Happy Anniversary

Photograph by ©petair- stock.adobe.com

A declaration of love doesn’t get more old-fashioned than initials and a heart carved into a tree. I asked several local arborists and tree professionals and, although they don’t recommend taking a knife to your favorite backyard tree, they did concede that if you are compelled to do so, you should look for a hearty maple or birch (both of which have skin that can handle a little impact). And remember, this is like getting a tattoo, your carving will last forever so make sure it’s on your property.

Take it to the next romantic level and hang globe lights around the tree, lay out a blanket with wine and cheese and you’ll have yourself a lovely private evening in the backyard.

Don’t want to carve into a tree? Check out the personalized faux tree-carved coffee mugs on etsy.com. And for the beer or wine connoisseurs, Uncommon Goods sells glasses with a similar look. uncommongoods.com

Etsy and Uncommon Goods are two of my favorite websites for unique gifts. Check out their anniversary and wedding sections for inspiration. One of my favorites on Uncommon Goods is The Intersection of Love—a framed photograph that they create showing the intersections of two streets that you name, such as his and her last names.

Plenty of websites offer easy and affordable ways to get those photos off your phone and into a hardcover book of memories. Most have easy navigation tools and offer a variety of layouts—helping you create a professional-quality book. Blurb and Shutterfly are just two services.

Think of a year that means something, whether it’s the year you met, were engaged, married, had a child, etc. Go wine shopping with several possible years and let the professionals help you find the best wine. Newlywed or recent years are most likely going to be whites or champagne; for a decade or more look for a red.

Another idea is to buy a bottle and set it aside to be savored on a significant future anniversary. Buy a great red now while it’s too young to drink. One of the most special presents we received was a case of wine to be opened at my daughter’s wedding. It was given to us when she was a toddler. She’s fourteen now, and it still makes us smile when we see it in our cellar and think about that future day.

There is no better way to reconnect than to hit the road. Whether it’s in a gondola in Venice, dinner at Le Jules Verne at the Eiffel Tower or in a beachside hut in Bali, take the time to talk about your travel dreams. And it doesn’t have to be expensive—just memorable. If you’re into the outdoors, here are two great options.

Star Gazing There is a growing list of Dark Sky Parks (DSPs) in the U.S. where you can time your travel to witness the magic of shooting stars and meteor showers. The International Dark Sky Association can help you find the best spots, darksky.org. Our closest Dark-Sky Park is Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania. There are also DSPs in Ohio and Michigan. (The annual Geminid meteor shower peaking on December 13 should provide a good show.)

And you don’t need to venture to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. Maine, Michigan and Wisconsin all boast parks where, with a little planning and good weather, the Northern Lights are visible. Check out NOAA’s Aurora Forecast Model swpc.noaa.gov.

Hop on a Bike Backroads and other outdoor tour companies offer unique ways to see the countryside here and abroad all from the seat of a bike, arranging travel along the way. Not a Tour de France cyclist? Most outlets offer an e-bike option, which has a motor to give you a little help on those uphill stretches. backroads.com

Head to Tod’s Point with a custom prepared basket of cheese and charcuterie from Greenwich Cheese Shop in Cos Cob. With so many ideal vistas for picnics, you’re sure to find your own little private slice of heaven. fairfieldcheese.com




Photograph: © sewcream-stock.adobe.com

November means that the holidays are knocking on the door. With a little planning, parents can establish holiday traditions that children will cherish for a lifetime. Today, they may be in diapers but, trust us, in the blink of an eye they’ll be moving out and taking all the memories and traditions you have created. Here are a few ideas on how to celebrate the magic of the holidays through the generations.


Waiting for the big day to arrive can be exhausting for little ones, and as teens get older the holidays may lose a little of the magic. But with some planning in November, a homemade advent calendar can help keep the season festive. The personalization makes each day fun to open. The Historical Christmas Barn in Wilton (historicalchristmasbarn.com) is a great place to look for reuseable wooden Advent Calendars. Or if you’re feeling crafty, string together odd mittens, socks or felt bags and glue felt numbers 1 through 24 on each and hang over a mantel or an easy-to-reach doorway. Next, hunt for goodies. Go simple and inexpensive for most days, like a favorite candy or homemade cookie. About once a week, leave something a little more significant like an ornament, festive socks or “gift certificate” for a date to watch a favorite holiday TV show. I find that by counting down to Christmas, the little ones are less crazed when the big day arrives. As for the bigger ones, well, you just might get a smile out of them in the morning. It also inspires their own generosity as they start to think about what they can do to prepare.

This personalized approach is also great for the eight days of Hanukkah. Instead of being used as an advent calendar, it can be a celebration garland. Just choose socks, mittens or bags in shades of blue, white or silver, number one through eight and fill each night of Hanukkah. Also check out Chai & Home (chai-home.myshopify.com) for an array of unique countdown bags and an assortment of placemats and decorations.


