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Toni Leland

Freelance Writer & Photographer

Location icon United States

I'm a full-time professional writer, freelance journalist and photographer in Connecticut.

I love to write about almost any subject, but my areas of expertise include regional and local history, gardening and horticulture, destination travel pieces, and nature and the environment. My work has been published in local, regional, and national publications, both print and online. I supply the artwork for 95% of my assignments.

Portfolio

RECENT WORK

Ohio Cooperative Living - May 2019, pg. 12
05/01/2019
Grow Your Own Butterflies

Create your own butterfly habitat from egg to butterfly and keep them right at home in your garden!

Sound & Country Magazine, pg. 6
09/01/2019
Start Your Antique Engines

Nostalgia fuels the interest in antique and vintage farm equipment and steam engines.

Connecticut Coast & Country
4/21/19
Destination Vineyards

Learn about some of Connecticut's most day-trip worthy destinations. Jonathan Edwards Winery, Stonington Vineyards, and Sharpe Hill Vineyard

Thedayimag
03/31/2019
2019 High School Scholars of the Year

Twenty-one outstanding high school seniors earned the honor of being named Scholar of the Year for their respective high schools.

Norwich Magazine
4/12/19
It's time to transition to the outdoors - and there is much to do

Finally! Maybe it's really spring and we can do some serious gardening. April is a month with myriad things to accomplish before the season truly sets in. We still have some maintenance to do, and a fair amount of weather watching, but find your garden gloves and get on with that gardening fix.

Aspire, pg 60
06/03/2018
A Beautiful Outlook: The Connecticut Gardens of Beatrix Jones Farrand

A woman with an impressive list of firsts, Beatrix Jones Farrand left her enduring style and artistry on four Connecticut gardens—only a fraction of the renowned spaces she created in America. Farrand is regarded as one of the foremost women in landscape architecture, a term she didn’t care to use, preferring “landscape gardener” as her identifier.

Connecticut Family Magazine, pg 6
07/09/2018
Scout's Honor, Eagle Scout project combines reading and nature

So many innovative and wonderful projects have been initiated by Boy Scouts working to earn merit badges, and the beautiful StoryWalk® in Colchester is no exception. This charming new feature at the Ruby and Elizabeth Cohen Woodlands gives children and families the chance to be outdoors together while building literacy, thanks to Boy Scout Jack Boyden of Troop 72.

Connecticut Family Magazine, pg 10
07/08/2018
Giving bright minds better futures

For 177 high school students who never thought they’d have the dream of college, Higher Edge has been a smooth path to realize that dream. Executive Director Chris Soto founded the New London-based organization seven years ago after studying a similar model in Providence, Rhode Island. “When school budgets are cut, the guidance counselor is going to be the first person to go before a math teacher is cut,” says Soto. “Students from under-resourced schools deserve to go to college, the same...

Norwich Bulletin
02/03/2019
A quick glossary of garden terms

Many of the terms associated with gardening are very familiar to most of us, but sometimes we'll come across a word that we "think" we know, but aren't sure. What follows is a small selection of gardening terms you might encounter on garden product packaging or articles about specific subjects.Acid soil refers to pH of the soil in a given area.

Norwich Magazine
04/14/2019
Toni's Garden: Easy garden hacks

If there's an easier way to manage some gardening chores, wouldn't you love that? Anything that saves time, energy, and/or money is a gift to the gardener. Save your back All the clipping, pulling, cleaning, raking and general housekeeping that goes with a well-managed property produces voluminous amounts of debris.

Age of Choice 2016-2017, pg 19
09/23/2018
Meet the Florence Griswold Garden Gang

Miss Florence would be pleased to see her lovely old-fashioned gardens today at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme—gardens that had all but disappeared after her death in 1937.

Norwich Magazine
02/28/2019
Get ready for garden season

So now it's March and time to think about gardening. Even though the ground is still frozen and not much is looking alive, there are many things both indoors and out that we can do to be ready when the weather turns hospitable again. What can we do indoors?

Connecticut Coast & Country, pg 46
12/01/2018
Walks to Remember

For such a small state, Connecticut has hundreds of acres that beg to be trekked.

PLACES

Sound & Country, pg 17
09/06/2015
Lighthouses of Long Island Sound

Spectacular views and a wonderful tour guide are what visitors will find when they embark on the lighthouse tour with Cross Sound Ferry Services in New London, Connecticut.

