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Smith Abrams Wedding

Congratulations Rachel Smith & Benjamin Abrams

photographer KIM BOVA

Since first meeting as graduate students at Washington University, Ben and Rachel felt an immediate attraction and their bonding continued to develop over their mutual love of movies, animals and classical music. Ben proposed to Rachel at the beautiful and romantic Elizabeth Park, and of course, Rachel said yes!

The bride is the daughter of Marc and Donna Smith, of Stockton, California. Rachel holds a Master of Music degree in vocal performance from the University of Northern Colorado and is currently employed at the Hartt School Community Division in West Hartford and Simsbury. She also sings opera and musical theater and teaches private voice and piano out of her West Hartford home.

The groom is the son of Ronald Abrams and Joanne Rogin-Abrams, of Minnetonka, MN. Ben holds a bachelor degree in Finance and History from the University of Minnesota and a J. D. from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is employed with the Connecticut Superior Court, and is licensed to practice law in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Their September wedding and reception took place at Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford, officiated by Rabbi Yitzchok Adler. A fun filled evening of dinner and dancing was enjoyed by all of the guests. The bride’s brother, Aaron, surprised the couple with a song he specifically composed for the occasion. The couple resides in West Hartford and plans to honeymoon in Quebec this summer.

To view the full magazine online, please visit our ISSUU library.


Biella Tyler Wedding

Congratulations Brittany Biella  &  Chris Tyler


Brittany and Chris are the classic high school sweethearts who found their happily ever after. They met at Rocky Hill High School while student athletes, playing on various teams. With a back-story they will always share, destiny intervened to give  them their future together as they wed in October at the very same location where they attended their senior prom together!

The bride is the daughter of James and Debra Biella, of Rocky Hill. After high school, Brittany attended the Paul Mitchell School.

The groom is the son of Barbara and Clyde Tyler, of Rocky Hill. Chris graduated from SUNY, Stoneybrook.

The fall wedding ceremony and reception was held at Aqua Turf in Southington. Guests enjoyed dinner and dancing and the bride and groom took to the dance floor during their first dance song, “Carried Away” by George Strait.

After the big day, the couple enjoyed a honeymoon in Puerto Rico and a cruise through the Caribbean Islands and currently reside and work locally.

To view the full magazine online, please visit our ISSUU library.



Economic Development

West Hartford Construction Projects Unveiled

At the annual Economic Development Luncheon on March 26, hosted by the West Hartford Chamber of Commerce, Director of Community Services, Mark McGovern updated business leaders on commercial and residential building plans to unfold in the near future. “It’s not just development, but re-development,” McGovern explained as he unveiled construction projects at various locations around town, and added “Get ready for construction!” From landscape improvements and re-zoning approvals to retail expansions and new structures, nearly every section of town will see some type of construction upgrade, from the Center and Blue Back Square to Bishops Corner, Elmwood and Park Road. Event sponsored by People’s United Bank, Whole Foods, Comcast Business, and DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse. West Hartford Magazine media sponsor.

To view the full magazine online, please visit our ISSUU library.

Jim Chapdelaine

Musician. Husband. Father. Cancer Survivor.

Jim Chapdelaine is  a 13-Time Emmy Winner and Cancer Survivor

by Lisa Lelas

Who says only cats have nine lives? Nationally known West Hartford musician, Jim Chapdelaine, is a human example of perseverance, vitality, and positive attitude stronger than the Energizer Bunny! Okay, so enough with the animal metaphors. Through re-inventing himself with numerous layers of musical collaborations over the years to beating the odds with a rare form of liver cancer, Jim is surprisingly humble and lives each day without labeling himself a survivor. He is a musician. Period. Albeit a very successful musician, it is his positive spirit and generosity that has caught the attention of renowned medical centers as a symbol of hope.

Even if his name doesn’t ring a bell immediately, chances are you already know Jim’s music. He has traveled the country over the years to sold out venues with The Pousette-Dart band, playing their classic American folk-rock hits in the 1970’s and 80’s (one song fairly recently featured on an episode of ‘Lost’) and still tours with Jon Pousette-Dart today. But his guitar strumming fingers don’t stop there. Jim is a much sought after talent. Together with his band, The Shinolas, they are the rhythm section for many other well-known performers. Currently, he is touring with the legendary jazz performer, Big Al Anderson (formerly with ‘NRBQ’, the rock band ‘Yes’ and songwriter for many musicians, including Bonnie Raitt). Jim was a producer and provided the music for Phoebe Snow (her early hit song “Poetry Man” will ring bells for many), worked with Carol King…and the list goes on!

