. Eddie swam every day with us, went to the playground, went to parties, played baseball, and was genuinely and visibly thrilled with every thing we accepted as part of our normal summer routine. As difficult as the past visit had been, through it we had learned how to interact and succeed as a “family.”

Toward the end of his visit he popped his head out of the swimming pool and I saw he was drooling. He laughed and wiped his face and exclaimed, “I slobbered on the tire swing yesterday, too! I slobber when I’m having fun.” With that, he popped back into the water. I never thought I’d be so happy to see someone slobbering in my pool. That must be why God created chlorine.

The day before we drove him back to the city, he said, “Miss Robin, wouldn’t it be fun if I could stay here all summer?” Well, maybe. But I can’t wait to see him again next summer.

Click to read the rest ... "Fresh Air Fund"

Give     Darien     Fairfield     Greenwich     New Canaan     Norwalk     Stamford     Weston     Westport     Wilton    
Monday, March 10, 2014 • Permalink

Have Kids, Will Discipline

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I prefer the term “discipline” to “punish.” It seems more humane, as though my goal is to tease good behavior from my bunch of miscreants rather than to exact vengeance upon them. Semantics aside, once they hit the four-year mark the gloves come off.

Once (maybe twice) I swore at my collective of tiny people. I know parents shouldn’t swear at their kids but, in my defense, they totally deserved it. Unintended consequence: instead of improving their behavior they learned several new phrases to share with friends. So I kind of get how cursing is frowned upon.

Incentives like star charts don’t work for us. Last time I did it, two of my kids were too young to read well so they had no clue what I wrote. I drew pictures of “Make Your Bed” and “Brush Your Teeth,” etc. But that led to a lengthy and joyless critique of my skill as an artist.

Then they meandered upstairs and played with toys while I screamed at them to brush their teeth. Thirty minutes later they wandered downstairs and demanded a star. Instead of acting on my borderline-illegal impulse, I gritted my teeth and applied a star each to their empty boxes. I mean, why not? I knew, correctly, it’d be the last star they ever earned.

Why this fruitless exercise? I read that parents – especially mothers - should revel in their child’s achievements and tactfully admonish them for their misbehavior, i.e. “Sally, what a great job cutting with Mommy’s new kitchen scissors! Not sure how you got them, but next time let’s make sure Billy’s hand isn’t in the way. It’s not fun for Billy and blood is messy… it’s making mommy nauseous… a little faint. But YAY for such a clean incision!”

Obviously, the man who wrote this pearl of wisdom is too busy writing books and star charts to spend time at home raising kids. If he were, he’d know that any practice discouraged by Children’s Services is far more effective than the nebulous prospect of 15 shiny stars and a sugar-free lollipop.

And where, exactly, did moms get overlooked in all of this? We’re supposed to bury any negative feeling, any semblance of emotion other than delight, and keep looking to the rainbow while the hurricane annihilates our sanity? Nah. I try, but I lack the self-restraint. If a kid draws on my sofa with a Sharpie, my instinct isn’t to praise them for their creative use of mediums and replenish their stash of drawing paper. My gut tells me to yell and impose a lifetime ban on video games and dessert. Or worse. (Note to Children’s Services: I’m kidding. It never gets worse than that.)

Click to read the rest ... "Have Kids, Will Discipline"

Kids in Tow     Darien     Fairfield     Greenwich     New Canaan     Norwalk     Stamford     Weston     Westport     Wilton    
Monday, March 03, 2014 • Permalink

Margarita Man

Margarita Man, Fairfield

Margarita Man
Mike Beetem, 860-790-1234

Every year my husband and I celebrate Mexican Independence Day with a large party. Being American, we change their day of freedom to whatever happens to work best for us, typically a Saturday night. So “Cinquo de Mayo” cheekily becomes “Secondo de Mayo” or “Octavo de Mayo” or whenever (and however we feel like translating it.) We think this is cool but it will probably be one of those dorky things that haunt our children far into their adult lives.