Sound & Country Magazine, pg 38
09/03/2017
Wee Faerie Village at Florence Griswold Museum

“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world, For I would ride with you upon the wind...” William Butler Yeats would have drawn much inspiration for his 1894 play, The Land of Heart’s Desire, had he strolled through Faerieville U.S.A. at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. The annual faerie house event at the museum has become a tradition, and one that is eagerly anticipated by visitors and staff alike. “We realized that this was something the people really looked forward to...

Connecticut Coast & Country, pg 26
02/10/2018
All Aboard the Essex Steam Train

In 1971, a trip from Essex to Deep River and back on one of the steam trains of the Valley Railroad Company was a fun way to spend an hour or so on a weekend. Today, the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat provides so much more than just a train ride—today this place is a destination.

Connecticut Coast & Country, pg 34
02/10/2018
Discover Downtown

Southeastern Connecticut is home to many charming small towns, and several have the distinction of having walkable downtown districts. Take a daytrip to one of the following and find out how much you can see when you park the car and walk. Visit Essex, Mystic, Old Saybrook, Westerly, RI, Pawcatuck, CT, New London, and Niantic.

Aspire, pg 16
06/03/2017
Merry Meeting Farm the Grand Dame of Stonington

New England is well-known for amazing historical architecture, and Connecticut is one of the places to look for these. Just travel any rural road, winding through lush green farmland or stands of hardwood forest, and you’ll spy these treasures where they’ve endured for decades, even centuries.

Sound & Country Magazine, pg 6
11/05/2017
Character and Charm

In the charming shoreline town of Niantic, at the quieter end of Main Street, Keira Thompson beams from behind the jewelry counter at Black Point Jewelers. This young mother-to-be opened the shop in late May of 2016, after owning a jewelry business in Portland for several years. “This location was the deciding factor,” she says. “I’ve always loved it here, and my husband and I both love the water, so we decided to move down here.”

Sound & Country Magazine, pg 20
09/06/2015
Ready to ride: Connecticut Favorite Motorcycle Rides

“The road less traveled is definitely the one I like to take.” Stephanie Smith DeBiasi of Waterford nods and her blue eyes twinkle with pleasure. “There’s really no bad place to ride in Connecticut. Sometimes it’s a matter of just letting the road take you where it goes.” DeBiasi started riding in 2005, after taking the safety course twice. “I went up to New Hampshire with my mother and her best friend on a 42-degree day in the pouring rain.” Unfortunately, Connecticut only accepts the...

Ohio cooperative living, pg 30
07/07/2017
Time Traveling: Ohio's Historic Muskingum River Lock System

Encompassing four counties, the Muskingum River lock system is on the National Register of Historic Places as the first Navigation Historic District in the United States. Originally built to connect the Ohio & Erie Canal to the Muskingum and Ohio rivers, the system lives on, though the canals are long gone. What makes this state treasure unique is the fact that today—176 years after construction—the locks are still hand-operated and functional.

Sound & Country Magazine, pg 14
09/03/2017
Murals festival

Visitors driving north to Westerly, Rhode Island, or south to Pawcatuck, Connecticut won’t be able to miss the massive ocean-blue welcome sign on the walls of the Cottrell Credit Union building. Not just any sign, but the result of two towns, two states, one community working together to bring mural art to New England. Painted by the talented volunteer artists, Walldogs, “Welcome to Downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck” is the first of thirteen murals to be installed in this project at a...

Holidays on the Sound, pg 19
11/04/2018
Eclectic Elegance: Consign to Design in Stonington

Stepping through the door of this charming shop, one would never believe that the beautiful furniture and accessories are pre-owned. At Stonington Consign to Design, every piece has been thoughtfully selected with an eye to attracting discriminating buyers looking for upscale brand names and quality. The space is welcoming, offering collections of pieces arranged in the most pleasing manner to engage a shopper’s vision of their own home.

Mystic Seaport: A Sea Change Begins, pg 36
09/04/2016
Inherit the sea

To know that Mystic Seaport Museum began its educational programs in 1946 is to understand the important role this local treasure plays in the development of community—not only locally, but nationally. At its inception, the founders wanted the theme of the education to be national, as maritime history is a coast-to-coast subject. Imagine being a student in a small town in Colorado, or Wisconsin, or Kansas. One day, the history teacher brings in an honest-to-goodness wooden sea chest. From...

