We’re planning to stay in Boston for February break and I’m noting down the things to do with Lux at home and many other otherwise-weekly activities cancelled.
(I’ve also whiled away several hours looking at houses in Georgia O’Keeffe/Deborah Madison New Mexico. Coincidence?)
I foresee several luxuriously long library visits, at date night in, a hotel night out, a museum we would otherwise save for a weekend. A few of the things on my mind…
THE STAY SOMEWHERE ELSE AWAY
Downtown, the Lenox Hotel offers easy in-house activities for kids like Cookie & Paint night, movie night, or a crafting night. The Lenox is ideally located on the green line near the central Public Library, and a few stops from the MFA, both of which will also be offering special activities for the week. Interesting restaurants abound in this area, making it simple to stay indoors if the weather isn’t great. And do note they offer a few select rooms with working fireplaces! From $260 per night. The Lenox has offered us a free night stay in exchange for me sharing these facts, which we are totally taking advantage of.
On Cape Cod, the Bayside resort schedules full days of activities for the whole week, including themed (free) breakfasts, scavenger hunts, bingo, movie nights, pizza nights and simultaneously scheduled parent’s happy hours. Plus, you’ll have the winter beaches to yourself. One night from $159 per night.
THE AMAZING OUTDOORS
The Highland Foundations sponsors totally free skating at the Boston Common Frog Pond.
New Hampshire Ice Castles: These are built new every year in New Hampshire from scratch and appear to be rather amazing. We’ve never been, but I’d love to take an afternoon to get up there. You can see photos here, and coordinate your visit with a fire show!
The Somerville Winter Market: every weekend on Saturdays, indoors, full of amazing food vendors!
MUSEUMS, YOUR FRIEND
The newly reopened Discovery Museum in Acton (about 40 minutes west of the city). This delightfully hands-on, low tech, and interactive museum could you keep your family busy all day.
**Giveaway now closed. The Museum is offering free admission for kids under 12 on March 3rd & 4th.
The Museum of Fine Arts places special kid-interactive crafting activities in galleries all around the museum. Often there are concerts and special guests as well. All of these activities are free with admission. Check their schedule posted online beforehand.
THE GREAT INDOORS, at home
Buy art supplies: I like to think of the money that would have been spent on the random dining out that happens on trips redirected to other things, like buying a new art supplies. Here are a few we love, and are currently out of; combine any of these with a leftover cereal box and I promise amazing things will come of it! Do-a-dots (two year olds love), pastels (particularly fun on black construction paper), shurtape, gold leaf, twistable crayons. Gold leaf and pastels are both special supplies that require adults checking in every now and then. Always useful: this comprehensive list of the Eric Carle Museum Studio’s favorite kids art supplies.
^^ This is a recycled chocolate wrapper, not gold leaf, but we’ve done similar activities with that fluttery gold multipurpose dazzle!
Handwriting hobby After a recent conversation with the first grade teachers, I realized significantly less time is made for handwriting practice in today’s school curriculum. Much more time is spent on writing and writing comprehension. This empowers them as writers (or it has, for Lux) but the actual technique gets left behind. So we are working on this habit at home! Paired with a yummy snack and cozy rug, it’s a great activity and all you need are some ruled papers, or order your own handwriting book.
Count the dice Another activity I’m borrowing from Lux’s classroom hints. The kids make charts with a column for each number from 1-12. Then you get two dice, roll them, and color in the box above the number you received, pass the dice to the next person. It’s the simplest thing, but it seems to be satisfying in those ways that adults love too–rolling dice, reading numbers, checking off boxes. It’s communal and fun to do around the table.
Making your own play dough has gotten a rap as trademark ultra-homemade-crowd, but really, it takes ten minutes and you get to pick the colors and end up with warm play dough. It lasts forever compared to the store bought stuff. I don’t use add spices but I do use the recipes that include coconut oil.
Pillow jump This is from the Waldorf crowd, best for toddlers up to age 3, but fun for all if you’re not worried about the downstairs neighbors. Take a step stool, put it in the middle of the floor. Surround with a big pile of pillows. Climb up, jump off. Repeat.
