All posts by leahklein

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.

5 Local Hostess Gifts: Drink Local

When I refer to “hostess” I use the broad definition.  What I mean by that is if you are attending a party you bring a hostess gift, and if you are hosting a party you deserve to treat yourself.  We’ve all joined our summer and fall CSAs and some brave souls have also signed up for winter CSAs, meat CSAs, fish CSFs, and charcuterie shares, but when it comes to drinks, we often overlook local.  Here are some great choices for hostess gifts whether you are going somewhere in the neighbourhood or traveling across country and want to bring some local spirits to the party.  Here are my five categories of “drink local” hostess gifts: wine, spirits, beer, coffee, and tea.

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Some of the smaller wineries require a visit to the tasting room (aw shucks!) to purchase wines, but others are available online.

Richard Auffrey, The Passionate Foodie, headed to TasteCamp Hudson Valley this fall and has a few recommendations from wineries that I am not yet familiar with.  Richard knows food and wine and he shares some of his knowledge and experiences with wines from Hudson-Chatham winery here.  So, if you’re headed past the area, make the ride to grandma’s house that much more relaxing, and stop off at the winery to pick up some hostess gifts. The tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Bedell Cellars, a winery on the North Fork of Long Island, is releasing their new vintage of First Crush Red 2013, which features a limited edition label collaboration with artist and filmmaker, Mickalene Thomas.
Bedell Cellars, a winery on the North Fork of Long Island, is releasing their new vintage of First Crush Red 2013, which features a limited edition label collaboration with artist and filmmaker, Mickalene Thomas.

Bedell Cellars has show stopping wines even before you ease the cork out of the bottle and pour a glass.  The labels of each of their wines are designed by local artists.  I love the sexy label on their Taste Rosé designed by Barbara Kruger and a nice chilled Rosé just begs to be opened to start any party.  Musée is a pricey hostess gift, but the wine was one of my favourites when I visited the region and the elegant, earthy, yet somehow opulent label designed by Chuck Close is stunning.  Not available yet, but perfect to keep on hand for parties in the New Year is Bedell Cellar’s First Crush.  The new, limited edition wine label for First Crush vintage 2013 is designed by New York based artist Mickalene Thomas.  Thomas is known for her elaborate paintings and iconic representations of the female form. In fact, her portrait of Michelle Obama was the first individual portrait of the First Lady and was exhibited in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about both these labels with a face (the one by Mickalene Thomas and the one by Barbara Kruger) that somehow just look your hostess in the eye and say “Thank You.”

Westport River Winery in Massachusetts has some nice sparkling wines.  I love to serve a Kir Royal to start a party off, so why not bring a bottle of sparkling wine and a great local cassis from Clinton Vineyards in New York.  If you want to try something a little different, then consider one of the fruit wines from the “non-grape” fruit wines from Nashoba Valley Winery.  I don’t usually like variations on a theme when it comes to wine, but I did enjoy the taste of the blueberry wine.

For a list of wineries throughout the various regions visit CT Wine Trail, MA Wineries, and New York Wines.

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greylock gin lsck

Distilleries are popping up left right and center catching up to the taprooms and breweries.  A few of my favourite local spirits are the Berkshire Mountain Distillers for their Gins (Greylock Gin, Ethereal Gin and their Ice Glen Vodka).  In fact a few years ago, I worked with some local cocktail masters to create a few signature drinks.  The Lavender Pomegranate Cocktail with Greylock Gin and the Ragged Rum Honey, Mint Cider Cocktail Recipe.  When it comes to vodka though, I am a devotee of Triple 8 Vodka from Nantucket.  My new favourite quick and easy cocktail with vodka is a recipe I shared over at Lavender and Lace (coming soon).

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After every party there is always the morning after and the morning after most often calls for a good cup of coffee.  I have two local favourite coffee roasters.  I love Karma Coffee up in Sudbury.  Their coffee is the best around.  I also really like Barismo’s coffee.  Both roasters really know how to source beans and most importantly how to get just the right roast for each batch. I almost forgot another regular batch I like to have around is Wired Puppy (from P-Town).  A fourth that I have enjoyed but I am less familiar with is 4A Coffee Roasters in Brookline.

