As far back as I can remember, I would wake up from my nap time to the smell and sounds of something cooking in the kitchen. I would stumble out of my bed and slowly make my way to the kitchen. My mom would be there chopping, stirring, mixing, or washing. I would rub my eyes take a deep breath and eventually be awake enough to either taste something she was chopping or ask to help out.
Earlier this summer I attended Blogger Bash in NYC and Johnny Rockets challenged attendees to “Shake it Up” and come up with a Milkshake recipe of our own to help kick of National Shake Month. Fall is in the air, and the flavours of chai just seemed to make sense to me. As I was testing recipes even the kids got bitten by the shake snake and they developed recipes of their own. There is a little caffeine in this shake, but the flavours are still very kid friendly
Chai Latté Shake 2 large shakes or 4 small tea time shakes
1 1/2 cups of boiling hot water
1 cinnamon stuck
3 cardamom pods
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 TBSP of granulated sugar
2 tsp of loose black tea in an infuser or 1 tea bag (I used Assam)
1 pint of vanilla ice cream
Chai Mix In a bowl or large teacup add the following: sliced ginger,cardamom pods gently crushed with your fingers or the back of a spoon, and the black tea. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of boiling hot water. Let it steep for 5 minutes. Remove the teabag and let the mixture cool preferably over night. Once the mixture is cool you can make your milkshake.
Shake it Up
In a blender or milkshake mixer add the cooled chai mix and one pint of ice cream. Blend. Pour and enjoy!
Shake it Up a Notch
Add 1 oz of Bourbon for a grown up nightcap/dessert.
Play date at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). FREE for up to two adults per family when accompanied by children 12 and under. Youth 17 and under are always admitted FREE to the ICA. Visit the yellow brick road with David Parker and the Bang Group in the theatre. Bring a pair of new socks if you’d like to make a donation to Cradles to Crayons.
Take a road trip to the Woodstock Fair in Woodstock, CT for the animal lover in the family. Become a kid again on the midway, at the “indulge just this once….every year” concessions, and check out all the blue ribbon winners.
One of my favourite stores, Uniqlo, just opened several locations in Boston: Chestnut Hill and Natick Collection.
Container Store will help you organize your life, or at very least your foyer, desk, or closet with their 25% off shelving sale.
Back to School isn’t all work and no play, so even though the kids should go to sleep at a reasonable hour on the weekend, we get an extra day this weekend. Stay up late and watch the fireworks over Boston at Christopher Columbus Park. The fireworks begin at 9 p.m. on Saturday and are part of the weekend’s Arts Festival (12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at Christopher Columbus Park.) I’d recommend dinner at KO Pies at the Shipyard on the roofdeck, then grab a blanket and watch the fireworks.
The Street at Chestnut Hill has yoga on the green on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Quiet your mind and stretch your body so that you can be calm and centered as you get ready for the first full week of school, soccer mom/dad, Parent Taxi service, school routine, school drama, fall schedule life.
An apple for the teacher may be a bit old fashioned, but it’s a treat and small gift that stands the test of time especially if you picked it yourself. Belkin Family Look Out Farm is open this weekend. Available for picking are plums, Golden Delicious, and Gala apples. I love Golden Delicious especially for eating with the kids for snack or cutting up and making a pie. Golden Delcious apples are sweet but keep their shape when cooked in a pie.
Recess for the whole family. Take a trip over to The Lawn on D and have family recess with all kinds of games.
Whether your children are lucky enough to be stitching, crocheting, sewing, or knitting at school or are learning with a parent or grandparent, home economics really need to make a comeback. Head over to Gather Here for their fabulous sidewalk sale this weekend.
Different families celebrate back to school in different ways. In France “la rentrée” if you are starting school is all about getting your very first “cartable” and your first leather cartable is definitely a coming of age moment. In Germany children get a schultüte which is a sort of back to school “goody bag” in the shape of a cone.
Many children get back to school hair cuts and or new clothes and shoes. Fall clothes are still my favorite and I remember relishing the cooler days and cozier nights of September. Being able to put on a sweater after too many days of summer sun is so refreshing.
Here’s a little guide to back to school based on a stroll in the South End. (oh, and BTW #BTS (Back to School) is not just for the kids.)
Back to School Haircut
Henry is not too fond of getting his hair cut, to put in mildly, but after reaching Scooby Doo Shaggy-esque hair, there was no way to avoid the back to school haircut. We popped into Roosters, which recently opened on Tremont Street, and had a great experience. The “old school” but totally new and clean vibe at Rooster’s made us both feel at home. I can’t wait to send my husband in for a cut. Beyond the old school barbershops Roosters washes hair, and has other amenities that women have enjoyed for decades but men have missed out on.