My Holidays guide to Boston, some of these things still apply.
Anything special on your schedule for February?
Here’s a day from December we are still talking about. My mom was in town to visit us and see the holiday lights. Before she arrived I reserved tickets for the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea at the Ritz Carlton in Boston (they sell out every year about two weeks ahead of time). After the tea Lux and I took the train to Cambridge to see the Jose Mateo Nutcracker with friends of ours.
US Angels had recently sent Lux a ballerina dress. We saved it for the occasion and she wore it proudly and grandly all day. The dress is such a beauty–it has two tiers of tulle, a line of cloth-covered buttons down the back and comes with a ribbon belt for cinching.
Of course one bunny was invited to come along as well.
There are a few holiday teas around Boston for families looking for festive occasions–the Ritz Carlton tea was beautifully done. The Nutcracker theme was a total dream come true for Lux; at this point I think we’ve played the Nutcracker orchestra performance on our tape player over 100 times, easily. There was even a young ballerina performer from the Boston Ballet Nutcracker there for photos. Lux watched her with awe and went up for a photo three times (contrast that with her Santa experience where she wouldn’t get within ten feet of the guy).
The food was so charming and elegant: things like cucumber sandwiches made to look like Christmas trees, tiny circles of salmon on toast, peanut butter and jellies carefully sliced and stacked, and (my favorite) tomato, mozzerella, and pesto ciabattas. A bowl of marshmallows sat ready for scooping next to the hot chocolate alongside chocolate-covered-strawberries, red velvet cupcakes and trays of scones. They had stacks of gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate, plastic tiaras and crowns ready for pretend play and glass containers full of pink and purple glittering star wands for the taking.
You can imagine why Lux is still asking if we are going again next year!
The Ritz had also three craft opportunities set-up for kids to make ornaments for local shelter’s holiday trees in partnership with the organization Catching Joy. I loved the moment when Lux realized she was not keeping the crafts. She stopped and looked dismayed, then looked around and saw everyone crafting away anyway, and jumped back in.
After frolicking, snacking and several hot chocolate refills, we gave one last longing look at the professional ballerina, and we headed to the T to meet our friends Johanna and her daughter, Haruka.
The Jose Mateo ballet program is housed in a beautiful church just outside of Harvard Square. Their theatre is the old sanctuary of the church, an intimate and friendly space. To my eye there is no bad seat in the house. For the 2pm performance that Saturday the whole place was full of children! Both my friend Johanna and I had brought silent snacks for placating the girls if they got antsy, but as soon as I saw all the kids, I realized we didn’t need to worry. Even so it was silent audience for most of the performance. It was such a treat to sit through the whole thing, and really nice to have it be more affordable. Some day I would like to take Lux to the Boston Ballet performance, but for now it’s perfect to see it on a slightly smaller scale.
All in all, it was a day I want to do every year (and next year, Joan will be invited…I think!). Certainly it ran more expensive than what we’d spend on kiddo-fun in a typical month, much less one day! But still, it was the perfect time of year to take advantage of such fun opportunities.
Today I have a GUIDE TO BOSTON on Bridget’s blog! I’m delighted have this opportunity. Bridget has approximately 3000 more readers than ED so it is an honor. Bridget’s an all natural mama who I hang out with regularly, and I always leave inspired.
It’s not a comprehensive guide, but it is a collection of the things I write, over and over again, in emails to friends and friends of friends and people I met once who heard I lived here. I will end up writing thirty comments at the bottom of other great things I love, but you just have to stop the buck somewhere with these things. ED needs its own guide to Boston, but until then this is it.
The weather folks said it was going to be 91 degrees that Saturday morning. I had visions of our guests sipping coffee and sweating, while humidity swirled around. Fortunately that dismal scene did not happen. At 10am it was very windy and slightly cloudy, which made perfect cozy breakfast party weather.menu:
+ granola with steel cut oats, dried apricots and lots of seeds. yogurt (Brown Cow), raspberries, and blueberries.
+ three frittatas: kale, swiss chard, new potatoes.