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Tea drinkers tend to be perhaps even more particular about their tea than coffee drinkers. We don’t grow tea here in New England but we do have some great tea vendors.  Soluna Garden Farms has delicious tea blends in addition to herbs and spices.  Mem Tea Imports in Watertown is a wonderful local resource for tea as well.  Last, but not least, I love to pop into L’Aroma Café in Newton for a bite to eat and to pick up some of their teas as gifts as well.  I love the black cherry tea this time of year it is rich, slightly sweet, earthly and nicely caffeinated to get me through a cold dark winter afternoon.

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From labels to styles to individual taste beer can be a tricky hostess gift, but if you know your host prefers beer over wine then I recommend heading over to Craft Beer Cellar where the staff will expertly guide you through the many local brews available.  Some of my favourites are Happy Sol from Slumbrew, Jack D’Or from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, and Clementine Witbier from Clown Shoes.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Yule Log Cookies (Recipe)

I have always wanted to participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie swap, but for whatever reason each year it comes and goes and I miss the boat.  This year, I was on the ball, I didn’t think about if I would have time or what I would make, I just signed up and went for it.  It was so much fun.  I got to make three packages of cookies to send off into the world (Texas, Texas and New York to be precise).  In turn, I got three packages of cookies.  I got delicious chocolate chip cookies from Donna Dang over at Dang That’s Delicious.  We’ve been indulging in some Chocolate Mint Truffle Snowballs from Lisa Johnson over at Cooking with Curls. And, we inhaled our Chocolate Chip Pinwheels from Meagan over at A Zesty Bite.

Spiced Yule Log cookies with little meringue mushrooms.
Spiced Yule Log cookies with little meringue mushrooms.

These pinwheel cookies are a spin on the classic pinwheel cookies.  The inspiration for this recipe came from The Brass Sisters’ recipe which they found among the recipes of Elizabeth Cockrey of Groton, MA and share inHeirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters: More than 100 Years of Recipes Discovered from Family Cookbooks, Original Journals, Scraps of Paper, and Grandmother’s Kitchen.  Instead of doing a chocolate layer swirled into a vanilla layer, I decided to do a think layer of spiced toasted hazelnuts and cocoa.  The slices of cookies look like little slices of a yule log.  They are not too sweet because that’s how I like my cookies and they go very well with a nice hot cup of coffee or cocoa.  For a sweeter version, cut the cookies slightly thinner and then sandwich a layer of Nutella or some dulce de leche in the middle to create a sandwich cookie.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Yule Log Cookies

Makes 55-60 cookies or 30 sandwich cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar (I bake with my vanilla sugar.)
  • 2 additional TBSP of granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste.)
  • 1 TBSP of Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1/2 cup of whole hazelnuts
  • 2 tsp of Ras El Hanout for Coffee (You can also substitute cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, Chinese 5 spice, or whichever winter spices float your boat.)
  • If you are making sandwich cookies you will also need some dulce de leche or Nutella.

This dough needs to be chilled so do not pre-heat your oven yet.  In terms of timing and planning know that you will chill the dough for an hour before rolling it into a log, then the log will need at least an additional three hours to chill.  I prefer to make my dough the evening before so it has plenty of time to chill twice.  I allow the dough to chill once while I clean up from making the dough and then I let the dough chill again overnight.

To make the dough:

First, take a small pan (cast iron or stainless steel is fine) and add your 1/2 cup of whole hazelnuts to the pan (I also threw in a cinnamon stick for good measure but I don’t think it flavoured the nuts at all).  Lightly toast the nuts in the pan.  Don’t answer your phone or go check Facebook because the nuts will go from perfect to burnt in seconds flat.  Pour the toasted nuts onto a plate to cool.

If, like me, you forget to take your butter out to soften, soften the 2/3 cup of butter in the microwave (try not to melt it completely) in a glass bowl.  Then, add the 1 cup sugar, creaming the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  You can do this by hand with a fork or in a mixer if you prefer. Lately, I’ve been in the mood to just mix by hand with a fork.

In a separate bowl add the 2 cups flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt.  If you like to use a sifter this is the place to sift.  I prefer to just take a whisk and mix my dry ingredients that way.