A fun tradition to kick off the season is St. Nicholas Day, when St. Nick delivers small presents to good boys and girls. Growing up with German ancestry, my husband and his sister used to put a boot outside their door every December 5 and discover a few small treats the next morning. We have extended that tradition to our family. And even now that my kids are older, they prop an Ugg, Timberland or Wellie by their bedroom door and wake to find a few treats and an ornament.


I vividly remember my first post-college Christmas. When I unpacked my brand-new Kmart box of sparkly red balls, my roommate Lori opened up a well-worn shoebox filled with keepsake ornaments that her parents had given her every year since she was little. She filled our first single girls’ tree with a lifetime of cherished memories. I have since embraced this tradition, and now every December I buy a special ornament that represents something personal from the past year for my kids, nieces and nephews. They range from acknowledging special accomplishments like making a team or getting a driver’s license to something silly like a favorite TV show.

I look for ornaments that are sturdy and can hold up to toddlers and being jostled around in a box year to year. Avoid handblown glass ornaments or anything that can easily break. Look for ornaments year-round, when you travel or this time of year at local craft fairs or holiday events (see page 34), where many ornaments are handmade and often can be personalized on the spot. As a Michigander, I have to mention that Bronner’s Christmas Store (bronners.com) is the world’s largest Christmas store, and just about any ornament you can think of is a click away.

Start by giving a simply decorated box with the child’s name on it and one ornament inside. Let them know that you plan on adding to the collection every year and that the point is to keep their special ornaments in their own box so someday it will be full and ready to move out with them. I try to personalize and date ornaments (even if it means doing so myself with a Sharpie) so the ornaments don’t get mixed up with family ornaments.


Instilling generosity in your children is the cornerstone of the holidays. While kids can be in a frenzy drafting their own holiday wish lists, it’s important to teach them what a joy giving can be. Whether through donating to angel trees at a house of worship, participating in a toy or coat drive or working in a soup kitchen, the holidays are an easy time to remind children that for many others, a new coat or hot meal tops their wish list.

Teaching children to consider family is also important. When I was a child, the local Birmingham Community House was the highlight of my holiday season. It offered a holiday shop for children where, for a few dollars, I could choose from a wealth of presents for my whole family.

Greenwich offers a similar boutique at the Junior League of Greenwich’s Enchanted Forest (this year it will be held at Christ Church November 16 – 18). At the Children’s Giving Shop, volunteers guide young shoppers as they choose from reasonably priced gifts for family, friends and teachers. Gifts can be wrapped on the spot and kids leave ready to spread cheer.



Special Delivery

Following the victory dance moms do when our children have flown the coop, that feeling of freedom can quickly turn into a case of the blues. After years of nagging about wet towels on the bathroom floor and empty jugs of milk left in the refrigerator, we miss the nurturing—just a bit. And there’s the change in our mom network, too. One day we’re bonding with a community of parents waiting outside for our first graders to emerge, and seemingly the next we’re packing the car for boarding school or college. Why not turn those blues into a care package party? (Although many companies will send seasonal care packages to students, there’s nothing like getting a personalized box from home.) Here’s how to pull it together.

Parties can be organized around holiday themes (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc.) or high-stress times like midterms or finals. Exam times can vary widely, so look for a date that hits a critical mass of attendees, knowing some students will get their packages possibly weeks in advance of exams. No worries—everyone loves a package filled with goodies regardless of when it arrives.

Ten to fifteen guests is a manageable group to coordinate. They don’t need to be your nearest and dearest friends—ideally they are the moms of your child’s friends. It will give you an opportunity to reconnect with those parents. This is a potluck affair focusing on the packages not the food. Keep it to simple finger foods and, of course, wine.

Along with your invite, send a list asking moms to sign up for one or two items (Google docs is a great tool to avoid duplicates). Balance the list with a mix of fun and practical items: Homemade baked goods; cough drops; herbal tea; vitamin mixes like Emergen-C or Airborne; hot cocoa mix; stress balls; packaged snacks like granola bars, nuts and trail mix; novelty items like a slinky, silly putty or a deck of cards; gum; microwaveable soup; oatmeal or mac ‘n’ cheese. Ask moms to include a note with homemade treats indicating if the item contains nuts or is gluten-free, etc.

Encourage friends to wear a piece of clothing from their student’s school like a sweatshirt, hat, T-shirt or scarf—every parent most likely has one item. Gather all the moms and take a picture. The host can print the photo so each box contains a shot of the moms who helped. Have each mom sign the photos or write quick notes of encouragement on the inside of the boxes. These are most likely kids you have known much of their life, and everyone wants to see a friendly name and “hello” from home.

Prior to the party, stop by the post office and pick up Priority Boxes (make sure to account for those who have multiple students away and will be preparing more than one box). Flat-rate post office boxes are the way to go—they are one fee regardless of location and weight, can be picked up at the post office for free or shipped to your doorstep in sets of ten. Make your life even easier by setting up an online account (it takes two minutes) that will allow you to print labels and arrange for all the packages to be picked up at your doorstep—no schlepping boxes and waiting in line. Assemble the boxes before the party and stash them under the supply table. Be sure to have extra packing tape to seal boxes.