In addition to a successful career with musical bands and notable performers, Jim’s musical talent has been woven into many interesting television and film projects over the years, winning him 13 Emmy Awards. His first Emmy Award nomination came 15 years ago for the music he provided for a TV documentary on the making of the Amistad ship. He provided all the sound tracks for the PBS-TV series, “Infinity Hall Live” for which he won an Emmy for best audio for a public TV show. Another Emmy was won for the music for a 5-part energy conservation TV series narrated by Ed Asner. Teens will hear his music in ‘Kids in Cars’, a program that is shown in every drivers education class in the country and Jim also provided theme songs for many notable commercials, including Jiffy Lube, the Army National Guard, Bull Frog Sunscreen, and St. Francis Hospital.
You may wonder why a musician of his caliber chooses not to live in New York City or Los Angeles. Quite simply, Jim loves West Hartford. He is also in close proximity to Hartt School of Music, where he teaches music production and technology.

“I live in a small market which forced me to wear many hats as a musician,” says Jim, “I have always had the gift of intellectual curiosity. I like living here.”

“I already knew at just 2 or 3 years old what I was going to be!” he explains, “I remember strumming my first plastic ukulele wearing a cowboy hat as a toddler. In second grade I got my first guitar.” With no exaggeration, Jim can now play 70 different string instruments. He also plays keyboard and is a singer “of sorts” he adds.

Pousette Dart BandHealing Power of Music
Growing up as a musician, Jim had no idea how his music would one day serve him with the power of healing. With on-going health issues throughout his adult life, his guitar would serve as the one thing to get him through his darkest days.

“My last surgeries were tough,” he says referring to recent hand surgeries, “because I had to put down my guitar.”

“I’m left handed but play right handed. I’ve had four medical reconstructions on my hands, leaving my left hand partially numb. My thumb joint has actually been removed!” When doctors told him he couldn’t play guitar while his hand was in a cast, he begged them to ‘leave one finger out’ so that he could still play with Big Al at a concert. And he did. Apparently nothing stops this man from his music!

Doctors are still unsure of the exact causes of his deteriorating hands…possibly a natural pre-disposed degeneration of bones…or perhaps a condition caused from all the chemotherapy he had in his lifetime. And Jim had his share of chemo.

The world seemed open to Jim as the young musical genius he was. He took some time off from college at the age of 18 to tour with a country band. Then, after attending Berkeley School of Music for a couple of years his world started turning upside down. He got sick. He had symptoms nobody seemed to have a diagnosis for.  “It all started with a weird cold-sore inside my lower lip. It grew rapidly. Became hard and irregular.” As it started popping up elsewhere on his body, including the interior of his nose, doctors seemed baffled. It took over three months and 12 doctors until he had his first diagnosis. He remembers vividly that doctor telling him outright at just 22 years old, he only had a year to live. “My initial reaction to that doctor was to ask him if he would prescribe Valium! I left the room. I needed to somehow digest the information.”

Jim turned to his music again, sometimes playing guitar for 8 hours straight in order to cope with the pain and side effects of the treatments.

That marked the trail of a long line of doctors he would eventually see. He learned he had an extremely rare form of liver cancer, called angiosarcoma (AS). This cancer affects only 30-60 people in America each year. In Jim’s words, ‘It’s as mean as a hungry bear and far more dangerous. It hides better than any other cancer and can stay dormant for fifteen years and then can rage suddenly.”

Jim found an excellent oncologist. The doctor had to actually remove Jim’s nose and graph a new nose using parts of his ear. While, he will be always under doctors’ observation, Jim’s positive attitude and love for music carries him through his life today.

“As far as my experience with cancer, I’ve learned to ‘put it away’. I don’t unpack the experience very often; I don’t live my life as a slave to it. I’m a survivor, but I’m a musician, a father and a husband first.”

Jim and Kate CallahanRepresenting Hope
Until very recently, Jim had never even met another human who had experienced AS cancer. Because it is fatal, there were not many survivors he could talk to.

“Lately, I’ve unpacked some of this after connecting with others going through it.” Thanks to the power of social media and a website for AS, Jim has been able to speak with ‘fellow warriors’ who are fighting this disease. Money has been raised by these very people to finally fund studies at Sloane Kettering Hospital and Jim urges everyone to make a tax deductible donation if they can.