+ maple blueberry muffins. One baker friend brought apricot and sage scones, and one thoughtful friend brought Flour treats. Flour treats are the best hostess gift of all time.
+ bacon doused in maple syrup, baked, and cut into triangles.
+ two containers of coffee from Starbucks.
The great thing about this menu was the leftovers were easily incorporated into our week. (people never eat as much at parties as you expect, right??) Lux loved the frittate which is a discovery for me because they have more chopped greens packed per square inch than anything else I make.Everyone showed up at different times via bikes or just finishing up a morning walk. Lots of the girls wore dresses; I love it when that happens. Strangers walked by with bemused smiles, eyeing the bundle of balloons blowing in the wind and the giddy babies chasing their toys. I met Ellie and Lena at the library when the girls were five months old. Our babies were rather immovable and barely participated in the playtime, but we noticed they were around the same age and quickly struck up conversation. We survived the winter by getting together every week. Friends like them were so important to my first year as a mom, and I’m so grateful for their companionship.
And of course we all had that moment. That moment of “why don’t we do this more often?” When you realize all it took was the promise of coffee and a few blankets to get people to the park. When you look around and see other families having parties too, and realize, “this is what the park is for!” I hope we do it again this summer, but for now a baby’s birthday was the excuse we needed.
There have been at least twenty discussions about birthday parties around here lately.
Here’s a few of the themes we circle around:
Is it weird to call it a birthday party if Lux will have no awareness that the party is for her?
How much alcohol can you have at a party that’s technically for children?
How do we emphasize that we are actually celebrating the crazy year we just had?
Obviously we can’t not memorialize this enormous life change we just went through, right?
Finally, bored out of our minds with this all this adult talk, we decided we wanted it to be on the Esplanade, the lovely park that coils along the Charles River and is full of playgrounds, benches, clean sidewalks, and beautiful trees. So Saturday morning we went location scouting and visited our favorite nooks, to see how they would do under party scrutiny.
The bridge over to the Esplanade is just up the street from us. You cross over four lanes of traffic, and can smirk with pedestrian swagger as you cross. Or you can focus on how the bridge is climbing up into the trees before it swoops you back down to earth among the sailboats.
Lux particularly liked this spot for duck watching and practicing her sideways bench walk:
We settled on this little triangle of grass:
a small pond on one side:
and shady trees all around!
Now that I’ve started thinking about children’s parties, I’m remembering all fantastic things kids get to count on: cake! scoops of ice cream! goody bags! random streamers everywhere, bringing a gift for your friend that you hope they love, musical chairs, and eating too much candy. This is one of those scenarios where kids really get the good stuff, right?
Corners of Beacon Hill truly feel like a scene from that enchanting childhood movie, A Secret Garden. “What wonderful world is behind here?” you find yourself asking, much like Mary Lennox and Colin Craven. Usually you can see a tiny peep through the gate, and my imagination takes over from there, envisioning the most remarkable sanctum possible, lined with lush green grass, sprightly rose bushes, and the most comfortable hammock imaginable.
So of course I had to pack up Lux and go on the Hidden Gardens of Beacon Hill tour. This one-day annual event is a self-guided tour costs $30 and included sixteen gardens, all in the relatively tiny area of Beacon Hill.
At each stop you were greeted by a friendly local gardener wearing a cheerful yellow apron. Doors were flagged with little yellow banners so you could spot them from down the hill.
I loved these old windows and brick pattens. This garden was mostly shaded so everything was green and somewhat Japanese inspired.
This seemed enormously clever and fun to me: a garden behind a garage door. There were several of these! When the car is pulled out, you practically have a courtyard. And: you still have a parking spot at the end of the day!
and around the corner you could see: the sweetest sun-dappled playspace:
I took this photo from a garden that had been there for sixty years! That’s how you get trees like that in the city—inherited gardens.