Clear off a large table, and when guests arrive have them place their items on the table so it’s set up for shopping. With a tableful of items, they can fill their box with exactly what they need. Before packing the boxes, encourage guests to decorate the inside flaps. On the invite suggest that guests bring colored tissue or something with their student’s school colors. Have an array of multicolor sharpies and construction paper available so parents can decorate the boxes with everything from a simple “Love, Mom” to more elaborate themes. (You can also provide a link to Pinterest sites with your invite to inspire those extra crafty parents.)

If you’ve set up a post office account, log on and let parents print labels right on the spot. They can pay online or print out the label and take the package to the post office. For those choosing to pay online, you can arrange for a pickup at your home.

Before your friends head out the door, ask for a volunteer to organize the next gathering. Once they see how simple it is, they’ll be happy to do it all over again.


Our Campus Market ocm.com
HipKits hipkits.com
Healthy College Snacks healthycollegesnacks.com



Group On

Whether you’re looking for new things to do with your girlfriends or are interested in expanding your social circle, now is a great time to start planning fall events. A wide and varied group of friends helps us live a more interesting and balanced life. Here are some great ideas to get you going.

If you enjoy reading and want to make it more social, consider forming a book club. Pull a group of friends together and take turns hosting monthly gatherings, with the host choosing the next book. (Keep in mind that book clubs can be more about the club than the book, so don’t be surprised if you don’t always get around to discussing the book.) When choosing books, you can always call in the professionals. Diane’s Books off Greenwich Avenue has knowledgeable staff who are happy to make selections that fit your club’s reading style.

Not sure you can pull a group of friends together to talk books? You’re in the right town to find fellow readers. Our local libraries host a number of book clubs.

Perrot Library runs the Greenwich Pen Women/Perrot Book Discussion Group. It is free and open to the public but limited to twenty attendees. Pre-registration and copies of the book are available at the Library’s Circulation Desk or call 203-637-1066, ext. 15 to register.

Greenwich Reads Together, the town book club organized through the Greenwich Library, has chosen News of the World as the 2017 selection. Discussions will take place at schools and local libraries this fall. In addition, the Greenwich Library hosts a number of genre- specific clubs such as the Fiction Addiction Book Group, Foreign Affairs Book Discussion Group, Friends Book Group, Great Books Discussion Group and more. The Byram Shubert Library holds three groups: Byram Book Club, International Book Club and the Proust Book Group.

Cos Cob Library groups include Brown Bag Book Discussion Group, Cloak and Dagger Book Club and Thursday Evening Book Club.


Even the most dedicated bookworms like to indulge in a little easy entertainment once in a while. Between streaming services and DVRs, entire seasons of great television are at your fingertips. If the show is streamable, meet weekly and anyone who misses a meeting can catch up on their own. Encourage members not to watch ahead; you don’t need anyone telling you what hodor means an episode too early (Game of Thrones reference). Be sure to pick a show everyone can enjoy and don’t be a snob. A season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills will not reduce your IQ discernibly and may prompt some interesting discussions and provide laughs along the way.

Don’t think you can pull a weekly group together? Plan a marathon night. The second season of Netflix’s cult hit Stranger Things arrives at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, October 31, and sounds like a great Halloween binge party to me.


The Greenwich Newcomers Club has been welcoming residents for over fifty years. The Club offers a variety of events like a Ladies Night Out, Lunch Bunch and Recipe Group. I have numerous friends who made their first friends in town this way and established lifelong friendships. greenwichnewcomersclub.wildapricot.org

If you like getting dirt under your nails, you’re in good company. Greenwich women like to garden, and there are a number of clubs in town that bring together a cross section of ages united by a passion for plants. The Garden Education Center of Greenwich is an excellent place to start and offers programs, events and garden tours. gecgreenwich.org

Other clubs in town include Greenwich Garden Club greenwichgardenclub.org, Green Fingers greenfingersgardenclub.org, Hortulus hortulus.org and the Garden Club of Old Greenwich gardenclubofoldgreenwich.org.


The most amazing city in the world is just a short train or Über ride away. Take advantage of all that the city has to offer by creating a NYC club. Friends interested in spending a day or evening in the city once a month take turns planning an itinerary. Kick off your club with a trip to a Broadway show or take in the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. Other ideas include museum shows, walking tours, High-Line treks or a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.


If you have a group of girlfriends who love wine, this is a great way to get together. A number of local wine stores can make suggestions, offer tastings and host special events. Putnam & Vine offers wine tasting classes with certified sommelier Angela Demmel.

39 E. Elm St., Greenwich; 203-869-6008; putnamandvine.com

In a town that has everything, we even have our own wine society. The Greenwich Wine Society attracts novice and experienced wine drinkers alike interested in learning and sampling new wines. Open to men and women, this club offers such events as tastings, wine cruises, winemaker events, seminars and more. greenwichwinesociety.com

The Old Greenwich Wine Club features tastings throughout the year at destinations and sit-down meals at members’ homes. Michael Rose keeps members entertained and educated through his informative newsletters highlighting club events like the Beaujolais and Red Wines from Loire at Cook and Craft in O.G. Membership is as easy as emailing Michael to get on the list. 33mdrose@gmail.com


Needlepointers from beginner to advanced flock to The Village Ewe. And for good reason. The Old Greenwich needlepoint supply shop hosts workshops several days a week and on some evenings. Participants can bring their own canvas and stitch together. There is no fee, but reservations are required. Brand new to needlepoint? The Learn the Basics course includes a monogram pillow; all materials and unlimited workshop time for $200.