Another layer to Jim’s life now has opened as a mentor to AS patients. He realizes that to doctors his mere presence represents hope, being that he has beaten the odds and is now a long time survivor. “I’m actually on my way to Sloane Kettering to meet a young man from Texas afflicted with this cancer,” he said, “I even wrote a song for him for his recovery.”

Despite all Jim has gone through physically and all he has achieved musically, his life still revolves around his wife, Janine and their 15 year old daughter, Annie, a freshman at Hall High School. He hopes one day to record a collection of all his songs while his band, The Shinolas, are now working on their first record and continue playing at various local venues throughout southern New England.

Regarding his most recent hand surgery, Jim says, “I’m playing at 50% with a 100% attitude,” realizing there may be neck surgery still in store for him.

To most of us, surviving cancer is a feat in itself, let alone vanquishing 13 Emmy Awards (and 2 Grammy nominations), despite major health issues, but there is something else Jim is most proud of.  “Last year, I got elected to my high school’s Hall of Fame! That was an honor better than all my Emmys!”


Finding Work… After Retirement

West Hartford’s Seniors Job Bank helping local Seniors
by Lisa Lelas

Being eligible for Social Security and Medicare at age 65 are the milestones that many people think mark the end of “middle age” and the beginning of “old age.” But as we live longer and healthier lives, and as the baby boomer generation begins to age, the way we view and live past age 65…the very notion of old age…is being challenged. Many seniors want to stay involved in activities and work into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s.

In this economic time of uncertainty, one thing seems to be certain: the cost of living keeps rising and many retirees in the area still need extra income to help pay their bills.

So, what does retirement look like in today’s world? There is increasing evidence that the full-start/full-stop model of paid work is no longer feasible. Many people are not financially prepared to stop working at 65, and even those who are may miss the intellectual stimulation and social benefits of working. In addition, some companies are beginning to experience a shortage of talent for skilled jobs, just as experienced workers are beginning to retire. To help address these changing forces, both workers and employers are experimenting with new models of work.

One such solution that has proven successful in the area is the Seniors Job Bank, a non-profit community resource, helping to match up senior residents’ job skills to paying jobs, full time and part time.

In 1974, resident, Pat Newton, first established the Seniors Job Bank, but following her retirement after a 34 year run and eventual lack of finances to keep the service going, the office door was eventually locked up and the Job Bank closed down. An empty office sat in the town hall for years, still filled with furniture and dusty old computers.  Eventually, the West Hartford Senior Advisory Commission formed a task force to investigate and recommend whether the Seniors Job Bank should be re-introduced using a different business plan. The answer was ‘yes’.  Fast forward to 2013: financial resources are gathered and the office re-opens, under the direction of Board President, Bob Cave. A key to the town hall office is handed to Bob from Mayor Scott Slifka and the local job referral service is back in full swing!

“It’s a service that has helped over 30,000 people find paying jobs,” notes Bob, “for many people, like me, it can help pay bills.”

Residents in the community actually found funds to re-open the business. This year’s budget is more than $40,000, with 100% of the money donated by foundations, such as the Hartford Foundation, several banks and other sources. If you or your business would like to make a donation, you are encouraged to visit their website and click the ‘donate’ button. The Seniors Job Bank is run by about 45 volunteers, one part time office manager, Bill Stachelek, and a board of directors, with Bob Cave serving as board president. The board has two committees: Fund raising and Volunteers. The job bank concentrates on being one of the best and most helpful job referral services for seniors, which helps seniors live independently and continue to live in their home.

“Our goal is to keep the service free. There is absolutely no fee for companies looking for help or to the client or service provider.” He assures.

“Its primary emphasis,” Bob continues, “is for those who want to work but cannot seem to find jobs. Many people are retired or have been laid off.” Residents in the greater Hartford area must be at least 50 to use the resources offered by the Job Bank.

Just this year alone, more than 10 people have been hired by local businesses through the Job Bank. Residents looking for work can go to their website and register while providing a list of the type of work they are looking for, whether it be occasional odd jobs, such as gardening, driving, and painting to full or part time work at established companies. Volunteers select names to best match the top people for the jobs available and interviews are set up. People simply register, set up an appointment, partake in a quick interview and await jobs. There are no resumes or qualifications required.

Testimonials come in daily from residents who have benefited from their services, from local businesses who have hired employees via the Job Bank, and from associations, who have made donations.  Wells Fargo Bank posts: “We extend our gratitude to you for what you’re doing in our community.” The Rotary Club of West Hartford approved a grant to the Seniors Job Bank, after noting that one of their board members actually tested it out and used a referral from the Job Bank to complete repairs at his home. He was a very satisfied customer!

