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Round Hill Alpacas: The Woolly Connecticut Frontier

Peru may be too far for a day trip, but Greenwichites can find Peruvian treasures right here in Connecticut. Round Hill Alpacas, some 100 miles away in Coventry, is home to 26 of these Andean camelids whose fiber makes silky, luxurious wool.

unnamed 3Meeting the source of your sweater is more exciting than it sounds. Alpacas are gentle, personable souls, as a visit to Round Hill farm quickly bears out. They’re not like their llama cousins, who can easily get peevish and aggressive. Alpacas let you come close and pet their long necks. Just be careful not to aim for the tops of their heads. Their sweet, long-lashed eyes give them great peripheral vision, but what these animals don’t see can alarm them and test their indulgence.

unnamed 4The farm’s owners, Randy and Cindy Hall (above and below), got into the alpaca business some seven years ago. Their vision? To found an inclusive farmstead living experience especially for individuals with developmental disabilities, such as their autistic son. The nonprofit they've founded and are developing is called the Creative Living Community of Connecticut. Alpacas are as curious about you as you are about them. If only New Yorkers were as friendly and trusting.

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These social herd animals are happy to nosh treats right out of your palm. Just ask Noah Blum what it feels like.  The 2½-year-old resident of Providence, Rhode Island will describe the tickle of the alpacas' rubbery upper gums and the soft nudge of their fur-covered lips. Noah is pictured below with his mom, Alessandra, and Randy Hall.unnamed 6

Two weeks ago Round Hill welcomed a new member of the herd. Born during the Olympics in Brazil, he was named Rio. Fun fact: the gestation period for alpacas is 11 1/2 months.

unnamed 7Noah and Rio say Olá. Guess where Noah was born? As chance would have it, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Noah's father, Joey, facilitates the encounter.

With names like Popcorn, Kahlúa and Pebbles, alpacas are a chromatic delight. The herd at Round Hill sport earthy tones from creamy eggshell and rosy grey to tawny russet and smokey charcoal.

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Why hasn’t Hollywood come out with a major animation starring alpacas?


Maybe because they’re so adorably cartoon-like as is, it’d almost be redundant. 

Not everyone is chill. Rusty, the Alpha male of the herd, gets his own enclosure. For good reason. Otherwise Macho Man and second-in-command Simon would go at it, and things could get ugly. To defend his privileged notch in the pecking order, a free-to-mingle Rusty would engage in spitting and fighting if not worse.

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A hyper-cautious Rusty takes his time in approaching, but with Randy's coaxing he takes some grassy snacks. Note the erect ears. That's his short code for, "We're cool." Now look again at the photo above and see how Rusty's spear-shaped ears are cocked back, ready for action if need be. The positioning of his tail and head also speaks volumes. Alpacas are famous for communicating by humming, but their body language gets across important cues to keep life safe and ordered.unnamed 12

 To top off our visit, we followed Cindy, Randy and two alpacas to the F.A.R.E Market in the nearby town of Willimantic, CT. After lunch (no hay pellets for us, thanks), we stocked up on socks and, of course, souvenirs!





Top 14 Halloween Haunts in America

This Halloween everyone is going to be on the hunt for a good haunt, but if only there was a national association that could help you pick where to spend your All Hallow’s Eve. Well apparently the Haunted Attraction Association (yes, that’s a thing) has certified 14 haunts across the country as official “Top Haunted Attractions.”

  • Creepy Hollow Haunted House: This Rosharon, TX haunt features three terrifying haunted houses at one location including: the 288 Scare Factory themed as the mobile viral genetic research facility of Nouveau Genesis Corporation gone awry, The Dark Woods area of dense forest located behind the Nouveau Genesis Corporation, and Pitch Black which is a holding facility adjacent to Nouveau Genesis located at Creepy Hollow.

  • The Factory of Terror: Located inside an abandoned 150,000 sq. ft. aluminum foundry in Canton, Ohio this haunt features five full attractions, totaling over a mile in length including: The Asylum, Industrial Nightmare, the Labyrinth of Darkness, Massacre on Mahoning, and the House of Nightmares. Also available on the premises are 6 escape rooms The Factory of Terror has won the Guinness World Record three times as the Longest Indoor Haunted Attraction in the world.
  • Fright Farm: Entering its 27th season, Fright Farm has 5 distinct attractions; Haunted Hayride, Frightmare Mansion, Hallow Grounds, Terror Maze, and PARANOIA 2.0. The state-of-the-art special effects, highly-detailed scenes, custom digital soundtracks, computerized lighting, and talented actors make Fright Farm a frightening experience unlike any other.
  • Fear Fair: Located in Seymour, Indiana this haunt delivers a 50,000+ square foot walk through and leads visitors to discover their deepest fears. Incredibly detailed sets, state of the art animatronics and aggressive actors in movie quality costumes and makeup deliver a heart pounding thrill ride through your darkest nightmares.
  • Field of Screams: When it comes to terrifying thrills and spine-tingling chills, Field of Screams in Lancaster, PA gives visitors more than they can handle. Four world-class attractions at Field of Screams are sure to satisfy by delivering non-stop heart-pounding action that will leave guests begging for the end to be near.
  • Headless Horseman Hayrides & Haunted Houses: The 250 year-old farm in Ulster Park, NY incorporates over sixty-five acres of naturally landscaped property including foreboding woods, surreal ponds, fruit orchards and more. This unique, immersive experience with a theme that changes each Halloween season, this year featuring a theatrical one-mile hayride, corn maze, seven haunted attractions that will surely terrify any guest.
  • Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern: This haunt invites brave thrill chasers to hop in the elevator and descend 26 stories underground… where no one can hear them scream. Located in a cave crawling with terrifying monsters, the Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern in Chattanooga, TN is a unique attraction that adds a new level of fear to the traditional haunted house.