Once the nuts have cooled, buzz them in a food processor until you have finely ground nuts.  Put the ground nuts into a bowl and add the 1 TBSP of cocoa, 2 tsp of Ras El Hanout for Coffee (or other spices of your choice) and 2 TBSP of sugar. Mix it all up until you have a uniform powder.

Now, take your sugar and butter mixture and slowly add your flour mixture.  Mix until just combined.  Divide your dough into two equal parts.  Wrap one part in plastic wrap then shape and flatten to make a rectangle.  With the other 1/2 of the dough add 1/3 of your cocoa and hazelnut mixture to the dough.  Mix until totally incorporated.  Then, wrap that 1/2 in plastic wrap then shape and flatten into a rectangle.  Place both parts of the dough into the fridge for 1 hour until the dough is slightly firm.

Once your dough has chilled, prepare your work space. I like to put the Glad Press and Seal plastic wrap right onto my countertop because I can “seal” it to the counter so it doesn’t budge.  Then take a piece of wax paper and place it over your dough so you have the plastic wrap under and the wax paper on top.  Now, you’re going to roll out your dough, starting with the plain dough, into a large rectangle (about 8″ x 12 “). Then, sprinkle the remaining cocoa and hazelnut mix evenly over the plain dough.  Place the wax paper back over the dough and carefully roll the powder into the dough with a rolling pin.

Once you have rolled out your plain dough and set the cocoa mixture into it put it aside on a piece of waxed paper or parchment.  Then, take your hazelnut and cocoa infused dough and do the same thing, roll it out to (about 8″ x 12″) or whatever size the first rectangle came out to.  Place the 2nd dough on top of the plain dough (making sure that the cocoa powder hazelnut mixture is in between the two doughs).  Trim this layered rectangle so that the edges match up evenly.  Keep the scraps, you can still enjoy them, they just don’t look as pretty.

Turn the rectangle so the long side faces your belly.  Carefully, using the wax paper to help roll the long edge into itself as tightly and evenly as you can (jelly roll style).  Wrap the dough in the wax paper and refrigerate for 3 hours (I often will leave it overnight).

If you are baking the cookies today, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place parchment paper on your cookie sheet.

Once the cookie log that you made is firm, take it out and slice the dough into 1/4 inch slices.  If you are making sandwich cookies you can slice them a bit thinner.  Bake the cookies at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 -15 minutes.  These cookies do not expand too much so you can put them fairly close to one another on the cookie sheet.

Packed up and ready to mail.
Packed up and ready to mail.

National Maple Syrup Day: Real Syrup in Real Diners

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In honour of National Maple Syrup day, I’m celebrating diners and restaurants that serve or offer real maple syrup.

I love the Deluxe Town Diner because they serve real maple syrup. I cannot stand the taste of fake syrup, but I get that it is loved by many. Taste is a complex thing and the flavours of childhood are not for nothing. If you grew up with Mts. Butter worth and that’s what you like, so be it. I grew up with syrup from the sap of a tree and can accept no substitutes.

I don’t even mind too much of a diner or restaurant offers the real syrup at an extra cost. Where do you like to go for pancakes or French toast that offers real maple syrup?

Frozen Gift Guide: The Non-Disney Version

I know, we live in New England and it’s very, very, very…very cold out now, but that doesn’t mean that everyone enjoys roasting marshmallows, sipping hot chocolate, and huddling over glasses of hot buttered rum.  Die hard ice cream lovers enjoy frozen treats all year round. Not to mention, if you run out of time to bake, or order that Yule log for Christmas this year, pull out some tubs of ice cream, add a few bowls of toppings and everyone will think you planned it that way.

Frozen Gift Guide

We all have different favourites in our family.  I love mint-chocolate chip (I got that from my dad who is probably the greatest ice cream lover in our family).  My husband enjoys a nice classic vanilla, and now that he’s gone off his rocker  dairy-free I’ve found the perfect locally made dairy free ice cream for him.  My son is a fan of two Ben & Jerry’s cookie-themed ice creams.  My daughter likes to sample new and interesting flavours but if there is caramel or mint that’s always a bonus.

Over the last year or so we have two new favorite ice cream companies to enjoy at home.  Jeni’s and Batch.