West Hartford resident, Carrie Bernabe is proof that it works. She fondly tells Bob, “Thank you for putting the seniors in West Hartford back to work! I got a call from a wonderful company in Berlin (Care 4 U Pharmacy). They said they got my name from the job bank. They interviewed me and I got the job. What a great experience it was for me to work part time in a very nice environment with perfect hours. More power to the seniors of West Hartford!”

That’s exactly what Bob likes to hear. It’s working. “We are trying to encourage seniors to stay active and encourage them to work.”

The benefits of remaining intellectually engaged as people grow older is an area of active investigation by neuroscientists and physicians. “Engagement” is defined as the behavior that involves a high level of both intellectual and social function, and there is growing evidence based on many studies that show leading an intellectually stimulating life seems to foster cognitive vitality. It is also well established that lifelong learning has a protective effect with respect to dementia.

Overseeing the Job Bank, Bob says is rewarding work. “Helping seniors is nothing short of phenomenal!” Bob, who is an experienced handyman, also takes advantage of help needed in the community for any in-home/office remodeling or painting jobs and is quick to point out that everyone has something they can offer. “Seniors are knowledgeable. They have life experience and a great work ethic. They are really a valuable asset to employers.”

And Bob knows first hand. He proudly smiles,  “I’m on my third job since my first retirement!”

For more information on the Seniors Job Bank or to register for employment opportunities, visit: 


Unique Healthy Therapy

Three Women Entrepreneurs keeping our Community Healthy.
by Lisa Lelas

What is the only place on the East coast you can find an authentic Himalayan salt cave, barefoot massage therapists walking on backs and Rolfing deep tissue massage therapy? You guessed it…West Hartford! Three very unique holistic experiences that are exclusive to central Connecticut and/or the entire state, are all offered within a few square miles of each other, right here in our town! Thankfully, because we live in a bountiful community of forward thinking and entrepreneurial vision, rare offerings are becoming the norm here! And, as an example of that infamous glass ceiling starting to shatter, West Hartford women are in the business limelight more now than ever before! That’s right…all three of these unique business niches were created by West Hartford women.

2013 was aptly labeled the “Year of the Woman Entrepreneur” nationwide, and with that, the momentum of female-owned businesses continues to skyrocket. It’s no wonder we’re seeing more and more unique and helpful services pop up in the community, developed by local women. It’s a win-win for all of us, as their businesses prosper and we, the consumers, get to reap the invigorating benefits!

Currently, women represent a growth market twice as big as China and India combined. The number of female-owned firms is growing twice as fast as all businesses in America today. Interestingly, research shows that female owners start companies more in line with what they are most passionate about and to better balance their work and family lives while male owners are more likely to start a business primarily to make money.

These three West Hartford women entrepreneurs exemplify these findings, as they each developed a unique business niche that blossomed from their passion, drive and mission to spread joy, peace of mind and good health to the community.

Erina Lander, owner of ‘A Touch of Bliss Organic Spa’, celebrates her new business venture joyfully.  To her, opening the doors to this one-of-a-kind spa signifies and solidifies the fact that she has finally been able to re-connect to her own happiness again after struggling through many years of emotional pain.

“The reason I put ‘bliss’ in the title was because that’s what is different about this place. It comes totally from a place of healing and love and joy. Born in Russia, Erina came to the United States in 1990. She had been a civil engineer back home but she was always passionate about helping others in some way. Erina continues, “Nine years ago I experienced a tragedy that turned my whole world upside down. It made me question my whole life.”

Long time residents may remember that her 15 year old son, Mark, a freshman at Hall High School at the time, died in a tragic car accident. Through her bleakest days, Erina fondly recalls the people in the community really embracing her with kindness.

“Even though I didn’t know them, they were sending me love and prayers every day,” she remembers. Unknowingly, it would be in this light of the outpouring of kindness that Erina would find a way to re-pay them.

She remembers clearly the day her entrepreneurial light bulb lit up. Erina had been a dental hygienist for 18 years but, after the loss of her son, she lost interest and joy in her job. It simply was not fulfilling enough for her anymore. One day, still feeling down, she treated herself to a facial at a local salon. She was pleasantly surprised when she actually felt rejuvenated. She couldn’t believe how good she felt after the facial. “I felt like I was taken care of for that hour. I felt re-charged even later on that evening. I believe that helped transform me into a new person. I understood that life can change tomorrow. I don’t postpone anything anymore. That day, I suddenly became aware of my life purpose. This is what I wanted to bring to others. I wanted to give love and peace and healthy rejuvenation back to everyone in the community.”

