MEET A MOM: Stephanie Stellwagen - New Canaan & Darien Moms

Meet the lifestyle and travel blogger behind @stephstell. Stephanie is a New Canaan Mom who loves to write about her travel experiences and capture everything with photographs. For now, she’s focusing on home-based activities, art projects and getting outside as much as possible. Read more to find out her favorite local spots and how she’s staying positive during the quarantine.

How many kids do you have and what are their ages/grades?
I have a daughter. Her name is Pippa and she is 3 years old.

What brought you to New Canaan?
We have loved the town of New Canaan for so long. My husband and I were living in Greenwich before we were married and had Pippa, but found ourselves always driving around other smaller towns dreaming about which one we would make home someday. We knew we wanted to live in a smaller town and we loved the quaint and vibrant downtown in New Canaan. I truly felt at home coming here with all of the New England charm and country feels. After Pippa was born, we would drive up to Mead Park with her and started to make a plan to make it happen. The top-rated school system made it a very easy decision at the end.

What’s your favorite family activity in town?
There are so many. This is really a town you come to raise a family in. Fishing in the town pond is one of our favorite activities. We love the library, Waveny pool and park, Mead Park, the Nature Center, Grace Farms. Love all of the family activities the town puts on for all of the holidays. We especially loved the Memorial Day parade in town. We haven’t yet been to the 4th of July celebration but heard it’s the best!

How are you staying positive/keeping your daughter engaged during school closings for Coronavirus?
We are doing lots of fun art projects. I am trying to make this as much fun for her as I can (and as a result I am finding I am having a lot of fun with it all, too). I participated in her virtual online ballet class with her last week. We are also trying to spend as much time as we can outside. We use virtual sites to keep in touch with her classmates. I am staying positive by keeping my day busy, staying away from the news during the daytime and just really savoring these moments I am home with my family.

What led to create your blog Steph Stell and how long ago did you start it?
I started my Instagram account @stepstell in 2013. I didn’t have the actual website component until a little over a year ago. I was getting a lot of emails from people I didn’t know asking for recommendations and Guides to some of our favorite New England destinations that I was sharing on my Instagram. When the demand for my travel recommendations started to increase and I was receiving more travel and brand partnerships, I knew I needed a website to have as a standing resource.

Favorite part about your job?
That I can do the things I love to do: Take photos, travel and write about my experiences. Since I was very young, I was always doing those three things. I also came from a corporate world, so this is so very different. The flexibility of schedule, being a mom is so important to me. It is also really nice knowing you are working for yourself.

What kind of information do you share with your readers?
I have pretty much been travel and lifestyle focused, with a concentration on New England, but not limited to. You will find more local resources as well, specific to Connecticut where I live full time. I try to keep a light and inspirational destination for my readers. I do personalize it some and will include Motherhood/ Family as well as my love for living an outdoor and active life. I am currently working on launching my own print shop after receiving several requests from folks to be able to purchase my photography for their homes. I am very much looking forward to including that shop on my website soon.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
It has been recently, during this coronavirus. ‘The best we can do is make our kids feel safe and loved.’ I think I have been overly stressing over the fact that Pippa is being isolated right now, and as an only child I worry about that. I have to remind myself that she is going to be just fine when we come out of this.

How do you unwind when you need some “me time?”
Exercise! No doubt.. I love nothing more than putting my sneakers on and going for a long run, outdoor bike ride or swim. We also have a Peloton and I have been finding great comfort in going downstairs and just getting lost in a workout. Cardio calms me down. I need it in my life.

Any words to live by?
I try to live each day to the fullest! Now more than ever is the time we must realize that each day is truly a gift and we are never guaranteed the next. I try to bring as much enjoyment, fun, love, excitement and adventure into each day I can. I try to really hold the moments. Now more than ever!

Favorite band, book, tv show… I love 70s classic rock. You will often find the Neil Young channel playing on my Sonos at home. The band ‘America’ is one of my favorites! I also really love Coldplay, U2. Favorite Book… Hmmm. SO many. I tend to read non-fiction and I usually have a few books going at once on my bed stand. I tend to read a little of each of them at night. Right now I am reading “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll and “Boundless” by Ben Greenfield. TV… I love “Homeland” and “Jack Ryan.” I really was into “Madame Secretary” and “Designated Survivor” as well. “Billions” is a good one, too!

Anything to add?
Moving to New Canaan was the single best decision we have made for our family. I can’t praise this town enough. After we moved here I said to my husband, ‘I wish we had done this three years ago.’ It is the type of place you want to raise your family in and stay forever. The people here have been so welcoming and warm. There is just something truly special about smaller town living. I love the physical location as well because I feel we are tucked in between all of these great towns!

We love supporting local businesses. Favorite places in New Canaan (or near town) to…

Have dinner with/without kids:
Truck in Bedford is our family casual favorite. We are there a lot! We also love the Inn at Pound Ridge. Pippa especially loves to go and eat in their lower level. She thinks it’s a castle. If you ask Pippa what her favorite restaurant is in town she will say Cherry Street. She loves that place! We also enjoy our breakfasts at the Silvermine Market.
Grab a drink with friends: Spiga in New Canaan
Have a date night: Tavern at GrayBarns, Uncorked in New Canaan
Spend time together as a family indoors/outdoors: The New Canaan YMCA. This is one of the best resources in town. We spend hours there together. So many great offerings for the family. I cannot wait until they reopen again. We also love all the trails / hiking in the area. New Canaan Nature Center, Ward Pound Ridge in neighboring Pound Ridge.
Shop for yourself/shop for your kids: I love Togs and the Whitney Shop. Pippa loves the Toy Store. I am also really excited for the new Adirondack Store that is coming to town!
Spa/salon: I love Natural Nails on Forest Street. It is super clean and it’s always a great experience. They have the best massages too! I like to take Pippa with me here, too. They do a great job with her!
Grab coffee: The Mercantile at GrayBarns in Silvermine.

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