Jeni’s is from Columbus, Ohio but you can find them at Formaggio Kitchen, South End Buttery and I think at Whole Foods sometimes too.  They have really interesting flavours and really smooth creamy ice cream.  They also make awesome ice cream “accessories” like a dark chocolate crunchy cookie crumble that you can sprinkle on your sundae.  Their Goat Cheese with Red Cherries is one of my favourites.

Batch is from Boston, Massachusetts and my daughter is obsessed with their salted caramel.  Batch is not quite as rich and creamy as Jeni’s but it is packed with flavour.  Some of their other varieties include:  cinnamon and chocolate bits, ginger, and mocha chip.

Henry’s Ben & Jerry’s flavors of choice are:   chocolate chip cookie dough and milk and cookies.  The great thing about Ben & Jerry’s flavours is that you can go with old classics like the cookie dough and Cherry Garcia or get fancy with some of the new flavours with a core or without.
 

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I recently had some samples of a new kind of grown up ice cream delivered from BuzzBar.  BuzzBar samples were provided by the company, but as always all opinions are my own.  These are a real grown up treat (as in 21+ photo id required).  I’ve tried to add alcohol to popsicles before at home and it hasn’t worked out so well because getting the mixture to freeze properly is difficult once you add a little bourbon or rum or vodka.  BuzzBar has found a way to make the boozy ice cream novelty bar work!  The chocolate shell is a bit thicker than I usually like (but I tend to be in the minority when it comes to chocolate) and it is slightly waxy, but the ice cream part is perfect!  BuzzBar comes in several flavours, but I especially liked the Drunken Cookie which is a cookies ‘n cream ice cream with Bourbon.

For the non-dairy guests or resident ice cream eaters, there really is nothing better than FoMu.  FoMu is also based in the area, they have amazing, creative flavours as well.  I am not a fan of most “faux dairy” foods, but I’m just as happy with a scoop of FoMu as any other high quality, small batch, plain old delectable cow’s milk ice cream.

Now you just have to think about toppings.  I’m a bit of a purist.  I like my ice cream plain in a cup.  If I want to be really fancy I’ll add a little delicate crepe cookie( Gavottes Crepe Dentelle Cookies – 200 gr decorative tin)or pizzelle.  The kids love to top their ice cream with whipped cream and Dan is a hot fudge and vanilla FoMu kind of guy.

What is your favourite ice cream and topping?

Holiday Help from Stop & Shop: Sponsored Giveaway

Stop & Shop is doing their best to help you prep for your holiday open houses, Christmas dinners and New Year’s Eve parties.  They recently added a Boneless NY Strip Roast to their holiday offerings.  We don’t eat a lot of red meat, because we’re not huge meat eaters in our family, but for special occasions I love to indulge with a classic roast, some Yorkshire pudding, roasted vegetables and some sort of indulgent sauce or gravy.   (Stop & Shop sent me a $25 gift card to give away on my blog and an additional $25 gift card which I will donate to a family in need through my children’ school.)

Stop & Shop Helpful

This recipe from Epicurious.com for Roast New York Strip Loin with a Garlic Crust sounds delicious.  When it comes to Yorkshire Pudding I like to have Jamie Oliver guide me with his recipe.  As for sauces, Ina Garten has a gorgeous Roquefort chive sauce or this beautiful peppery mustard horseradish sauce.

As for dessert, you’re on your own.  Well not exactly on your own, Stop and Shop has a new Recipe Center online including a whole section for Holiday Traditions (new or old).

Enter to win a $25 gift card to Stop and Shop here.

Weekend Guide: Santa Brunches & Beyond

Sparklefest is in full swing in Harvard Square. Artisan and craft fairs and holiday pop up shops are popping up rapidly like the bubbles in that New Year’s eve glass of Champagne.   And, the kids might be seeing double, triple and quadruple as Santa finds his way all over town.  This weekend is the weekend of Santa brunches and breakfasts.  But, there is plenty to do that doesn’t involve Christmas at all too.