Erina quit her job two weeks later and started researching aesthetician schools and enrolled soon after.

Today, Erina is a popular facial reflexologist and Reiki practitioner but with the opening of her spa just a few months ago, she knew she wanted to offer full service experiences to her clientele. A Touch of Bliss Organic Spa is currently the only spa in Connecticut offering ‘Barefoot Ashiatsu Bar Therapy’ or the ‘feet walking on your back’ massage, whereby a trained practitioner uses her body weight to adjust pressure. “The benefits are phenomenal,” smiles Erina, “excellent for chronic back, neck or hip pain, professional athletes…really everyone can benefit!” Also offered is traditional Ashiatsu massage, a western adaptation of martial arts and medical massage from India, Japan and Thailand. “I hand pick all my staff professionals,” assures Erina, “making sure they are passionate about their skills and love to give. We receive much more from a place of giving,” she explains. Her professional massage therapist, Janette, has been practicing Ashiatsu massage for many years, and as Erina sums it up, “everything is done from a place of love.” Combined with traditional massage, Ashiatsu offers various unique ‘strokes’ of massage. “We work from a very holistic approach on every person that comes in, not just on their physical level, but also emotional, spiritual and psychological levels.”

Also unique to ‘A Touch of Bliss’ is a Hawaiian massage called ‘Lomi Lomi’, with Bradley, the therapist specialist who is actually from Hawaii. “This is all one would expect from the beautiful Hawaiian culture. Restoring on a physical and spiritual level, this is massage and energy combined in deep long strokes and loving touches to nurture one’s body and soul.”

A Touch of Bliss Organic Spa also features Thai massage, facial treatments, a holistic/organic skincare line from Hungary and even holistic workshops on various Thursday evenings.

Aside from being a new business owner, Erina is a devoted wife to her husband, Joseph and mother to her teen daughter, Veronica. She believes love is most important in life and reminds us that in this day and age of texting and electronics, people don’t touch as much anymore. “Touch has numerous health benefits. Regular spa treatments really improve your overall health.  People need to be nurtured in order to have optimum, balanced health. It’s not a ‘luxury’ anymore (expensive things not necessary). That has changed in today’s world. Now, it’s about experiencing, focusing and nurturing on one’s self!”

A Touch of Bliss Organic Spa is located at 88 Park Road. spamassage

Sharon Sklar is a certified advanced Rolfer. Actually the only Rolfer in central Connecticut and one of just a handful throughout the country, until fairly recently, when Rolfing centers suddenly started popping up throughout the world, as people began to discover this unique massage experience.

What exactly is Rolfing? As Sharon explains, “it’s a dynamic hands-on 10-session series of deep tissue manipulation and movement education which allows your body to unlock and integrate movement. Even one session works for immediate stress release but accumulative, over 10 weekly sessions, is best for attaining permanent change.” Each session is 1 hour and 15 minutes long.

Rolfing was developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf in the 1960’s and she later founded the Rolf Institute in Boulder, CO in 1971, a place where Sharon was trained and still continues her education.

A graduate of Boston University School of Fine Arts, Sharon first obtained a degree in sculpture. “I’ve always been intrigued in the human form. And, I grew up with a love and interest in holistic practices.  When I heard about Rolfing, soon after graduation, I signed up for a 10 week series.” By her second session, Sharon explains her world suddenly opening up to a blue sky and she heard an inner voice chanting ‘you will be a Rolfer’!  “I just knew deep in my soul that this was what I was going to do with my life. Art school helped me with the foundation and I knew this was my path.”

Sharon has been a practicing Rolfer for 33 years now. Working out of her office just off West Hartford Center, she has expanded her offerings to other full services, such as Yamuna Body Rolling®, exercise coaching and nutritional advice.

“Rolfing was my first ever real job. I never really did anything else. I love it.” says Sharon, “I connected to it immediately. I was always creative, even as a child. I saw the world in a different light. My parents were supportive but really had no idea what I was doing until they watched it unfold.” Proof positive that true entrepreneurial vision and passion need to come from within, not from anyone else.

“When we are born,” explains Sharon, “we don’t come with an owner’s manual. We learn habits from our parents and everyone around us, which may not necessarily be structurally sound for our health.  We become the accumulative of everything…even every injury we ever had. Rolfing brings us back to neutral.”

