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