The Santa Paparazzi

Santa reading at the Royal Sonesta Santa breakfast.  Photo courtesy of the Royal Sonesta Boston
Santa reading at the Royal Sonesta Santa breakfast. Photo courtesy of the Royal Sonesta Boston

The Royal Sonesta has their Santa breakfast this Sunday morning, from 10 .m. to 12 p.m.  They will have a beautiful and delectable breakfast buffet in the ballroom.  Instead of paying for a mall santa photo, because your iPhone or fancy digital camera takes better pics anyway, put that money towards a family experience at the Royal Sopnesta with breakfast, cookie decorating, and holiday movies.

In Harvard Square, The Beat Hotel’s Santa brunch,Saturday, December 13th, 2014 is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will have live holiday music from guitarist Bobby Keyes.  The menu is à la carte featuring Executive Chef Ignacio Lopez’s delicious brunch fare such as quiche made with Tuscan kale, sundried tomato & goat cheese served with a house salad ($14.50), wild flower honey & lemon pancakes with wild blueberry compote ($14) and eggs shakshuka, poached eggs, north african tomato sauce, peppers and polenta ($14.50) while children can order scrumptious selections off the “Flower Children” menu including kiddie scrambled eggs & toast ($7.50), grilled cheese ($7.50) and pancakes ($7.50).  Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling 617-499-0001. Regular brunch pricing and specials offered. No cover charge.

Governor Gore mansion is hosting Santa Teas starting this weekend Sunday, December 14, 1:00 and 3:30 pm (Sold Out), Saturday, December 20, 10:00 am.  Tickets are $35/pp, all ages; $30 members and their children.  Advanced tickets are required so call 781-894-2798 to reserve a spot for next weekend.  Gore mansion is an enchanting setting for this unique Santa visit.  It is a three-tiered tea with scones, dainty sandwiches and dessert served in the Great Hall and Oval Withdrawing Room of this 1806 home.  The Santa Teas feature a hands-on activity, story time and songs with Santa. In addition, each child will receive a gift presented by Santa himself.

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Running from the Malls

Run, don't walk from the craziness of a mall. Shop local fairs, shop squares, even shop The Street and get a little fresh air.
Run, don’t walk from the craziness of a mall. Shop local fairs, shop squares, even shop The Street and get a little fresh air.

This weekend is Holly Fair in Harvard Square.  This weekend, Stroll the shops and pop into the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE)  for Holly Fair at the CCAE on Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and Sunday, December 14, 2014 from 12:00 noon – 5:00 pm.   There is also Holly Fair at the First Parish Unitarian Church  where you will find just the right handmade gift for everyone on your list.  Holly Fair runs through December 23rd  (Weekdays 11:30 – 7:00, Saturdays 10-7:30, Sundays 12:00-6:00) at the First Parish Unitarian Church and just this weekend at CCAE.

If the thought of holiday shopping makes you want to run, then sign up for the Cambridge 5K- Yulefest.  This Sunday, December 14th join other 5K fanatics in Harvard Yard for the Cambridge 5K Yulefest.  Registration includes a C5K winter hat, as well as free food & beer at the post-race party.

If you’d rather ride than run, join Ciclismo Classico for their Jingle Ride.  This is their 17th annual Jingle Ride and this year there is a family friendly after party with free hot mulled cider, freshly brewed coffee, and pastries at the Kickstand Café.  In addition there is a hot cocoa and cookies break, with a little caroling tossed in midway in Harvard Square thanks to the Harvard Square business association.

Or Perhaps you want to Skate Away…

On Saturday, December 13th, Community Ice Skating at Kendall in Cambridge will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with free admission all day.  Skate rentals are available at the regular rate.  There is a free skating show at 2 p.m. as well.

Or, sing your way into the holiday spirit…

The Flip Flops host a Hottenanny at Club Passim.  Come join this audience-participatory hootenanny led by the soaring vocal harmonies of Julie and Vanessa, backed by a great home-grown Flip Flops band (Adam Michael RothbergAndy Santospago, and Ian McMillan), and most importantly, YOUR voices chiming in! Join Julie and Vanessa for their Flip Flops debut show! Tickets: $10 adults, $8 kids, available at the door or by calling 617-492-7679 or at www.clubpassim.org

Fashion Tip: The Beauty of a Scarf

Men have ties and bow ties.  They have cravats and ascots, and pocket square.  The amount of style that men can achieve with a little scrap of fabric without much effort is quite impressive.  I suppose more and more women have chosen to take advantage of all these traditionally masculine wardrobe accents too -because “Why not?”.  From the beginning, though, scarves seem to have been open to everyone and lately there has been a resurgence of the use of a scarf, not just in winter, and I love it.