With Rolfing, Sharon says that everything is taken into consideration. “Starting with their current lifestyle, and how they carry themselves. It’s not just someone’s current posture, but it’s more about changing structure so the body begins to align itself naturally.”

Sharon notes that Rolfing is great for people post-surgery, healing after an accident, with sports injuries, years of bad posture, or simply stressful living.

“At my practice, I am the one people deal with, no one else. I enjoy getting to know and need to know everything about my clients’ lives to see how I may best serve them. I believe in a personal approach. It’s an intimate process of personal evolution.”

Leading a fulfilled balanced life has always been important to Sharon. Together with her dog, Bosco Boy (a Whippet), they are a pet therapy team, making regular appearances at Hartford Hospital and the Helen & Harry Gray Cancer Center to help and cheer up patients.

“It’s my way of giving back. I am a 7-year breast cancer survivor and also a mentor to West Hartford students. I used to travel a lot but find being home with my 3 cats and dog…I am complete. I am happy.” What’s on her bucket list? Simply “to stay free and happy.  Nothing’s better than a good meal, good health and good friendships.”

Reach Sharon at her West Hartford studio:

elements0353psSarah Howes is the owner of Elements Destination Day Spa & Salt Cave on Farmington Avenue.  Imagine that…a salt cave right here in West Hartford!

Recently celebrating its one-year anniversary, Sarah is proud of Element’s success as its popularity continues to grow.

Sarah is no stranger to new business ventures. In the past she has run an organic restaurant’s wine cellar, was a designer, and even had her own clothing line. But it was when she had her first salt cave experience in Killington, VT, that she knew this was something she needed to bring to Connecticut. Now, a trained massage therapist, Sarah studied at the Pyramid Massage School in Vermont.  “My teacher there still remains my biggest inspiration.” She says, “She actually built the very first salt cave in the country. There are only about twelve in the United States.”

The benefits of being in a salt cave are plentiful. “We have the salt imported from the Himalayans,” noting that this unique pink salt has the best healing properties and is packed with natural minerals and nutrients. “It’s anti-inflammatory, helps with respiratory issues like asthma, various skin irritations and conditions, and it’s anti-bacterial so it helps with infections. It’s fine for everyone, adults and children.”

But perhaps the biggest reason so many flock to West Hartford to experience the salt cave for themselves is the calming environment it offers. The rock-like salt walls and beach sand-like salt flooring with fiber-optic dim lighting provides instant calm for anyone’s stressed out lifestyle.  There are anti-gravity chairs available to relax in and even yoga classes are now offered in the salt cave. Many call ahead to reserve the cave for their own group. One recent group came out noticing their congestion had cleared and they all felt wonderful.

In addition to the salt cave, Elements offers special Infra-red saunas, light therapy, and a wide variety of spa services in a healing environment. Elements is often referred to as ‘a resort-like feel in an urban setting’.

Sarah was born in Vermont and lived in various places around the country until settling into her new home in West Hartford a couple of years ago.  In addition to her holistic and business training, Sarah taps into her natural love of nutrition, exercise and health. The oldest of six kids growing up, Sarah was introduced to an organic life early on. Her mother was into good nutrition and the family maintained an herb garden throughout her childhood.

As a wife and mother of two (Jacob, 7 and Ava, 3) leading a healthy and balanced life is necessary for being successful as an entrepreneur. “When I need to re-charge, I go out for a run or use the sauna. And I love CrossFit.” She says.

And Sarah has even bigger plans for Elements. “Within the next year, we are going to expand into a full organic hair salon upstairs, create an oxygen bar, and include various detox and weight loss programs including juicing and cleansing, and even the installation of an outdoor Zen garden.”

Advice for up and coming business entrepreneurs? Sarah firmly states, “Follow your heart. Do what you’re passionate about. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Sarah’s life is at a good place. But she notes, “I pretty much eat, sleep, work-out and work here”…and the attention she puts into the business she loves so much is exactly the reason business is booming!

Elements Destination Day Spa & Salt Cave,
945 Farmington Avenue.  


Some like it Hot…Medium…Mild.

by The Twin Tasters

Your entire family’s chicken wing cravings have been answered.  Sliders Grill & Bar has 21 options varying from no heat, to some heat, to insanely hot!  While this sounds like they must be mass-producing wings out of the freezer, that is not the case.  The “famous sauces” are made fresh daily, on the premises and our sampling was a testament to that.  The chicken wings were cooked to perfection, and the sauces penetrated just the right amount to make the flavors pop! (Note, on the smaller orders, you can even order all wings, or all drums for a small charge).