518 Tremont St. #1B
Boston, MA 02118
Treat of the First Week.. (and the next 179 days)
Flour is the perfect place to pick up some after-school treats. Goodies for the teachers for the completion of that first week of school will be welcome in any staff room.
You don’t have to be Vegan to enjoy the Vegan chocolate cake and the gluten-intolerant staff members will be on cloud nine with the huge meringues.
Flour Bakery Flour Bakery
131 Clarendon St. 1595 Washington St.
Boston, MA Boston, MA
(617) 437-7700 (617) 267-4300
Playrooms & Study Spaces
The spaces we play and learn in inspire us, and Gold Gallery has some amazing art for the playroom, den and study.
655 Tremont St.
Boston, Massachusetts 02118
Peanut, peanut butter & Jelly
Stop in at South End Formaggio and pick up my favourite peanut butter Brown Bear peanut butter from Rhode Island.
South End Formaggio
268 Shawmut Ave.
Boston, MA 02118
Not just for Kids
Whether you’re getting your fall work wardrobe together, you need an alternate outfit that is school-drop-off-worthy or it’s your weekend look that needs an update, Flock is here for you.
Regain your own sense of style whether you accessorize with a burp cloth or you have a tween rolling their eyes at whatever you put on.
274 Shawmut Ave.
Boston, MA 02118
Feed the Body/Feed the Mind
Siena Farms has a kids share. Give children ownership of some of their food and ingredients and shift the way they eat or spend their after school hours. Their interest in what is on the plate, when they had something to do with getting it there, will often shift. Plus the beauty of the sunflowers when you walk in together to pick it up, will brighten even the dullest school day.
It might not be so cool if you show up at recess to play with the kids. The summer days staying up a little later playing games, running through the sprinkler or swinging on the swings together are fading into the background, but you can still get out at play together after school or on the weekend.
Check out art exhibit Bounce at the Boston Center for the Arts. Keep your eyes on the ball and listen carefully.
This weekend I have no guide for you except this. (which I meant to post yesterday but life pulled me away from the screen and I’m only getting back to you now….)
Stop everything else even if it “must get done” because it still can probably wait a bit and do something you love. For me it was testing a recipe and taking photographs. I didn’t know how much I would enjoy recipe testing. It was something I had to get done while on vacation and I had a blast doing it as the children played cards on the rug nearby.
for the love of sour cream
playing with surfaces
blueberry sauce with a less than perfect sour cream swirl
Take time to go outside. It might be just 5 minutes on the front stoop. It might be a trip to a new playground. A walk around the block. An afternoon at the beach. Feel the sun on your face or the raindrops on your nose.
On vacation, I try to be on vacation. I always give my husband the stink eye when he’s checking email on his phone. If he tells me he has a quick conference call I can feel my hear drop like an old elevator in my chest but I smile and shrug. He’s gotten much better over the years and has slowly learned that vacations are so much more effective if you actually take them to their fullest. Yet, here I am in the kitchen on vacation and I’m doing a little work.
I’m developing my first recipe. I mean, not exactly because I guess I make up recipes all the time in my own kitchen, but I don’t write them down. It’s the writing them down that makes it so different. I’m paying attention to every additional pinch of salt or 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. It’s actually fun. I feel like a kid again sitting on the sidewalk with the neighbourhood kids making “salad” out of the inside of the helicopters that fall from the maple trees and buds of various grasses that would pop up between the sidewalk cracks.
So as I work. I am also playing. As I’m playing in the kitchen, the kids are enjoying the stretched out morning hours after a nice breakfast of eggs and Montreal bagels and a Quebec strawberry smoothie, playing cards on the rug. Playing as the sounds from the kitchen, and the click from the camera, and the smells of cinnamon waft from the oven around them.
We have heard a lot about what school districts are doing to improve and update (or not) school lunches. Schools are not the only ones improving meal time for kids. I recently asked, Lucy Norvell of the American Camp Association, New England what is going on in the kitchens and dining halls at camp these days.
Leah’s Life (LL): In New England, summer foods are the things that dreams are made of from fresh berries, to fragrant herbs, and juicy sun kissed tomatoes. Traditionally, camp food has not really reflected the season’s harvest. What are camps doing today to change that?