A little sparkle on my white holiday scarf keeps me nice and cozy and just a little dressed up as I enjoy hot cocoa at the Langham Boston's Chocolate Bar.
A little sparkle on my white holiday scarf keeps me nice and cozy and just a little dressed up as I enjoy hot cocoa at the Langham Boston’s Chocolate Bar.

I wear a scarf not just for fashion but also for function.  When I drink wine my chest has a tendency to randomly break out in red blotches (and it rarely compliments my outfit).  A scarf totally solves that problem.  Not to mention, if my face is feeling extra puffy or my chins seem to be seeing double, a scarf help minimize that too.

Whether there is a draft in the room, or I’m at an outdoor wedding in the sun, a scarf can keep me cozy or protected creating shade over my shoulders when repurposed as a summer shawl or winter wrap.

I was recently shopping with my friend Niri over at Mommy Niri and we were both stopped in our tracks.  Eileen Fisher not only has some beautiful scarves, but they made this wonderful video showing so many ways to tie a scarf.

You can thank me later after you get compliment after compliment on your sense of style this holiday season.

Some of my favourite places to pick up a scarf are:  Marmalade, J Crew, Eileen Fisher, J. Miles, Flock, and Splendid.

I haven’t had the chance to head over to Wellesley, but I also love shopping the boutiques at Linden Square.  My friend Kim from KimWorld snapped a photo of these fabulous scarves over at Sara Campbell in Linden Square, Wellesley.

Beautiful colour block scarves from Sara Campbell over at the Linden Square shops in Wellesley.  (Photo Courtesy of Kim Hubbard Tollander of KimWorld)
Beautiful colour block scarves from Sara Campbell over at the Linden Square shops in Wellesley. (Photo Courtesy of Kim Hubbard Tollander of KimWorld)

Slow Down Santa: Holiday Hotel Stays in Boston

This year is coming to a close and Chanukah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are all fast approaching.  Before we crash full speed into the coming year, I am pulling on the breaks.  Over the last few years, I have learned to appreciate what a night away (it doesn’t have to be far) does for our family.  The hustle and bustle of every day life rain or shine gets to all of us.

This fall, I took my daughter and joined my friend and her daughters and we escaped for a night at The Cape Codder and a day at the Wellfleet Oyster festival.  Now, I think we need a little weekend escape within the city.  Here are a few hotels ready to pamper the kids, the parents, and whoever else needs to put on the brakes before winter break.

This weekend, the Royal Sonesta has their Breakfast with Santa and their Kids Holiday Movie package.

The Royal Sonesta’s annual Breakfast with Santa is a favorite family tradition, which includes a delicious breakfast buffet, family activities, and a visit from a very special guest in a red and white suit. Tickets are available online. (Adults $49.52, Children over 3 $28.42, Children under 3 are free.  )

Even if you don’t stay for breakfast with Santa the Kids Holiday Movie Package, on Saturday, December 13th, is a great mini escape for the whole family.  The whole family can enjoy a movie by the pool and cookies and milk while taking a break from the household chores, school stress, and unfinished projects.  The value of spending a little more time together is hard to measure until you feel it.

The Boston Harbor Hotel has their Winter on the Wharf alder up with skating under the rotunda. Also available Thursday through Sunday is their Kidventure package which includes:

Chocolate milk and homemade cookies delivered to your guestroom
Choice of tickets for two adults and two children to the New England Aquarium or the Boston Children’s Museum
Complimentary in-room movie (one movie per stay)
Complimentary Full American Breakfast for two adults and two children in Rowes Wharf Sea GrilleRates and features are subject to change.
Packages and rates are subject to availability. Reservations must be made in advance.