244 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich; 203-637-3953; info@thevillageewe.com



Participants select one cookbook a month and members plan a meal, divvying up menu items to be prepared at home and enjoyed potluck style. The club dines together to review the recipes.



Have a Little Faith

Photographs by William Taufic

Summer is filled with family travel, long weekends and beach parties, all of which can cut into even the most earnest family’s religious service attendance. But once the new school year comes, moms who work both outside and inside the home know the void that can ensue. The kids are gone all day or sometimes all semester (at boarding school or college), and the relationships that began in mom groups can start to fade, leaving us searching for a new way to connect with like-minded friends.

Many Greenwich women are turning to groups that explore an understanding of spirituality. And as a result, religious study groups of all faiths are flourishing. Several are nondenominational and don’t require you to join the faith or even attend services. The only condition is an interest in friendship and fellowship. Check with your house of worship or area houses of faith for opportunities that pique your interest. Most have informative websites with specific details and contact information. The following suggestions give an idea of the opportunties our town has to offer.

The historic stained glass windows at the First Congregational Church

In addition to coed Bible study, FCC features women’s fellowship groups that host monthly nights out, speakers and community outreach. The Hat’s Off Book Discussion Group meets weekly from fall to spring. fccog.org

Bring your own lunch and join in a weekly FAB (Focused Around the Bible) discussion group and connect with other women. A Women’s Book Discussion Group and special speakers are scheduled throughout the year as well. fpcg.org

Temple Sholom offers an adult education series and other opportunities devoted to women. Check out the calendar for upcoming events as well as a weekly Shabbat Study and Lunch ’n Learn. templesholom.com

In a testament to the popularity of Bible study all over town, for twenty-six years Greenwich Bible Study (GBS) has hosted a spring luncheon attended by hundreds of residents representing their respective Bible study groups. This April’s sold-out event featured Reverend Neely Towe speaking to a room of over 350 attendees at Greenwich Country Club. The GBS website is a great resource for finding information on various area Bible study groups throughout Greenwich. GBS is non-denominational, for women only and offers a regular Bible study series, special speakers and retreats. The group meets at Christ Church. greenwichbiblestudy.org

The Presbyterian Church of Old Greenwich offers weekly study meetings with a course book and small group discussion. Fellowship meals are scheduled throughout the year to provide a further opportunity for sharing and relationship building. greenwich.cbsclass.org

Stanwich features several women’s groups. A Mother’s Heart is a morning get-together for mothers of young children (birth to third grade) focusing on encouragement through supportive friendships, shared experiences and ways to apply Bible teachings to our spiritual lives as individuals and mothers. Childcare in the church nursery is provided. stanwichchurch.org

Women’s day and evening groups meet at a number of area locations from New Canaan to Greenwich to Westchester and focus on specific teachings and sections of the Bible for discussion and prayer. trinitychurch.life

Ten years ago when Julie Riccardi attended the Greenwich Bible Study Annual Luncheon, she was looking for a way to bring Bible study to her parish. She was impressed with the number of Greenwich women in attendance who represented only a portion of those in active Bible study groups. Connecting with an Annapolis-based Catholic study group, Julie brought the program Walking With Purpose to Greenwich (WWP), and it has grown by leaps and bounds. More than 15,000 women at 175 parishes in the U.S. and Canada are part of WWP today. Julie currently serves as the organization’s CEO and board president. Locally WWP is in three Greenwich parishes:
St. Catherine of Siena, Saint Mary and St. Michael the ArchAngel. Classes meet weekly, biweekly or evenings depending on the parish. This is a scripture-based program that focuses on conversation and includes beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Some chapters even offer babysitting. walkingwithpurpose.com




Sleep. All moms want more of it. Once we make it past the baby years, we enter the toddler-sleeping-with-us years, followed by the preschooler-in-our-bed-after-a-nightmare years. By the time our kids no longer need us in the middle of the night, we’re waking up all on our own. Whether the cause is stress, anxiety or hormonal changes, most of us are not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. And the reality is that sleep deprivation can lead to serious health issues. Studies link a lack of sleep to depression and weight gain and have found that sleep-deprived driving is on par with drunk driving. It’s time we start taking the subject seriously. Here’s how to begin.

Take a warm bath, spray your pillow with lavender, meditate, write in a journal, read a book or listen to a relaxation app. There are plenty of apps that help you focus on the present instead of tomorrow’s to-do list. The Calm app offers a variety of meditations as well as classic books being read by the famously monotone actor Ben Stein. The app, OMG. I Can Meditate! is also great for beginners. Or try mindful relaxation games. Starting with your toes, clench each muscle group for thirty seconds and then release. Continue up your body until you reach your forehead.

