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Though Lauren Cooksey started out with just a Salvation Army camera in hand and three children in tow, the photographer and single mother was determined to fulfill her dream of achieving a successful career in her chosen art. Her talent and sheer willpower paid off; today, Lauren continues to snap shots under the moniker Cooksey Photo and has even enlisted one of those aforementioned toddlers, Tracy, to join her mission.

With 20 years of industry experience behind them, the mother-daughter photography team captures candid images of individuals and families, crafting prints with warm, sepia tones brushed with custom color. During photo shoots, the duo uses handmade sets and props to coax out the personality of each baby, graduating high schooler, or beloved mannequin. Afterward, they select the best image to edit before dressing it up with daubs of digital color. Finished prints from a family session spruce up a lonely end table, or a print from a pet photo shoot can enliven a mantel in a doghouse. The new in-home studio, which opened in June 2011 is also child-friendly.

5 Fairview Ave
Ellington,
CT
US

Before IMAX movies and online social networks, roller skating reigned supreme as the favorite pastime of American youth. Ron-A-Roll Indoor Roller Skating Center smacks of this blissful era, with its colorful retro murals, classic beach-wood floors, firm prohibition of halter-tops and baggy pants, and the gratuitous use of the word "hogwash." The beeps and whistles of arcade games jingle across the 14,000-square-foot roller skating rink, faintly audible beneath the boom of current hits. Spotlighted by strings of hanging lights, skaters of all ages soar across the rink during open skate, skate lessons, and fitness-skating classes held throughout the week.

Off the skate floor, a team of technicians staffs a pro shop, peddling inline skates and gear for rental or purchase while extending mechanical expertise toward repair work, wheel rotations, and cleanings. Meanwhile, in the concession stand, servers dole out boxes of popcorn and pitchers of soft drinks to fuel laps around the rink and inspire skaters to experiment with their popcorn-float recipe.

85 S Frontage Rd
Vernon Rockville,
CT
US

Since 1962, the experienced and USPA-certified instructors at Connecticut Parachutists, Inc have helped new and experienced skydivers foster a love for skydiving. Two miles above the plush green landing area, the professionals harness themselves to novice divers for tandem jumps, and then leap from the bellies of prop planes as spectators and envious penguins look on from an open landing area. The instructors can also help their students obtain skydiving certification, learn to perform accelerated free falls, and make solo dives.

In addition to training new cloud kickers, Connecticut Parachutists, Inc also accommodates seasoned skydivers with facilities for members. Their turbine Twin Otter elevates members for as many jumps as possible, and a clubhouse helps jumpers wind down with a shower and video debriefing area. The skydiving haven also plays host to special events such as jump nights and Q&As with famous parachutes.

360 Somers Road
Ellington,
CT
US

The Stone and Paddle’s California-style thin-crust pizzas acquire their subtle crunch while baking atop a hot stone in a 600-degree oven. Gourmet toppings such as hot sausage, shrimp and artichoke, and spinach and gorgonzola grace the pies, which share table space with flatbread sandwiches that are also stone-baked. Though chefs must return nightly to the steel-encased bunker where they safeguard their secret dough recipe, guests can enjoy a new location in Rocky Hill, linger on the shaded patio at the Vernon location or watch sports on Manchester's flat-screen TVs.

40 West Street
Vernon,
CT
US

Pole For The Mind, Body, and Soul's staff teaches pole-dancing workouts and other flirty fitness classes to tone and tighten the entire body. Spirited instructors certified in CPR and first aid lead one-hour pole-dancing sessions, imparting the know-how to perform graceful spins, strength-building moves, and more tricks than a skateboarder who can pull a rabbit from a beanie. Each student works out on her own X-Pole Xpert pole, whose 50 millimeters of shiny chrome inspire sultry twirls and R2-D2 impressions. The maximum of nine spinners per class ensures that participants nab personalized tips on form and safety. The studio also bolsters bodies with relaxing candlelight-yoga sessions and fun-filled Zumba classes that torch calories during an hour of sultry, Latin-inspired dance moves.

500 Talcottville Road
Vernon,
CT
US

TrueBody Fitness and Yoga Studio is an embracing space with wonderful people who share a passion for yoga. The atmosphere is relaxed and accepting. It is a Baptiste influenced power studio. I have completed level one and two training with Baron Baptiste. I am in the process of completing my teacher certification.

5 Main Street
Ellington,
CT
US