At the Burlington Marriott, a special Family Fun Package rate makes it easy and affordable to get out of the house for a family weekend. Here’s more info about the Family Fun Package:
· Rates range from $169-$399 per night (valid through December 31, 2014)
· Package includes deluxe accommodations (one king or two double beds), $50 food credit to Chopps American Bar and Grill, breakfast for two adults (kids eat free at breakfast) at Chopps, one in-room movie, one popcorn, and full access to all facilities including the indoor pool and recreation area.
· Use code P91 to access this rate when you reserve online or by phone at 1-800-228-9290.
· This rate is available on Thursday-Sunday nights through December 31.
For additional festive fun, on-demand shuttle service will whisk families to the nearby Burlington Mall for a photo opp with Santa or some fun at the Lego Store.

Gift Guide: Shopping Local

If you’re sitting by your computer shopping online, there may be someone bringing you a cocktail, and good cheer, but I bet it’s much easier to find by bundling up and skipping out your door to head to some of the local craft fairs, holiday strolls and some of my favorite little boutiques.

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We use Amazon.com for gift ideas to send to parents and grandparents and on occasion Santa for that hard to find item, because it might not be easy for them to get out and shop or they live in a smaller town with fewer shops.  I love to shop local though and here are just a few stops I make in addition to the holiday strolls.

Last weekend, Observatory Hill had their holiday stroll.  This Thursday, Huron Village will have theirs.  Don’t miss the Gather Here Handmade Holiday shop at Uniun in Somerville. Saturday, December 20th (that’s two weekends from now).

Gather Here Handmade Holiday Market.
Gather Here Handmade Holiday Market.

Then of course there is the Eat Boutique pop up market.  The Eat Boutique Holiday Pop-Up Shop (1377 Boylston Street) runs through 12/21:
Thursday – Saturday 11AM-7PM
Sunday 11AM-5PM

Didriks, Observatory Hill/ Cambridge, MA
Didriks, Observatory Hill/ Cambridge, MA
Hipstitch, Newton, MA
Hipstitch, Newton, MA
L'Aroma Café, West Newton, MA
L’Aroma Café, West Newton, MA
Tokai, Porter Square/Cambridge, MA
Tokai, Porter Square/Cambridge, MA

Just a few shops I love for local holiday shopping.  I have a full slideshow at some of my go to spots.

Marmalade

Cardullo’s

Bells & Whistles

What are your favorite local boutiques and shops?

 

Gift Guide: The Gift of Health & Beauty

It is true that for the holidays (or let’s face it any time) no one wants a gym membership or a gift basket of aluminum-free deodorant because it might be interpreted the wrong way.  On the other hand, so many people have too much stuff they don’t really need or use, so gifts that help people feel and look their best isn’t such a bad idea.  As with any gift, think about the person first and then match the gift to them.  Here are a few of my top ideas for those who will appreciate a little extra tlc in their lives.

gift of health nourish

Juicy Gifts

I know many who have tried juice cleanses and in my mind I pictures some of my close friends and colleagues being slightly off their rocker sipping one big glass of cucumber juice a day while stumbling through their day for weeks on end.  I recently, stopped in to Nourish Your Soul in Medford to educate myself and replace my cartoonish image of juice cleanse with something a little more realistic.

Nourish Your Soul - The gift of feeling good.
Nourish Your Soul – The gift of feeling good.

The most important things I learned is that the cleanse is only three days.  Three days is doable right?  Then, I learned that you are drinking 5 hardy, healthy, tasty carefully chosen juices throughout the day.  Lastly, I learned that you have choices.  You can choose a few options for each drink.  And, most importantly I learned that I really like most of the juices.

For your friend who has mentioned trying a juice cleanse, or maybe they just started a new healthy living lifestyle, Nourish Your Soul is a great option.  Get a gift certificate for those who might just want to pop in and enjoy a smoothie, or try out some juices, and leave the option of the juice cleanse up to them or treat them to a gift package.  Nourish Your Soul is located in Medford and Fort Point in Boston.  Juices are made fresh at each location.  Juices can also be picked up at various yoga and barre studios or delivered to you directly.