Netflix has made it way too easy to stay up and binge watch “just one more episode.” Set a time to be in bed that allows you a half hour to wind down without electronic screens and a solid seven hours before your alarm—or kids—will wake you up. Screens are stimulating, so no TV, no texting, no emailing and no Candy Crush.

If a neighborhood dog or a snoring partner is keeping you up, white noise like a fan set on low or a sound machine with options like a waterfall or soft surf can help. Or go old school with earplugs. Quies, a French brand of moldable wax earplugs, are so effective we’re convinced they can block the sound of a freight train running through your bedroom—moms of little ones might want to make sure Dad’s ears are open (available on Amazon).

Darkness and temperature are key signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 65 degrees is the ideal temperature for a restful night’s sleep. And although your bedroom sheers may look pretty, if you are rolling over in a moonlight-filled room, consider black-out shades that limit or block light. Don’t want to change your window treatments? Try a sleep mask. Pro tip: Some moisturizers can make the dye of a new mask run, leaving marks on your face; also the dye could leave marks on your linens, so use an old pillowcase to test it out.

Yup, ladies, it’s true. Women snore just as much as men and you may be waking yourself up. Try Breathe Right Nasal Strips, which help to open up the nasal air passages. Dry air can also be a culprit by causing sinus congestion, mouth-breathing and dry throats. Consider a humidifier.

Special pillows can help encourage side-sleeping, as back-sleeping can be the factor in snoring. Check out sleep-apnea-guide.com for pillows that support side-sleeping, such as the Tri-Core 200 and Contour Tempur-Pedic. Pair a pillow with a Bumper Belt, a special sleeping harness that features adjustable inflatable bumpers on the back to make back-sleeping impossible.

Caffeine may fuel your day, but if you don’t set a cutoff point, it may fuel your night, too. Caffeine stays in the system for hours so make your last cup no later than 4 p.m.

Apnea is not just bad snoring, it is the complete blockage of air to the lungs that stops one from breathing. There are serious long-term health implications, such as heart damage. Most people can’t determine the difference between snoring and apnea, but testing for sleep apnea is surprisingly simple. The Sleep Center at Greenwich Hospital greenwichhospital.org/services/sleep-center offers both home sleep testing and overnight in-hospital testing. The upside to a diagnosis? After being treated, patients are amazed at their increased energy level and improved health once quality sleep is restored.

Hormones can be the culprit for sleep disruptions. Perimenopause typically begins in a woman’s forties and can last for several years, bringing with it fluctuations in hormones that can increase anxiety and cause hot flashes that wake a women in a sweat. See a doctor to stay on top of hormone levels and weigh the options that can alleviate symptoms. A physician with expertise in this area can help explain more about hormone replacement therapy, topical hormones, bioidentical hormones and over-the-counter phytoestrogens found in black cohosh, ginseng and red clover.

The drug store is full of vitamins and herbal remedies that promote sleep. Some may work for you but do your research and always talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements, as they may interact with medications or medical conditions.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, over 20 million women suffer from some form of insomnia. Several physical and psychological conditions can impact sleep—acid reflux, thyroid problems and neurological conditions. If you’re having trouble getting or staying asleep for a period of time, see a doctor to explore possible causes.

Any form of blue light can inhibit your body’s production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone you produce at night. So put away the computers, phones and iPads. If you can’t manage without your iPad before bed, try using yellow-lensed glasses, which limit the amount of blue light that will stimulate your brain.



Too Cool For School

Vineyard Vines on Greenwich Avenue offers monogramming on a variety of items from tote bags to vests for just $15. Send someone off to college with a subtle monogram at their cuff or boldly across the back of their Shep Shirt. You won’t find monogramming details on the website, but stop by the Greenwich Avenue store and visit the front desk for a guide to fonts and thread colors. Items are sent to headquarters for personalization and take approximately two to three weeks and then are directly shipped to the address you designate. Looking for college-themed gifts? The website also carries twenty-five ties with college logos from Vanderbilt to Villanova for $85. vineyardvines.com/college-ties/

Socks are typically considered as exciting as stamps as a gift. Not these babies. Stance makes limited run socks in a variety of themes ranging from Star Wars to basketball legends to over twenty-five colleges and universities featuring team mascots, logos and colors. Available in men’s and women’s sizes; $18 to $20. stance.com/ncaa

Catstudio creates home accessories decorated with maps highlighting local points of interest in all fifty states as well as cities around the world. The recently added Collegiate Collection features fifty colleges and universities on dish towels ($20), 16” x 20” pillows ($158) and glasses ($14.75). Send your grad packing with glasses from their college or all their favorite destinations. Other collections include national parks and ski resorts. catstudio.com, and some styles are available locally at Splurge

Know a tennis fan and want to give them something totally unique? J Price creates tennis balls in an array of colors that can be personalized with a monogram or name. The company even makes scented tennis balls in fragrances such as fresh cut grass, lavender and rose as well as balls with flags from seven different countries. A small family-run business based in the U.K., J Price is the only company to still make tennis balls in the Western Hemisphere. Service is small-town friendly. Personalized sleeves of three or four tennis balls start at $20 and ship in a week. jpricebath.co.uk

