Ballerina on parade

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Guide to Boston

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.

Enjoy!

 

in the park for a birthday

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.

 

our weekend / birthday location hunting

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?

The Secret Gardens of My Neighborhood

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.

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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!

This tiny alley approaching one of the gardens had been lined with little glass vases:Image

and around the corner you could see: the sweetest sun-dappled playspace:

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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.

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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.

my brief moment of style

 

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.

The First Copley Square Market

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.

Boston Embroidery Hoop Art

I swoon smile 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?

April’s Boston Food Swap

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?

My Valentine’s Day

Lux and I listened to this all day, like the latin lovers that we are. (on Grooveshark. I couldn’t find it on Spotify, Rdio, or Last.fm. What, no kids music? Come on guys.)

I had a dentist appointment and they gave me a rose. Sweet, but the implication reminded me that I’m there a lot these days (sad but true) and neglecting my first love (my teeth) made room for our new relationship…Or some metaphor like that. When I walked home carrying the rose, people smiled knowingly at me, and I wanted to say, “it’s not as good as you think guys!”

A little vintage ring for me from Joe, from our local antique jewelry shop. With a background of aging roses from a friend who visited over the weekend.

This photo makes the ring look really nice, which it is, but Joe promises that it was not expensive as I have tragically lost rings before and neither of us want to worry about that. I love how the stone looks black but is actually a little red. It’s too big so I need to find one of those little adjustment-pieces that make rings smaller.

a little antique (not really) Scotch whiskey for Joe. He likes peaty stuff from Islay, and I’m running out of new brands to try as I basically buy him whiskey for all special occasions.

While I was at the dentist, Joe took Lux out and bought her a sneaky Sylvester. oh my gosh does she love balloons. And I do too. We had to bring him on our walk to soften the blow of being stroll-ered around. It worked!

In the evening after Joe got out of work, we met him midway to go to a favorite local wine shop that also sells chocolate, olives, eighty-five different kinds of cheese, and salami! On the T ride to meet him, the car was full of people holding bouquets of flowers, fiddling with their ties, or fixing their hair. When we waited for Joe outside there was a feeling of anticipation in the cold air and we watched as couples excitedly met up for the night. One corner of the T station was taken up with a bustling impromptu flower shop.  It felt a bit like Christmas eve!

The wine shop was having a very clever wine tasting and oyster-eating event. For $10 you could try three different wines and have a small plate of three oysters. Lots of people were taking advantage of it. I loved how they gave you a slip of paper with the names of the wine, and the cost of the bottle, for easy reference.

Lux spent a lot of her time looking around for other baby friends, to no avail.

We used some Valentines money (thanks Mom! thanks Mimi!) and picked out a german champagne, soft cheese, a salami, homemade crackers, and homemade biscotti. It was all irresistible!

After we got home, we settled in with our snacks, and caught up on episodes of Downton Abbey. Joe said, “wine, cheese, and the aristocracy!” All and all, we barely noticed that we couldn’t go out to a nice dinner or a late night party.