Connecticut Family, pg 14
10/07/2018
Let the festivities begin!

“If we can’t get it, they don’t need it,” says Janet Weiss, with a sweeping gesture around her spacious showroom at Arrow Paper Party Rental in New London. The area is filled with gorgeous table setups reflecting the coming seasons. Beautiful color schemes set off sparkling glassware and china on coordinated linens. The walls of the showroom display myriad equipment and accessories to make any party complete.

Country Living Ohio Electric, pg 40
07/07/2014
Magical Marietta Ohio

Unique in so many ways, the town of Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River is an Ohio destination not to be missed.

Northeast Neighbors 2015/2016, pg 24
08/09/2015
Farm forward: Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm

"Something to do, something to see, something to eat." A perfect description of Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Moosup. Lush green fields and rolling hills define this 360-acre farm that is so much more than just a place to buy a Thanksgiving turkey. Owner Rick Hermonot has always had a passion for poultry. “When I was a kid,” he says, “we always had chickens, sold some eggs, raised some turkeys. That’s kind of what got me going here.” Rick and his wife, Elena, have been farming...

Aspire, p 50
06/04/2017
New and notable CURATED gallery in Mystic, Connecticut

Step inside Mystic’s newest gallery, and you’ll find works of art from across the country and around the world. This gem in Mystic is named Curated, and the owners, Pamela Stone-Duggan and her husband, Peter, have carved a unique niche in the downtown landscape. Eleven hundred square feet of beautifully displayed artwork is a pleasant surprise as you step through the door of the newly renovated space at 29 West Main Street. Pamela radiates joy in her surroundings, and rightly so. After a...

Connecticut Horse, pg 16
07/10/2015
Mystic Valley Hunt Club

Imagine riding your horse in a beautiful setting on 172 acres in Southeastern Connecticut. Better still, imagine taking lessons from Connecticut Hunter/Jumper Association’s 2014 High Point Hunter Trainer, Sally Hinkle Russell. These dreams can come true at Mystic Valley Hunt Club in Gales Ferry, a premier training facility owned and cherished by Sally. On Mother’s Day in 1983, Sally found this perfect spot and set about building the riding school and training barn of her own dreams....

Sound & Country Magazine, pg 24
10/11/2015
Your coffee is calling

The shoreline offers a nice selection of coffee houses that stay open throughout the year. Some offer entertainment, some simply offer a quiet, relaxing place to read or visit with friends. The list is long, but here is a sampling.

Connecticut Cuisine, pg 20
06/05/2016
Looking for a place to linger? Stonington Vineyards

At the end of a long, quiet country road in what could be considered the middle of nowhere, one suddenly comes upon gently sloping rows of newly emerging vines at Stonington Vineyards. The setting is lush, with a wide expanse of green lawn fronting the attractive modern building that houses the tasting room and event facility. The 58-acre vineyard is the third oldest in the state and was the original founder of the Connecticut Wine Trail, according to Ebbie Young, Tasting Room Manager and...

Holidays on the Sound, pg 30
12/09/2018
Exceptional taste: TAZA Grill

Frozen yogurt is relatively easy to find. Good Middle Eastern cuisine, not so much. But Abdel Wahab found a way to offer both at his best-kept secret restaurant, TAZA Grill in East Lyme. Wahab and his family came to America from Egypt several years ago, with the idea to start a restaurant that offered only the freshest food every day. A friend told him about a recently-closed Peach Wave franchise in East Lyme and, when Wahab looked at it, he knew it would be the perfect arrangement.

Connecticut Cuisine, pg 32
07/08/2018
Some favorites, some fancy: Stella's offers the best of both worlds

For anyone seeking a unique dining experience, Stella’s Restaurant & Pizzeria in Old Lyme will fill that bill. Italian...pizza, you say? Yes, that fare is available, but what makes this restaurant different is a chef in the kitchen whose specialty is fusion foods.

GARDENS

The Norwich Bulletin
07/09/2017
Beautiful and free Connecticut gardens

The season is upon us, and our state abounds with beautiful gardens, large and small. The best part is that most are open to the public for free. More than 39 public gardens around the state offer season-long beauty to garden lovers, but this article will focus on locations in the eastern part of Connecticut.