The ultimate Nourish Your Soul Holiday Gift Package ($250) includes 3 cold pressed juices, a one on one 45 minute yoga session and a 45 minute health consultation with Nourish Your Soul founder Susan Cabana.  Susan is down to earth, passionate, and an understanding wellness advocate.  She is Prana certified and a graduate of NYC’s Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  She is a teacher and guide and not a preachy health “dictator” which I think is so important especially for someone new to the world of juices and cleanses.  Nourish Your Soul juices are cold-pressed, 100% raw and have no additives or stabilizers (and they’re really tasty!).  To purchase this package or a gift card call 1-888-99-JUICE, go online or I recommend stopping in to try a drink yourself and picking up a gift card in person.

Hanging out at dusk at Community Ice Skating @Kendall.
Hanging out at dusk at Community Ice Skating @Kendall.

This year, rather than giving a lot of “stuff” I’m giving my family more experiences and outings.  We’re all so busy that more than the things that clutter our home, we appreciate the times we spend together.  This weekend, Community Skating @ Kendall opens and Mother Juice has a winter menu to enjoy before or after skating.  There is : Almond Milk Hot Chocolate steamed almond milk, cinnamon, date syrup, raw cacao ($4), MoJu Cider warm apple cider with secret spices ($3), Cold Brew Maple Coffee cold-brew coffee made with drink.maple water and served with almond milk ice cubes ($4).  Edible treats include: Cacao Caramel Delights raw cacao, cashews, almond butter, dates, coconut oil ($3), Ants & Ladybugs on a Log celery topped with almond butter & raisins and sun butter & dried cranberries ($4), Banana-Butter Toast sun butter, banana and honey on Udi’s gluten-free toast ($4), Avocado Toast sliced avocado smushed onto Udi’s gluten-free toast with baby tomatoes & sea salt ($4), Nutella & Banana Toast on Udi’s gluten-free toast ($4), MoJu PB&J sun butter & local jam on Udi’s gluten-free whole wheat bread ($4), Chia Seed Pudding coconut water and coconut milk, topped with granola, fresh fruit, and local jam ($5.95), Overnight Oats rolled oats, almond milk, banana, and dates, topped with sun butter, fresh fruits, and granola ($5.95), Gluten-free Oatmeal same as the overnight oats, served warm ($5.95), Forbidden Rice Bowl black rice, red & yellow bell peppers, cashews, green onion & cilantro, tamari-lime dressing ($8.95)

Rock On

Rock climbing is a fab family activity, and with the explosion of rock gyms in the area, there is a gym for everyone.  Central Rock Gym just opened a new location at Smith Place in Cambridge.  Metro Rock Boston has plenty of climbing but also has Parkour classes for children and adults.  Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville has family programming, fitness classes, and family hours.

R & R & R: Relax, renew, rejuvinate

room beach plum spa

When you feel beautiful and relaxed the day always goes more smoothly.  You don’t need a week at the spa either.  From spa days and massage to having just the right special products to use at home, even the little moments of r&r helps.

I love to get a massage, but I can’t go as often as I’d like because of time and money.  For  massage I like to go to Bella Santé in Wellesley or Lexington and Sollievo in Cambridge.  One of the best massages I have had was several years ago at the Beach Plum Sap during a getaway at  nearby John Carver Inn in Plymouth.  A massage followed by a relaxation bath is the ultimate luxury.  The Beach Plum Spa even has a kids corner with real treatments designed just for children.  I also have friends who swear by a soak and massage at Inman Oasis.  When you find a massage therapist you love, the gift they give your body is hard to measure in value, but the cost of a regular massage isn’t always feasible.  If you know someone who could benefit from regular massages, then a membership to Massage Envy is a great option because the price is reasonable and they have locations just about anywhere.

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evo for Hair

I recently tried evo (It was sent to me as a sample -as always all opinons are my own.)  and I love it.  I love the light sweet scent and it makes my hair feel fabulous.  I tried the Calm series but they have something for each type of hair.  In addition, I love that all damaged evo stock is given to homeless shelters, the packaging is 100% recyclable and the formulations are sulphate, paraben, dea, tea and propylene glycol free and evo is not tested on animals.

evo is available at the following local salons or online:

Davis Hairdressing
26 Lincoln Street
Newton Highlands, MA  02461
(617) 244-9626

Trephin
25 Temple Place
Boston, MA  02111
(857) 233-2363