  • Saint Lucifer’s Screampark: Located at Playland Park in Flint, MI the abandoned asylum invites visitors to step into the park and discover the meaning of fear. This haunt includes three haunted attractions and an escape room.
  • Shocktoberfest: One of the leaders in shaping the haunted house industry, the 8 killer experiences in Sinking Spring, PA are celebrating twenty five years of terror. New in 2016 is Zombie Laser Tag, giving visitors the opportunity to use a high power multi-optional tactical laser gun to control the escaping Zombies.
  • Spooky Ranch at Rockin'-R- Ranch: The Columbia, OH site contains multiple attractions that cater to all fear levels – from the calm Old West Pumpkin Fest to the Extreme Nightmares Haunted House, which is known for its extreme gore, blood, guts and actors getting up close and personal. The Famous Haunted Hayride is a twenty five minute experience that combines scary with humor and surprises supplemented with pyrotechnics and larger than life thirty foot tall animated creatures.
  • Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary:  Brand new for 2016, guests to Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia will have the chance to experience the next level of interactivity by taking The Hex Challenge. Six new secret rooms have opened and are scattered throughout the penitentiary complex where visitors will be dared to step further into the story, to become part of the action, to take on challenges and ultimately, to escape the massive haunted prison. A secret room will be included in each of the facility’s six haunted attractions.
  • The Haunted Hotel: With over 20 years of frights and screams, this Louisville, KY haunt is a staple for scare searchers. The Haunted Hotel takes guests into their worst nightmares with effects and insanity, pushing more limits for fright every year.
  • USS Nightmare: Docked in Newport, KY, this ships welcome guest aboard for over thirty minutes of pure horror. The USS Nightmare is the resurrection of the William S. Mitchell in the exact condition it was left in the aftermath of the Mitchell Massacre. To this very day, anyone who enters is tormented by the sinister past of this former dredging vessel – including the cast and crew of the haunted dredge boat tour.
  • Wisconsin Fear Grounds: Milwaukee, WI holds the scariest overnight excursion with “Night Terrors: 13 Hours of FEAR!” The immersive experience provides tents for fear seekers to sleep in with the nights’ activities will include a fright trail through the woods, a scavenger hunt, bonfire ghost stories and scary movies played on a large inflatable screen.

To learn more, go to:


Close Out the Summer With These Nerd Happenings in NYC


Do you like obsessing over different fandoms? Do you like immersing yourself in the little details that make up your favorite movies or games? Maybe boards games are your thing? Are you desperate to enjoy your last shred of freedom while the summer is on its way out? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be a nerd looking for fun places and events in New York City. Lucky for you, so am I.

When being a nerd, one may feel like the only way to enjoy their obsessions or meet their peers is to go to various conventions. The only problem with that is what do you do if there is no convention or if you cant afford a convention? Well, in NYC there is an abundance of affordable nerd events to whet your whistle.

  • The Uncommons
    Manhattan’s only "Board Game Café", located at 230 Thompson Street, is a quaint and inviting storefront called The Uncommons. The shops walls are lined with a wide variety of board games that any patron can choose from (there's a colossal wall of games stacked from floor to ceiling). One can usually find themselves partaking in a game of Magic or Cards Against Humanity, while enjoying a cup of coffee sold at their counter. The Café also hosts tournaments and casual meetups for anyone interested.

  • Star Wars and the Power of Costume
    At this exhibit, the stories of all the iconic costumes from the Star Wars saga are on display. Located at the Discovery Times Square Museum at 226 West 44th Street, it boasts costumes from all seven films and gives insight on the creative process behind them. There are stories from costume designer Trisha Biggar, who worked on the prequel trilogy, and interviews with actors such as Samuel L Jackson and many more. This is a must see for any true Star Wars fan. This exhibit is open until September 5th, 2016.