Lucy Norvell (LN): Camps are now in a position to include the season’s harvest, despite New England’s short growing season. Camps have gardens where campers can harvest vegetables. Even if the camp doesn’t grow enough to feed everyone, they note for their campers what is coming from the camp garden, whether herbs or veggies. There is a camp that grows produce for a local food bank, for instance. It’s common to grow veggies for the salad bar or pizza toppings. Sometimes there are berry bushes in the camp where campers can pick berries to put into pancakes, onto salad, into desserts or over ice cream; other times camps take children to local farms to do berry picking as a program activity. Camps also offer cooking as programming. So campers can work with fresh ingredients whether or not they have been grown at the camp.
LL: Generations of families have memories of camp. There are traditions that are carried on from year to year that each generation savors and shares. Camp food is definitely not one of them. What did camp meals look like in past generations?
LN: This is a complicated question and should be answered by members of those previous generations. If you have time I can ask some of them and do a little research. There may be certain traditional meals that are still served at the camp—perhaps a favorite dessert of the founder or first director. Birthdays and the fourth of July present some great opportunities to follow certain traditions. I know a camp that has the chef create twelve sheet cakes for the camp birthday—one for campers and staff of each birthday month.
Berries and watermelon are big on the 4th of July just like in the real world. Also cookout food. How far back that dates I’m not sure.
LL: What has brought about the change in focus on camp food?
LN: Camps reflect changes that are happening in the world at large. Stand up paddle boarding is now a popular waterfront activity that coexists with canoeing in boats that are 100 years old. We now live in a society of foodies. Children watch the food channel and know quite a bit about food prep in some cases. Dining out is more common than 30 years ago with some families going out a few times a month. People are exposed to a wider array of food options.
LL: Have the sources of food changed? Are camps using more local produce?
LN: Camps are great neighbors. They definitely support local businesses. Many food service directors source as much food as possible locally. It can be win-win as the food only has to be transported down the road. Even camps that rely on large food service companies often have local sources of some of their food. In a pinch, all camps rely on the local supermarket. In the quantities that camps need, this can result in quite a sale.
LL: Have the cooks and chefs themselves changed?
LN: Camp food service has changed. Once, camps employed the chefs and kitchen staff directly. This model is still alive and well. There are several food service companies that provide all meals and employ all kitchen staff too. It’s a business decision as to which route is best for a camp.
LL: Does this affect the cost of camp? Or has the cost simply shifted?
LN: This question has a sophisticated answer! Camps like families face higher costs in caring for children these days. The biggest line item in a camp budget is its staff, food is not far behind. There are many ways to keep costs down while retaining quality; camp food service professionals would have and owners and directors would have some interesting things to say on this topic. I know just who to put you in touch with to talk specifically about the decisions on sourcing food.
LL: An awareness of a variety of food allergies and intolerances has increased over the past several years, has this contributed to the shift in focus on food in camps?
LN: Families have to be increasingly aware of food allergies and intolerance and, therefore, so do camps. With each passing year, more and more campers (and staff) come to camp needing special diets. Restaurants have become more aware of cross contamination in recent years. Camp kitchens have too. I should also note that even camps that don’t have kitchens, that have campers bringing bag lunches to day camp, often have rules and procedures to keep campers safe at mealtime (lunch and snack time). An example of such a rule might be “NO sharing of food. Eat what YOU brought from home.”
LL: Do you have any childhood memories of camp dining?
LN: Lots of singing before and after meals. One camp I attended had campers wash dishes in buckets while singing after meals. Then the dishes went through a sanitizing machine.
LL: What were your most dreaded dishes?
LN: We have a small staff of six with two people representing each of three generations—millennial, GenX and Baby Boomer. So, we’re not quite a representative sample. But, we had the following dreaded camp meals: any sort of fish, taco casserole (with leftover taco meat), turkey dinner drowned in gravy, cold grilled cheese sandwiches and hot soup on a hot day, anything that was not easily identifiable. Summarizing, it seems to me that in earlier days some of the unappealing stuff was unappealing when children couldn’t identify the ingredients in a dish—if it was a mystery casserole. Today, such ingredients are separated so children can take what they want. (For example a child could take a burrito with a little bit of seasoned meat and some tomatoes. But not onions, cheese or lettuce. Or a child can go to the salad bar and have cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes only while another child goes over and puts the equivalent of a salad on her turkey sandwich.)
LL: What was your favorite camp treat?
LN: Popsicles, freezie pops, seven layer cookies, hand cranked homemade ice cream, white cake w/white icing and sprinkles, chocolate chip cookies and other fresh baked goods.
LL: What would a day of camp meals look like today?
LN:Breakfast: Something hot like oatmeal with raisins, craisins and other dried and fresh fruit and yogurt on the Breakfast Bar OR hard boiled eggs with salmon and tomatoes and bagels with cream cheese. Often cereal, yogurt and fresh fruit is out around the room or on a breakfast bar.