So when the stress of planning a party and knowing you’ll someday destroy your children’s social development starts becoming less fun than what you envisioned, it’s time to call… Margarita Man!

Margarita Man, aka Mike Beetem, saved my party and made me so happy I forgot about the other stuff that was bothering me. I simply told him when and where and he delivered a beautiful machine – all gussied up in a grass skirt and silk flowers – the afternoon of my party. He supplied the delicious mix, I supplied the tequila and the triple sec. After giving us a quick tutorial (1. Pour it in, 2. Flip the switch) he told us he’d pick up the machine the next day (which he did, precisely when he said he would).

And the party? WOW. Nothing says “Viva la Independence!” like one too many Margarita Man margaritas!

Click to read the rest ... "Margarita Man"

Bars + Baristas     Entertainment     Darien     Fairfield     Greenwich     New Canaan     Norwalk     Stamford     Weston     Westport     Wilton    
Monday, February 10, 2014 • Permalink

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

18 West Putnam Avenue, Greenwich
222 Summer Street, Stamford
4180 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield
63.65 North Main Street, South Norwalk

Well, that was skeevy.

Before I dive into details, two things:

  1.  Barcelona is a delicious and delightful wine bar/tapas joint with a fun, noisy vibe.
  2. After reading this write-up, the new (and very kind) general manager of Barcelona SoNo, who was not aware of a certain employee’s behavior, contacted me to apologize. He was very concerned and expressed intolerance of such behavior. As of this writing, I’m confident that certain Barcelona employees will never hit on a patron—or, perhaps, anyone—again.

Robin’s note: One of the managers hit on me. Not in a flattering or coy way, but in a “God, it’s getting late and I haven’t picked up a chick yet” way. So here’s the story: I and 5 of my girlfriends go for drinks at Barcelona SoNo. We meet at 9:00 and there are several tables of women having birthday parties, drinks, whatever. When I ask a manager for the location of the restroom, he holds out his arm to escort me to a set of two doors in a narrow corridor across from the large glass wine refrigerator. I half-heartedly take his arm, then slide my arm back because it’s so queer.

An hour later I’m up again to use the facilities (I drink a lot of water when I tipple) and find both bathroom doors locked.

Click to read the rest ... "Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant"

Dining     Bars + Baristas     Fairfield     Greenwich     Norwalk     Stamford    
Friday, November 11, 2011 • Permalink

Bedford Street Diner

Bedford Street Diner, Stamford

935 Bedford Street, Stamford

Stamford is studded with retro diners, some better than others. Such as this one. Owned by three sibling offshoots of a diner dynasty, they serve delicious and relatively health-conscience fare. I say “relatively” because no amount of non-hydrogenated oil is going to make a donut healthier. But, damn, it sure tastes good. More on that later.  The menu is a creative mix of Classic Diner and, inexplicably, Mexican dishes. The staff is friendly and helpful, probably because they all have kids and and/or are currently expecting. Oh, and a shout out to their dad who rolls in at 4 AM to scrub the place until it sparkles. For free.

Robin’s note: Our homemade donuts were served amid the chaos that is Phase 2 of the Saturday Morning Pre-Breakfast Meltdown (SMPBM).  After one bite, all three of our screaming offspring became silent and forgot what they were fighting about. The owners’ dad makes them every morning, for free, simply because he loves his kids. And given how melt-in-your-mouth fabulous they are, I suspect he loves us all.

Who you’ll see eating here: Locals of all ages.

Their specialty: Eggs with corned beef hash, Eggs Benedict.

What you should order: Homemade cinnamon-sugar donuts, croissant french toast with chocolate chips and bananas.

What you may not know but should:
  1. Arrive before 8:30 to avoid the breakfast rush.
  2. If possible, park on the street and enter through the front door. There’s a parking lot in back, but seeing it on Trash Day won’t whet your appetite.
http://www.bedfordstreetdiner.com

Dining     Stamford    
Friday, June 17, 2011 • Permalink

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