If you like dry-rubbed style chicken wings, you need to try the Garlic Parmesan wings.  We were glad we only had 6 to share between two of us, otherwise we would have filled up on those.

For a medium, we picked a sweet flavor called “Hot & Sweet,” which had a tiny bit of heat, but was definitely more on the sweet side.

We didn’t go totally “insane” on the heat scale.  Our dark “Caribbean Jerk” was a good choice and we are pretty sure we picked out one of the secret ingredients to be molasses.  It started out sweet, and then the right amount of heat came in.  Yum!

Sliders Grill & Bar
176 Newingotn Road
West Hartford, CT 06110
(860) 233-9000

You never know where The Twin Tasters will pop up in their quest for good food in town. 


Allyson’s Weight Loss Journey

Getting Started is Biggest Step for Getting Fit!
by Nancy Roy

Almost everyone gets a body wake-up call. It can happen anywhere at anytime. Perhaps it’s a sudden glance in a storefront window while shopping, or not being able to fit into a favorite pair of jeans anymore. For Allyson, it was just after a dream vacation to Italy, celebrating her 40th birthday. While looking at the vacation pictures she suddenly questioned who the woman was in the photos. It was her. The pictures did not lie. She realized she had gained some weight. Was this what life was going to look like now that she had turned 40?

The difference between sulking in a challenge and rising up to it for a solution is huge. Allyson made her decision.. This was NOT how she was going to face the rest of her life! She wanted her energy back, her bubbly personality back…and most of all she wanted her figure back!

I knew Allyson as a neighbor and understood her story. She grew up in West Hartford (Conard grad 1992) and was an active soccer player in her youth. After getting married she cooked more and moved less. On top of a busy work schedule, she had torn her ACL years ago and gave up exercising all together. We talked and I offered her a solution. More than a personal trainer, I became Allyson’s live body coach, offering her work-out sessions right in the comfort of her home, something I have been offering people in and around the West Hartford area for a long time via my ‘Fitness on The Run’ service.

I remember that very first workout session on Allyson’s living room floor and I knew that she was hooked! We simply moved back the couch and coffee table and worked ‘center ring’ on the carpet in front of the fireplace.

I knew that we needed to start Allyson on a beginner level since she hadn’t exercised in a long time. She needed some regular cardio to start losing weight, so I started her off with step aerobics. This is great for beginners because you can go at your own pace and it is a low impact exercise at high impact intensity. If you don’t own a step platform, you could use the bottom step of a staircase in your home, stepping up and down for as long as you can. Even 10 minutes is a great start. Eventually work up to 45 minutes, which you can do slowly over many workouts. Stepping is a fabulous workout. Did you know that climbing up the stairs to the top of the Empire State Building and half way down is equivalent to 45 minutes of step aerobics?!

For beginner muscle toning, we used light free weights. At home, you can substitute the weights for two cans of soup, one in each hand. Put your elbows up against your body like they are glued there and slowly curl up and down 12 times, working your way up to 3 sets of 12 reps over time. When the exercise starts getting to feel easy, you’ll know it’s time to do more sets.

“It was great having someone tell me how to exercise safely,” reflects Allyson on those very first workouts. “I know now it’s important to do a warm up before and cool down stretches afterward. Nancy also gave me homework, like walking my dog more and stretching a lot everyday. My starting weight was 163.3, about 20-30 pounds more than where I was comfortable at and my body fat was between 39 and 40%. I knew I had work to do!”

When Allyson completed her first 8 weeks on the personalized in-home fitness program, I told her it was time to face the scale again. The moment of truth was here…

…Find out how Allyson did and what she looks like after phase one of her fitness program, in the Spring Issue of West Hartford Magazine, and continue following her weight loss/get fit journey in the issues following. Better yet, start moving and JOIN Allyson on her quest to get fit! 

Where’d my Glow Go?

Creating a mid-Winter Sparkle!
by Tammy Kroll

Find yourself avoiding the mirror lately? Approaching a milestone birthday, perhaps? With the glorious sun kissed skin of summer long gone and fresh off the stress of holiday parties, chores and all its affects, we are now bustling to get back into regular mid-winter routines. Trying to relax, you may be simply strolling down the lovely Center for a mid-day walk or some week-end shopping, when suddenly it happens! You get a glimpse of a pale, dull, tired looking stranger in a disturbingly reflective storefront.  “How could that new spring/summer sleeveless number you just bought, ever look good on such sallow, flaky, dry skin?”

