Too Cool For School


MAKE THEIR MARK
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/


KNOCK THEIR SOCKS OFF
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


GEOGRAPHY LESSON
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


ACE IT
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


MAP IT OUT
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


CUSTOM CREATION
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 RULES
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

1  BUY A TANK
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.

2  HAVE A BALLOON STASH
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.

3  PIÑATAS: INSTANT FUN
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.

4  GO CRACKERS
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.

5  FIESTA IN THE FREEZER
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.

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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.

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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.

Teachers
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.

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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

Howl-o-Ween    

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

A HAUNTING AT MILL HILL
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

GHOSTLY SIGHTINGS & MACABRE TALES OF THE VICTORIAN ERA
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

HORSEMAN’S HALLOW AT PHILIPSBURG MANOR
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.

SLEEPY HOLLOW CEMETERY
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