Pathfinder (out of print)
04/05/2015
Creating a Memory Garden

"...One is nearer God's Heart in a garden Than anywhere else on Earth," wrote Dorothy Frances Gurney in her poem, "God's Garden." And so can we be nearer a departed loved one through the beauty and spirituality of nature.

Country Living Ohio Electric, pg 14
01/04/2015
Houseplants for good health

Nothing is more welcoming and relaxing than a room filled with greenery. Good for the mind and spirit, right? Houseplants for good health by Toni Leland But not only do houseplants beautify our living space, satisfy those with a green thumb, and produce oxygen for our atmosphere, many houseplants have other significant health effects. NASA scientists have determined that the air-cleansing benefits of green plants is a safe and simple way to rid our home environment of biological...

Ohio cooperative living, pg 28
05/07/2017
Something different to spice up your garden

Gardening is definitely habit forming! Not only do avid gardeners itch to get outside at the first sign of sun and warmer temperatures, we also tend to stay with tried-and-true perennials in our gardens. After all—if our plants grow well and don’t require blood, sweat, and tears to maintain, why change anything? But why not?

Grit
05/05/2008
Balancing the Bugs: the good, the bad, and the downright creepy

Did you know that close to a thousand species of insects live in your yard? Good ones and bad, functioning together in a carefully balanced ecosystem. As responsible keepers of our planet, we continually need to make decisions about how to live with both.

The Norwich Bulletin
08/01/2017
The power of healing in a garden

Healing can come in many forms, and what could be more therapeutic than a beautiful, peaceful garden setting? Spending time in a garden can lower your blood pressure, boost your mood and energize you, as well as fill you with a sense of calm.

The Norwich Bulletin
03/06/2016
Get Your Garden Going Now

Gardening begins in January with a dream, but before winter is over, we have much to do. Preparing our land and ourselves for the abundance of spring and summer requires a little planning.

PEOPLE

Age of Choice 2016-2017, pg 14
09/10/2017
Redefining Retirement

Mention Bill and Betty Smith to anyone in Mystic, and you’ll get the same response. Dynamos! Kathryn Keller, the director of development at Mystic Area Shelter & Hospitality (MASH), says, “Bill and Betty are engaging individuals who are entirely committed to giving back to the community. Seeing them work together so seamlessly is inspiring.”

Holidays on the Sound, pg 41
11/04/2018
A gem in her setting

It all started with a job interview—but not like you think. Sue Roselund just celebrated 40 years at Grader’s Jewelers in Groton, and her story is one of sheer serendipity. “After working for several years at the Mystic Seaport, I decided I wanted a career,” says Roselund. “I’d worked in the jewelry department there and really loved it. Since I was an only child and grandchild, my grandmother always bought me really good jewelry, not costume, so I had a great love of jewelry.

Age of Choice 2016-2017, pg 45
09/23/2018
At 91, first-time author reflects on achievement

In today’s America, actual retirement is almost nonexistent as individuals leave one career to set out on another. But Barbara Beeching retired from her state job and set out to get a Masters Degree in American Studies from Trinity College in 1996, then went on to complete her doctorate. In 2010 at the age of 83! Beeching smiles. “After I finished the Masters, one day my husband was reading the paper and told me about a woman in Rhode Island who was 82 years old and just got her PhD. He...

Aspire, pg 7
09/09/2018
Something old is new

How many antique stores are started by teenagers? Probably not many, but one in particular—Past to Present in downtown Niantic—has that distinction. Josh Haderski opened his shop six years ago at the age of 18, but even then, he was no newcomer to the world of collectibles. “I was always a collector of just about everything,” says Haderski, “so it came naturally. And I was always interested in history.” Haderski started collecting and selling baseball cards when he was nine years old....

Sound & Country Magazine, pg 6
06/03/2018
Homemade Happiness

Who knew that making your own pasta is so easy? Any fears about this endeavor were put to rest by Amelia Smith of Thames Valley Sustainable Connections when a small group of eager cooks gathered in the kitchen at St. James Episcopal Church in New London on March 17th. The first of a series of 2018 food and canning workshops, the pasta class was unbelievably simple. Flour. Salt. Eggs. Mixing and kneading. Resting and rolling. Then cutting the pasta into shapes. Smith demonstrated two...