School Street Posters’ cool graphic street maps of popular college towns in school colors are the perfect complement to any wall—be it first apartment or first dorm room. Made in the USA, these maps represent over sixty college towns. Prints, $22; hand-silk-screened canvases, $95; optional framing, $35 to $65. schoolstreetposters.com

Stop by Old Greenwich’s Chillybear and let them help you design something uniquely personal. Think fleece blanket for your daughter and her circle of friends, each in the colors of their future colleges and embroidered with their names or favorite saying. Chillybear can create everything from tumblers with a Tod’s Point image to personalized chairs in school colors. chillybear.com

Chillybear can monogram practically anything. Bring in an item or choose from the catalog.

Money by adobestock.com/igorcol_ter – fotolia

Preppy will always have a place in the closet of a Greenwich grad. My favorite source of special needlepoint belts, key fobs, flip- flops, wallets, baseball caps, cuff links, can holders, wallets and flasks is Smathers & Branson. This Maryland-based company founded by two Bowdoin roommates features needlepoint items with themes ranging from hobbies to major league sports teams, as well as over ninety colleges and twenty-five sororities and fraternities. From Bucknell to Boston College and Williams to Wake Forest, chances are you will find your student’s college represented here. Prices range from $28.50 (key fobs) to $165 (belts). For something a little extra special, most items can include a custom needlepoint monogram for $35 but require additional time. All belts arrive in a wooden keepsake box. smathersandbranson.com and some styles are available locally at Richards.



Party Time!

Photograph: © Syda Productions-stock.adobe.com

As Winnie the Pooh would say: “No one can be uncheered with a balloon.” Amazon, Birthday Express and Target are a few retailers who will ship helium tanks. The Balloon Time Jumbo Helium Balloon Kit contains a tank with enough helium for fifty 9-inch balloons, an assortment of colored balloons and a roll of ribbon. Prices range from $39 to $60 depending on brand and shipping costs.

Stock an assortment of colors (school, team and holiday) or foil balloons in numbers (to honor an anniversary, age, goals in a game) as well as letters of the alphabet (to spell out names, monograms or words like “love”). Clear confetti-filled, pearlized, and glow-in-the dark are some of my favorites. When your daughter gets a B on a test she was certain she would fail or your son scores his first goal of the season, tie a balloon to the mailbox. Sure, kids will act mortified but deep down they’ll love it. Or to ensure someone wakes up knowing it’s a special day, sneak a balloon bouquet into their room the night before so they’ll greet their birthday, graduation day, etc., with a smile.

PRO MOM TIP: Large theme balloons are expensive and often hang around your ceiling far past the celebration. Instead of popping them, insert a straw into the filler hole and gently press the balloon forcing the helium out. Foil balloons can then be flattened and stored to be refilled for another event.

Unique stores like Urban Outfitters or online retailers like Oriental Trading carry mini-piñatas (about $12), perfect to hang from a kitchen light fixture or for your kids to surprise a friend in a school locker. Or go for the standard size (typically cost under $20), and remember they are not just for kids. Giant margarita glasses, rainbows, mermaids, guitars and the classic donkey all make excellent party centerpieces. They’re usually sold empty, allowing you to fill with anything from candy to something more adult, like lottery tickets.

Make any meal a party—whether breakfast, lunch or dinner—by serving up crackers. No, not the Ritz sort—a traditional ENGLISH HOLIDAY CRACKER. And even better if you turn it into a DIY project with the kids. Begin by collecting the cardboard rolls inside gift wrap or paper towels; cut each into 6-inch rolls and fill with a surprise like confetti with candy or a small 6-inch-long rolls and fill with candy or a small gift. Then wrap like a tootsie roll with decorative paper, tying each end with ribbon. Not feeling crafty? Local shops like Party Paper and Things (410 E. Putnam Ave., Cos Cob) and Paper Source (100 Post Rd. E., Westport) carry a variety of crackers or go to oldenglishcrackers.com.

Stock your freezer with tasty homemade empanadas. Riverside Chef JACKIE MENDIVE’s empanadas are legendary. Sold by the dozen, Empanadas on the Go come in an array of flavors, keep in the freezer for three months and taste like you made them from scratch. Pop them into the oven and in twenty minutes these hearty treats can be served as hors d’oeuvres or a main meal. Want to feel even better about your fiesta? A portion of the sales goes toward preventing infant malnutrition in Argentina through the charity Conin PILAR. empanadasonthego.com



Attitude of Gratitude

Holiday gifting and tipping is very personal, not required and should be determined by what you can afford. Start with a budget and a list prioritizing those service professionals who most impact your daily life. Remember that gratitude can be shown in many different ways. Don’t rule out the power of a homemade gesture and kind words. No matter what you decide—cookies or cash—take the time to write brief but heartfelt notes. Here, some holiday tip guidelines and gift- giving suggestions based on feedback from Greenwich area service providers, residents and The Emily Post Institute.