Lunch: Something hot like grilled cheese or a Panini or a make your own sandwich option. Wraps are popular. Salad bar. Peanut butter and jelly station, sometimes with other sandwich options. Last week a camp I visited was serving buffalo chicken breast pieces. I added that to my salad for protein. Fruit.
Dinner: Usually something hot. Lasagna or pasta dinner. Baked chicken and rice. Pizza. One camp I saw last week had homemade pizza crust and a real pizza oven. Salad bar. Sandwich option for those who don’t like the entrée selection. Dessert like ice cream sandwiches or cookies.
Oftentimes at overnight camp they leave snack food out all day—bowls of fresh fruit, healthy granola bars, etc… Camps also encourage everyone to be hydrated and they have some easy ways to fill water bottles and get water outside the dining hall.
You can get there from here. These joyous round bellied statues can’t help but make you smile as you walk into the Japan house in the Boston Children’s Museum.
Try out the Cultural Connector to make a vacation out of a day in Boston. The Cultural Connector, run by the Boston Harbor Cruises, takes you from museum to museum by water. It is an activity in itself watching the boats go in and out of the harbour, taking in the view of the city from the water, and ducking under old bridges. The water shuttle goes from the Institute of Contemporary Art at Fan Pier to the Children’s Museum at Fort Point Channel and the Aquarium at Central Wharf. You can also request a pass for the Charlestown Navy Yard at no additional cost if you buy the $15 all day pass. (Children under 3 travel free.) This past weekend we were guests on the Cultural Connector. As always, opinions are my own.
Friday, August 15th
This Friday, the ICA is free thanks to The Highland Street Foundation. What better excuse to hop on the Cultural Connector and take in a few museums when one of them is free.
Back Bay Harry’s Summer Sangria Patio Party Gather some friends and enjoy summer sangria selections on the patio. Sangrias include a Watermelon, Red and White house-made flavors. Sangria from 5-7p and their will be samples of Back Bay Harry’s food and drinks available to guests on the patio. (Cost: Free from 5-7 with the purchase of an appetizer)
Saturday, August 16th
Paddy’s 34 80th Anniversary
You know you’ve always wanted to hang out at one of Boston’s Best Dive Bars but you haven’t quite made the step yet. “Go big or go home,” as they say. If not now, then when? Join the fabulous folks at Paddy’s for music and a day of celebration for their 80th Anniversary. Block Party starts at 6 p.m. (Cost: Cost of beer 3.00 or 4.00 for Harpoon. 10 tickets pay less.
Hot dogs hamburgers $1.00 or donation. Inside prices are regular prices.)
Fixer Fair in Somerville
Sponsored by the Somerville Arts Council Arts Union Series, Fixer Fair will take place outside in the Union Square Plaza on Saturday, August 16 (raindate Sunday, August 17th) from 3-7PM. For more information, go to http://www.fixerfair.org. (Cost: Free)
Sunday, August 17th
Celebrate 60 years with the Hong Kong. The celebration begins at 5:45pm in the Pit (in front of Cambridge Savings Bank, 1374 Massachusetts Avenue) with the always festive and colorful Wah Lum Kung Fu performing a traditional Dragon and Lion Dance. Immediately following, they will lead a lively street procession through Harvard Square to the Hong Kong, where birthday cake, beer, music, dancing and Asian delicacies await you. From 6pm – 10pm, Massachusetts Avenue in front of the Hong Kong will be transformed into a street festival complete with a beer garden, DJ, dancing and the delicious food that the Hong Kong has been serving for decades. (Cost: the cost of food and drink. A portion of the proceeds from this event will be donated to the Cambridge Mayor’s Fire Relief Fund.)
Catch a day game at Fenway and go for the entire End of Summer Family experience. The Red Sox play the Astros and your package includes:
» FREE parking in the Prudential Center Garage, brought to you by The Shops at Prudential Center
» FREE Boston Duck Tours ride from the garage to Fenway Park*
» Activity booklets for the kids
» FREE Boston Duck Tours ride back to the parking lot*
* The first Duck Boat leaves from 53 Huntington Avenue at 12:05 p.m. for 1:35 p.m. first pitch. The last Duck Boat leaves Fenway Park 30 minutes after the final out of the game.
Disclosure: I work with the Red Sox as one of the #RedSoxMoms. I was born a Blue Jay fan but have adopted the Red Sox as my home team. As always, all opinions are my own.
It is the Fisherman’s Feast this weekend in the North End. The event is free but you’ll have plenty of ways to spend a little dough on food, drink, and trinkets. (Cost: Free entry)