October 27, 2011

Halloween for the Die-Hards - Middletown, Conn.

Halloween, where it's OK to pose
for photos with perfect strangers. 
I am a Halloween fanatic, plain and simple. There's not been a single Halloween that's come and gone without my donning a costume and making it a priority to find my way to a festive party. Candy is always an added plus, of course, and then there's the fact that my birthday follows two days later. It's really just a week filled with sugary happiness.

Halloween stands out as my favorite holiday, hands down. I love the fact that dressing up as someone you're not gives you some kind of magical power to be whomever you want to be. I find that people in costume instinctively become more outgoing, jollier versions of themselves.
The Joker, at last year's Wadsworth party.
Awesome, obviously.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: The best Halloween party around! (21+)
  • Where You'll Find it: Wadsworth Mansion, Middletown, Conn.
  • When to Go: Saturday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m.-12 a.m.
  • Cost: $38 a person. Buy your ticket onlineDoooooo it. 

October 24, 2011

The Most Comforting of Comfort Food - Hartford, Conn.

My "Babcia," having a grand old time
at my wedding five years ago.
This past week, our family lost its matriarch - my grandmother, who emigrated in the late '60s from Poland to the United States, along with my grandfather, mother, and several of my aunts and uncles.

Known to me and my cousins (14 of us in total, not counting my grandmother's nine great-grandchildren) as "Babcia," my grandmother was a fixture at every holiday gathering, contentedly sipping her ever-present mug of Lipton tea and quietly observing our banter - a lively mix of Polish and English - from her seat at the head of the table.

At our family breakfasts each Easter, my cousins and I would try unsuccessfully to stifle our giggles as Babcia murmured what seemed like never-ending, unintelligible prayers in her native language. Every Christmas Eve at our traditional Polish feast, Babcia would watch our annual grab-bag antics with amusement, laughing heartily whenever she chose the gag gift, even if she never quite understood what was so funny.

Babcia and her six children.
But no matter what the event - anniversary parties, holidays, birthdays - our aunts and uncles would at some point inevitably insist that all the cousins surround Babcia to mark the occasion with a family photo. We'd roll our eyes and dutifully squeeze ourselves and our significant others in around Babcia to smile for the eight different cameras haphazardly snapping photos all at once.

For the first 14 years of my life, I was lucky enough to have Babcia living with us in our house as part of my immediate family. As a child, I remember following her and our dog around the backyard garden among the tomato plants and sitting with her on the porch while she snapped the ends off of freshly picked string beans, that cup of Lipton tea eternally at arm's reach.

October 10, 2011

Where Girls Become Roller Girls - Vernon, Conn.

Break out your skates, ladies.
Back in the day, roller skating was one of my favorite activities - not only as a kid, when I attended birthday parties for my elementary school friends, but even as an adult, when I descended upon The Roxy with all kinds of characters for late-night Roller-Skating Wednesdays when I lived in New York City for a time. Sniff.

Unbeknownst to me, roller skating rinks actually still exist in Connecticut. And better yet, roller derby.

So when I heard through a fabulous Twitter follower that nearby Vernon, Conn.'s Ron-A-Roll hosts twice-a-week practices for the Hartford Area's Roller Derby (otherwise known as H.A.R.D.), I could not wait to pull on my colorful knee-high socks and roll on up to the rink.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:
  • What You'll Find: Roller skating! Need I say more?
  • Where You'll Find it: Ron-A-Roll in Vernon, Conn.
  • When to Go: If you're interested in the roller derby league, stop by Sunday nights or Monday nights (practice typically runs from 5-7 p.m. and 6:30-8:30 p.m., respectively). If you just wanna skate, Ron-A-Roll's schedule is available here. (I will so see you there.)
  • Other Info: Ladies only, of course, and you must be at least 21 years old. Bring a skateboard-style helmet and mouthguard (You can borrow pads and skates for your first time if you don't have your own). No experience needed, though it seems you do need some semblance of athleticism to be a contributing member of the team. 
  • For the guys: H.A.R.D. is looking for referees (male or female, actually), if you're interested!

I'd hoped to rope in a few of my gal pals for the tryouts. No dice. My 30-something friends appear to have better sense than I. And OK, perhaps I am too old for this kind of thing. Sigh. So, I instead opted to go check things out from the safety of the rinkside with an obliging friend who, like me, was considering getting in on the action.

This isn't your average roller skating, people.
These Roller Girls mean business.

October 5, 2011

How Art Can Turn into Action - Storrs, Conn.

Last week, I stopped during my lunch break into the Benton Museum on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus, where several UConn faculty are showing their work in a special exhibition running through Oct. 16. (FYI, the museum is FREE.)

The work of one of the faculty professors - Frank Noelker, an associate professor of art at the university, was the first to catch my eye. His photographic portraits of sheep and goats - all of which were rescued from horrendously abusive living conditions by an organization called Farm Sanctuary - prompted me to do a bit of research.

Happily, it turned out that Farm Sanctuary was hosting a fundraising walk in my area this coming weekend, on Sunday, Oct. 9, in Windsor, Conn., to help raise money that will go toward saving the many other farm animals suffering from grievous abuse across the country.

If you'd like to support the organization itself or my participation in the walk, please do so here or via the link below!

Even if you're not an animal fanatic like me, the Benton Museum still has plenty of other cool stuff in their current exhibitions. The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturdays and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, though donations are welcome.

October 2, 2011

Just 7 More Days of Lobster Rolls - Noank, Conn.

Once upon a time, I hated lobster. I know, completely asinine. But apparently taste buds really do change, because just a few years ago I finally gave into peer pressure and decided to give lobster one last shot. Don't ask me why, but I suddenly loved it. And so naturally, I've been trying to make up for all those long-lost years of lobsterlessness.

Mr. Lobster and I get along
swimmingly nowadays.
Enter Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, an unassuming little place right on Long Island Sound that's known for its fresh, buttery lobster rolls. My doctor recommended it, so it can't be all bad, right? If you're a lobster fanatic, there are just a few days left in 2011 to get a hold of these babies before they close up shop for the season.

Today's Stefcations Highlights:

  • What You'll Find: Fresh lobster rolls and other fresh seafood
  • Where You'll Find it: Abbott's Lobster in the Rough, Noank, Conn.
  • When to Go: This Columbus Day weekend, Fri-Monday, from noon to 7 p.m. (or you'll have to wait and try again, come Memorial Day Weekend)