Nannies, Housekeepers, Drivers, Cooks
One to three weeks’ pay based on length of service, plus a small personal gift.

Regular Babysitters, Housecleaners
The equivalent of one night out or one week’s cleaning fee.


Newspaper, Dry Cleaning, Package and Grocery Delivery
$25 to $50
Newspaper delivery personnel usually provide a card with their address; for all others, keep signed notes and tips at your door to give out personally as groceries, packages and dry cleaning arrive.

Tutors, Dog Walkers, Pet Groomers, Personal Trainers
The cost of half to one full session.

Mail Carriers
As government employees, they are prohibited from accepting gifts greater than $20, but if your longtime carrier is depositing Amazon Prime boxes on your porch daily, use your own discretion.

Garbage Service
$50 to $100
Ideally, you give the gift directly to your garbage collector (yes, that may mean getting up very early one morning). Avoid leaving cash gifts taped to the inside of a garbage can in your driveway where it could be stolen.

Private Clubs
Members typically contribute to a holiday fund from which tips are given to the staff. Additionally, tipping specific tennis pros, caddies and other staff is appreciated yet not expected.


Manicurists, Hairstylists, Barbers, Waxers, Massage Therapists
These are services where clients traditionally leave a gratuity year-round so holiday tipping varies from a larger than usual December tip to the cost of one appointment.

Gifts are customarily coordinated by a class parent, with each family given the opportunity to contribute. Public and some private schools provide a cap to the gift amount. Public school teachers are government employees, so gifts are limited. No matter how well intended, most teachers have enough mugs, ties and frames to last a lifetime and welcome gift cards that can be used for books, office, art and school supplies.

School Staff
Counselors, advisors and those in the front office who work closely with you or your child appreciate the recognition, whether it’s a plate of cookies or a bottle of good olive oil.

Bus Drivers
Some private-school parents contribute $50 toward a gift for the private-service bus driver. Public school bus drivers do not routinely receive gifts, but if Henry is habitually scrambling to catch the waiting bus, now might be an opportunity to say thank you.


Coaches, Chorus and Theater Directors and other activity advisors
A team manager or club parent typically arranges parent contributions for a season-end or year-end gift, but the holidays are a great time to recognize those adults who helped make this year special for your child.

The Forgottten (it happens)
Consider keeping a few extra signed cards containing $10 to $20 in your foyer for any last minute surprises who may appear on your December doorstep.



Where the Wild Things Are

Icon by istockphoto.com/ AlonzoDesign


Ever wonder what the animals do at the zoo after dark? Kids will get a kick out of Howl-O-Ween, a nighttime event gauged towards children from eight to fifteen years old at Connecticut’s own Beardsley Zoo. For the more timid, there are magic shows, face painters, fortune tellers, dancers and more. Braver children (and parents) can check out the Haunted Hayride, Farmer Beardsley’s Farmstead and the Ghastly Greenhouse.

$12 presale for zoo members; $15 at the door; October 15, 22, 23, 29 and 30; Fridays, 6:30 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays, 6:30 to 10 p.m. 1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport; 203-394-6565; beardsleyzoo.org

Howl and Prowl Costume Party in the Park

If you are one of the over twenty million American pet owners who dress your pet up for Halloween, this is the event for you. Pet Pantry hosts its annual Costume Party in the Park, featuring treats for people and pets and a costume contest. Don’t have a pet? Come anyway and enjoy the parade of Instagram-worthy costumed pets. Visit Pet Pantry website for pet registry fees. Free for spectators. Proceeds benefit Adopt-A-Dog. Sunday, October 23; 1 to 4 p.m. 290 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich Common; ppwpet.com

Haunted Forest at the Audubon

The Audubon Greenwich will come alive at night the weekend before Halloween. A variety of fun family events to choose from such as a Live Hairy Scary Critter Show (Friday, October 29, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.), guided twenty minute Haunted Hikes (7:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday) and a Costume Dance Party, Bonfire & S’mores (Saturday October 29., 6 to 9 p.m.)

Space is limited and pre-purchase tickets are required for Friday Critter Show. $10 advance, $13 at the door. Critter Show and Haunted Hike require separate tickets and include admission to party and bonfire. 613 Riversville Road; 203-930-1351; greenwich.audubon.org

Tamer Terrors

Old Greenwich School Pumpkin Patch
Linus would surely find the Great Pumpkin at this old-fashioned fall festival in charming downtown Old Greenwich. Pumpkins, games, inflatable bouncy houses and music, this year from the New Canaan School of Rock, will entertain and not spook your little ones. Family event for all ages. Free entry. Funds raised from pumpkin sales and games benefit curriculum enrichment programs at Old Greenwich Elementary School. Saturday, October 15; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 285 Sound Beach Avenue