Holidays on the Sound, pg 24
10/22/2017
Mystic Garden Club

Since its organization in 1924, the Mystic Garden Club has been beautifying the village of Mystic, Connecticut, through a wide variety of projects. As the holiday season approaches, this year will mark the 44th annual Greens Sale, an event eagerly anticipated by the community, taking place on December 1 from 12-3, and December 2 from 9-1 at the Mystic Arts Center. Behind the scenes for this fundraiser begins early in September with planning and workshops that involve many of the 98 club...

Connecticut Horse, pg 8
01/06/2017
Art of the Heart: Connecticut Equine Artists

Horses as an expression of artistic desire and skill span thousands of years, from the cave paintings of Lascaux in southwestern France to the hilltop Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, England, to the bronze Horses of Saint Mark in Venice, to paintings by European masters of the brush such as George Stubbs and Rosa Bonheur. On a smaller — but no less artistic — scale are the artists whose passion and inspiration come from the animals we know and love today. Meet some of Connecticut’s...

Age of Choice 2016-2017, pg 29
09/23/2018
More than a job: care providers find happiness and meaning in work

Who said retirement was boring? Certainly not a group of retired seniors in southeastern Connecticut. This choice group of individuals offer their talents and social skills to seniors in the region through Seniors Helping Seniors, based in Mystic. Whether the need is housekeeping and cooking, transportation to appointments, or simply a friendly companion to share some quality time, the caregivers who work for Seniors Helping Seniors have a common goal: to provide the kind of assistance...

Sound & Country Magazine, pg 12
10/04/2015
Timeless tradition: Eastern Connecticut Ballet's 'Nutcracker'

A vision – not only of sugarplum fairies – but of the dreams of two dancers. That is The Nutcracker performance by the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, under the direction of Gloria Govrin. In its fourteenth year, the tradition continues at the historic Garde Arts Theatre in New London on December 12th & 13th. Ms. Govrin is the Artistic Director at the school and knows Nutcracker from her heart, and well she should: she has either danced in or directed the ballet since she was 14 years old....

Sound & Country Magazine, pg 38
06/07/2015
Life out of loss

Walking through Susan Vincent’s lush gardens, one would never imagine that, twenty years ago, she started with nothing in the yard but a Colonial apple tree and masses of mature Hosta plants of the variety first introduced to America. Today, over 400 varieties of unique Hosta thrive amongst alpines, perennials, and daylilies planted in every available nook and cranny of Susan’s rocky landscape in Mystic, Connecticut. “I always wanted to be a gardener,” says Susan, a neonatal nurse by...

Aspire, pg 18
03/05/2017
Engineering the future: Robotics program shapes bright minds

Stepping into what is known as the MakerSpace at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, one hears the hum of machinery as a backdrop for the students poring over various engineering projects. In the “old days,” as teacher Bill Derry says with a grin, “this would have been known as the shop, or the guys in the basement.” The wide-open, brightly-lit room is organized and well-equipped. Along one wall, a gallery holds portraits of engineers who made the world a better place, names like Thomas Edison, Henry...

Aspire, pg 22
06/04/2017
Painting with perspective: Jacqueline Jones

On a brisk, chilly waterfront morning with the mist flying and the sky seeming to touch the water, one would think it not a good day for painting. On the contrary, fine artist Jacqueline Jones smiles and shakes her head. “I like to paint in different weather conditions,” she says. “I love the warmth of the sun coming through as the fog slowly lifts.” Jacqueline is well-known and admired in the local art world, and her work will be featured as “Summer on the Sound” at the Gallery at...

HISTORY

Over the Back Fence (out of print)
03/08/2009
Earthworks of Licking County: Prehistoric mysteries in our back yard

Mention the awe-inspiring architecture of the ancient Maya and Inca, and exotic images come to mind. But did you know that right here in our own Ohio backyard, cultures dating back almost 2,000 years were engineering and building structures that are just as fascinating?

Country Living Ohio Electric, pg 23
03/10/2013
Memories of Buckeye Lake

While the body of water known as the Great Swamp may not sound familiar, the lake created from it by the construction of the Ohio Canal will generate fond memories for most older Ohioans. Buckeye Lake was a favorite destination, made accessible by the arrival of the Interurban Railroad at the turn of the century. As early as 1902, church groups and families were making their way to the shores of the lake to spend a day in the beautiful outdoors. By the 1920s, nature wasn't the only...

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