And here: this sunny corner wasn’t on the tour but this is really my type of hideaway. Simple, unmanicured, the greens are growing as they like, and the sun is just pouring in. I hope whoever owns this corner gets to bask here frequently, with a friend and a glass of lemonade. And maybe a cat. And stack of books…
To be honest, finally getting to see a few of these places was really good for me. I didn’t walk away jealous and wishing I could add another $2,000 to our monthly rent so I too could have a well-terraced square foot of my own. After seeing a few of the gardens, a friend and I took our babies to the Common to let them frolic. There was sun and shade everywhere, school kids to watch, new construction to examine, and fresh cut lawns. It was lovely, free, and open to everyone. And that is a true oasis.
Do you go out secretly hoping the Sartorialist is circling your block? I know I do. But the truth is Boston usually gets hmmm-ed over when people talk about style. I’m convinced it’s because we are academics and readers are tooo sexy for those stylists.
But anyway. Boston has a new street style photographer blogger! Her name is Krista and I met her at the SOWA Market on Saturday. Incidentally, the Sowa market was incredibly popular and hot. I think I bought three different drinks in the span of forty-five minutes.
I’m wearing a skirt from Zara. It is hard to say which elicits more random compliments: the skirt or the sandals. Big plus to the skirt, as my friend says, “it gives you breezes.” Meaning on a hot day you feel rewarded for wearing it. I can’t find the exact one but here are two that look just like it.
Good luck Krista! I believe in your mission.
Atlas Farm had pints of organic strawberries, stacked on shelves like the new bestselling novel, for $4.50 each.
The Siena Farm stand had bags of every green the fields could possibly muster right now–bok choy, young garlic, fava bean greens. And a basket strewn with oyster mushrooms, gold and brown. I picked a bag bursting with “braising greens” a mix to be tossed in a pan with olive oil and garlic. That, I can do.
Hamilton Orchards was back with their stacks of cider doughnuts, unbelievably fresh and cinnamon scented. There is no season (especially a rainy early summer) that doesn’t ask for cider doughnuts.
Burdicks, (on the way to Copley Square, of course) has their serving license at last and is serving iced chocolates, but I couldn’t resist a tiny cup of dark hot chocolate to cheer their new location.
True story: it all came out with Oxyclean.
swoonsmile happily over these pretty earrings and elegant embroidery every time I walk past E.R. Butler on Charles Street. I like the varying textures of the tree with the thickly knotted trunk. That texture combined with the steely butterflies and droplet pearls is so lovely.
Recently I learned that the woman who made the embroidery hoops for the shop is on Etsy, and lives in Boston!
She, Mary Louise, says she was inspired by the changing tree colors in the Public Garden, a spot Lux and I escape to regularly. Look at these pretty options!
I would love make something like this someday, but mostly I would love to pay someone else to do it better and more beautifully than me! These are $45 each. Which color are you drawn to?
Yesterday I packed up my fourteen bags of homemade biscotti (one recipe from Cook’s Illustrated utilizing instant grits, one receipe from Maida Heatter with espresso and lots of chocolate) and headed to the Boston Food Swap. It was my first time attending this monthly event and it was…probably the most fun I’ve ever had at an event in Boston. Serious.
Despite the rain almost forty people showed up, carting their jars of lemon curd, their recycled bottles of kombucha, their tins of cardamum brown sugar simple syrup, their bags of flourless brownies made with dates and coconut, their jars of pickled ramps…
(both Birgit and I are into packaging…obviously. I used some ribbon from Angela Liguori, a wonderful Italian Brookline-based artist.)
I circled the room tasting everything, quizzing people on recipes, asking for advice on where they found certain ingredients, sharing excitement for our summer CSAs to kick in….
It was a local foodie’s dream date, and the best part is you really don’t have to be a “foodie” in any intimidating sense of the word. Some people brought trail mix, or chocolate covered pretzels, or grasshopper brownies—easy things that everyone loves to eat.
Then we scribbled down our offers on each other’s “bidding sheets” and shortly after that, chaos of trading ensued. My favorite part was learning that the person I hoped to trade with, also wanted to trade with me! Foodie kismet!
Here’s everything I came away with:
Rosemary shortbread, homemade chive cheese, cherry & apple chutney, pancetta, basil mozzarella, homemade salsa….wow!
So! You can google and see if there’s one of these in your town, there probably already is! If there isn’t, would you ever want to start one in your area? What would you bring?