  • Arcade Classics: Video Games from the Collection
    Need some classic video game nostalgia, well look no further than the Museum of Moving Image’s Arcade Classics exhibit. The exhibit’s has more than 30 arcade games released between 1971 and 1993. Attendees receive four tokens upon paid museum admittance and can purchase additional tokens throughout the day; four tokens for a dollar. Also, you can learn more about the history of arcade games to further pad your video game knowledge. The MoMI is located at 36-01 35 Avenue in Astoria. This exhibit is open until September 18th, 2016.sadness
  • Pixar: The Design of Story
    There is one universal truth in this world: Pixar knows story. Well, maybe not universal but pretty close. The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum at 2 East 91st Street is hosting an exhibit that puts Pixar’s story-writing process on full display. Storyboards and early concept art from their films show how the animated films developed from script to screen. The art is also accompanied with anecdotes from many of the writers, directors and illustrators, elaborating even more on their method. If you are a Pixar fan, you got to check this out. This exhibit is open until September 11, 2016.

Spa Industry Awards Top Spas in US

photo 4At the gorgeous Gotham Hall in NYC, The International SPA Association (ISPA) hosted its 18th annual ISPA Media Event.  ISPA is the leading source for all things related to the spa industry ranging from gathering key statistics (revenue, spa visits, the number of spa locations, total employment in the industry and square footage) to helping those in the spa industry promote their latest innovations. These annual statistics have become essential for many of those in the hospitality business. The shift towards spa services is growing with such huge momentum that it’s one of the key promotional highlights for many resorts.

In its latest 2012 survey (for 2011 year-end), the spa continued its upward trend with an increase in all areas – revenue rose +4.5% YOY, spa visits +4.1% YOY, total employees +0.2% YOY (remarkable considering that the official overall national unemployment rate has yet to abate).  Square footage for spas increased +0.8% YOY.

The annual gathering included trained personnel from ISPA member spas and resource partners who provided a sampling of their latest and unique innovations to members of leading beauty, business and travel media.

“ISPA is thrilled to bring together the spa industry and the media to one location to showcase the spas’ cutting edge and innovative treatments,” said ISPA’s President Lynne McNees. “We know that spas are creating great experiences, relieving stress and improving wellbeing and we are excited to help tell that story.”


Miraval Resort and Spa

Miraval is known for its one-of-a-kind spa treatments.  It continues this reputation by introducing The “Naga Thai Massage” is probably the most innovative treatment I have yet to in the US.  The massage evolves from the healing principals of the Thai massage which involves stretching and deep massage.  The Naga Thai Massage starts off like a traditional massage, basic stretches but then becomes so much more. The therapist uses strands of richly colored silk suspended from above, sort of like a pulley system, as both as an extension of their body and wrapping and supporting your body, taking you deeper into stretches and releasing restrictions that impair full movement.  For someone like me who chronically suffers from back and shoulder pain, it brought instant relief. (



French-origin and world-renowned Clarins is found at better spas. The exclusive Clarins-inspired treatments at Miraval uses Clarins’ PRO Formula products. The energizing leg “Path to Renewal” treatment uses aromatherapy to balance and restore energy. (


Aspira Spa

Is located in Wisconsin and was named #4 USA Spa in 2011 by Spas of America. “The Indigo Journey” is their latest specialty treatment consisting of a body mask of clays and creams, a balancing massage using chromatherapy and ending with their signature Elderberry facial. (


Massage Envy Spa

 The spa is available in a number of cities.  The “Sugar Foot Scrub” is a foot massage featuring towel cleansing, a lavender sugar scrub exfoliation and a moisturizing body butter finish. (


photo 5Kohler Waters Spa

As I learned the most effective way for moisturizers to penetrate the skin is through regular exfoliation.  The “Lavender Parfait Hand Treatment,” a hand exfoliation uses a honey-lavender salt scrub that is soothing, calming and healing – all at the same time.  (


Mohonk Mountain House

Just named #2 Resort Spa in the US by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine 2012

If the spectacular view of the Lake Mohonk still doesn’t lull you into a tranquil sleep, try Mohonk’s “Solutions for Modern Living: Attainable Sleep!” an aromatic massage followed by a customized Dead Sea salt bath soak. (


The Spa at Regent Palms

With a picture postcard tropical setting, it’s hard not to be swept away.  Those who prefer to be pampered an try The Spa’s “Oriental Essence Foot Ceremony” treatment, an exfoliating spiced marmalade scrub followed by an energizing massage using smooth pebbles wrapped in fragrant bags soaked in warm oil. (


Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat

Offered its unique “Australian Spirit of Sound,” a meditation treatment that incorporates basalt stones, massage techniques all while choreographed to indigenous Australian music and sounds of nature. (


Deborah Lippmann

For the woman on the go, the “Mini-Mani” treatment is an express nail service. (


HydraFacial by Edge Systems Corporation

Is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure that delivers instant results. The machine is a resurfacing treatment that provides cleansing, exfoliation, extraction, and hydration for your face with a cocktail of antioxidants, peptides, and hyaluronic acid. Hydrafacial treatment uses a uniquely designed spiral tip to gently exfoliate with water based serums to cleanse, exfoliate and rebuild, leaving skin perfectly cleansed and hydrated, without the need for harsh mechanical exfoliants.


Precor Fitness Equipment

Demonstrated their new innovation, the “AMT® with Open Stride,” (Adaptive Motion Trainer) which helps you burn calories at a higher rate than any other cardio equipment. (

With the kids now in school, give yourself a treat!

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