Although the bright shining holiday string lights are long since packed away, there is still time to transform with my 3 ‘EEEsy’ ways to let YOUR light shine this season:  Exfoliate, Enrich and Enhance!

It’s important to continuously remove the outside dead layers of winter skin to reveal new vibrant skin underneath.  There are some amazing products on the market to achieve the desired result.  Botanically based ones are the safest and healthiest.  The older you are the more important it is to choose less abrasive methods like a natural papaya enzyme mask.  Retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A, is another key ingredient and can give quick results…2 to 4 weeks depending on the strength of the product.  This would be applied at night since the ingredient itself can interact with the sun, making skin more sensitive.  A product that comes in a tub with slightly rough pads that can be run over the face and neck are the easiest way to apply  (Tip: Before I throw a pad away I run it over each forearm, another place aging pops up quickly.  For your body I recommend a sugar or sea salt scrub toward the end of your shower 2-3 times a week.  Find one with mood elevating therapeutic oils like lemon and rosemary.

This is a two-part step.  The first is moisture that really sinks into your skin.  Avoid those products that contain mineral-oil type of ingredients which just sit on top of your skin (even quality ingredients that may be in the product will not penetrate).  Instead, choose products that contain botanically based oils that will deliver nutrients deep into the layers of your skin, such as Sweet Almond and ones rich in anti-oxidant vitamins like A, C and Raspberry Oil, which is very high in vitamin E.  These products should also contain an SPF of at least 20 to protect your skin from the damaging effects of even the winter sun.  Without the shade of the trees you may be getting more exposure than you think.  Your newly exfoliated skin will need that protection.

The second step is nutrition. I can’t stress this simple rule enough: Eat more veggies and less fat and sugar!  And I’m not talking about high carb/starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn. Squeeze in as many greens as you can every day, such as spinach and kale.  Orange veggies like squash and carrots, containing beta carotene, actually give your skin a nice glow.  Even green and red vegetables contain carotenoids that enhance your coloring. You will be amazed at the transformation of your skin in just a short time of healthy eating!  Fruits like oranges are good too, but in limited amounts because of their sugar/carb content.  It may be a rough start at first, especially if your system is used to sugar and fat, but it will be well worth the effort.  Before you know it, your body will be craving those vitamin-enriched veggies.

If a little more skin tone or color is still needed, nix the unsafe tanning bed and invest in a good self-tanner which will go on smooth and evenly on your newly exfoliated skin.  Don’t forget to wash your hands to avoid orange palms.  Then apply to the backs of your hands…a spray is usually good for this, though you still need to rub the backs of your hands together making sure you go all the way to the finger tips and blend back down to your forearms.  On your face, try one of the new BB or CC creams out for fun.  Some products contain a built in highlighter.  Finish off with a bit of reflective powder or bronzer on your cheekbones, upper chest or décolleté, and shoulders for a final shimmer!

Now you are ready for spring!  And, it doesn’t matter that days are longer and a brighter springtime sun will be streaming into your home…you will be the one lighting up the room!


Viacava Aldo Wedding

Congratulations Gianelli Viacava Lynch & F. Luke Aldo
photography by KATIE SLATER

Who says long distance relationships can’t work when true love is the foundation? Luke and Gia crossed paths at a lounge in New York City and they both knew it was love at first sight! While Luke finished his schooling in Connecticut and Gia was living in New Jersey, they drove countless miles back and forth between states to secure their relationship. After 5 years of dating, Luke had finished his medical residency and took a one-year fellowship in New Jersey to be closer to Gia. On a special Saturday afternoon, Gia found a trail of rose petals leading into the apartment bedroom, with candles glowing and the music of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take my Eyes Off You” in the background. Getting down on one knee, Luke popped the question. And the rest is history…

The bride is the daughter of her father, Gustavo Viacava, of Lima, Peru and her mother, Giannelli Kirgin and stepfather, Kenneth Kirgin, of Garfield, NJ. Gia attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology, earning both her B.S. in Engineering Management and M.S. in Professional and Technical Communications. She is currently still enjoying her newlywed role as homemaker.

The groom is the son of Andrew and Cynthia Aldo, of Cheshire. Luke attended Fordham University in New York, went to Medical school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and completed his internship and residency at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He is employed as an Anesthesiologist with Hartford Anesthesia Associates.

Luke and Gia were married at the Church of Immaculate Conception in Montclair, NJ with a reception that followed in Cedar Grove, NJ. After honeymooning in Tahiti, the couple now resides in West Hartford.