17th Annual Build-A-Scarecrow

Sam Bridge Nursery supplies the frame, stuffing and place to make a mess. You supply the shirt and pants to make your own scarecrow. Perfect for kids age five and up. Make a day of it with a hayride to the Pumpkin Patch and stay for pumpkin painting. Hayrides: Through Saturday, October 29; Fridays 2 to 4 p.m.; Saturdays and Columbus Day 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Free pumpkin painting: Saturdays October 1, 8, 15, 22 and Monday, October 10; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; $8 per pumpkin Scarecrow building: $35 per scarecrow; Saturdays October 15, 22, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. (reservations required). 437 North Street; 203-869-3418; sambridge.com

Nightmares at Perrot Memorial Library

Visit the library after closing time in your pjs to hear spooky stories. (Sorry parents, this is for the kids—leave your jammies at home.) Second graders and up are welcome. Check the website for dates the free tickets will be available. Wednesday, October 26, 7 p.m.; 90 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich; 203-637-8802; perrotlibrary.org

Eden Farms Haunted Hayride

Apples, cider and pie, oh my! Find all your fixins for fall as well as a variety of ways to entertain the whole family at this nursery next door in Stamford. October weekends feature continuous one-dollar hayrides and five-dollar pony rides. Free entrance to the Haunted House and hay maze Mondays through Sundays in October. 947 Stillwater Road, Stamford; 203-325-3445; edenfarms.biz

Trick or Treat at Ada’s

Looking to recapture the Halloween of your youth? Swing by Ada’s Kitchen & Coffee in Riverside. This is where generations of kids waited their turn to buy penny candy as owner Ada Cantavaro doled out lessons in math and manners. It was renovated and reopened as a kitchen and coffee spot in February 2016. Today Chef Mike Pietrafeso and his wife, Krista are keeping the tradition alive by passing out candy, special house-made treats and cider on Halloween. Check the website for details. 112 Riverside Ave; 203-637-1956; adaskitchenandcoffee.com

Family Costume Party at Western Civic center

Children and adults are encouraged to come in costume and enjoy entertainment, games, refreshments and a dance party. $8 adult; $10 children Friday, October 28, 6 to 8 p.m. 449 Pemberwick Road; visit the Parks and Recreation website for tickets. greenwichct.org


Family Fright

Whether it’s just around the corner or a little further down the road, scares big and small are lurking nearby to get you and your family in the Halloween spirit. But be warned, only you know what will have your brave eight-year-old suddenly sleeping with you for the next month. So measure these suggestions with your knowledge of your own child. Here, a few fab local haunts for all ages and scare- tolerance levels.



Frankly Frightening

Nothing says Halloween like a nighttime graveyard tour. Pack a flashlight and drive a few exits down the road to Norwalk’s Mill Hill Burying Ground. Hear chilling tales on this one-hour lantern-guided tour through the crooked headstones of Mill Hill Graveyard, where you might encounter a ghost or two. Advanced tickets: Adults, $15; Children (8 to 12), $10 (not recommended for children under 8); At the door: Adults, $18; children, $12; Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22; 6, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Mill Historic Park, 2 East Wall Street, Norwalk; 203-846-0525; norwalkhistoricalsociety.org

The ominous looking historic Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, featured in the movies Dark Shadows and The Stepford Wives, is even spookier at night. Try this ghostly hour-long tour where visitors run into the mansion’s spirits while listening to haunting histories in this Civil War-era home. Advanced reservation required, $20; October 21–23, 28–30, 4, 5 and 6:30 p.m. (under 16 must be accompanied by an adult) Mathews Park, 295 West Avenue, Norwalk, lockwoodmathewsmansion.com

Lockwood-Mathews Mansion
Lockwood-Mathews Mansion

Another Historic Hudson Valley site, this haunted house wins rave reviews for being genuinely scary. Visitors hike a haunted trail while being taunted by the Horseman, enter the ruins of Ichabod’s Schoolhouse and end up in the Horseman’s lair where heads may roll, literally. This is a truly terrifying tour complete with the accompanying warnings for visitors with claustrophobia and heart conditions and not recommended for children under ten. Advance tickets required. $20 ($25 Saturdays); October 7–9, 14–16, 21–23, 27–31; times vary by evening. 100 Continental Street, Sleepy Hollow, New York; hudsonvalley.org/events/horsemans-hollow

Tip: Want to skip the line? Try the Fast Track Disney-like option and for an extra $15, enter first in your time slot. Upgrade is required for each participant.

Legendary author Washington Irving’s final resting place in Sleepy Hollow has embraced Halloween wholeheartedly and offers tours of this 1849 cemetery. As a nonprofit organization, the cemetery receives all ticket proceeds for the preservation of the monuments and memorials on the grounds. Day and evening tours are available but for a spine-tingling trek, opt for one of their two-hour kerosene lantern-guided tours. The Classic Lantern Tour takes visitors to the graves of famous residents such as Irving, Andrew Carnegie and William Rockefeller and is good for all ages. The Murder & Mayhem Tour lives up to its name and is for eighteen years old and over. $24.99 evening; $19.99 daytime. Daytime tours are Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Evening lantern tours are 7 to 9 p.m. and 10 to midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. On Saturday nights there is an 8 to 10 p.m. tour. 540 N. Broadway, Sleepy Hollow, New York; 914-631-0081; sleepyhollowcemetery.org

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery