A Non-Definitive Guide to Boston Beaches, Part 1

Adventures, Cities, Uncategorized

Nantasket Beach, Hull MA.

This is our fourth summer living in Boston! Every year summer rolls around and the question arises: “which beach should we go to?”

Lucas and I have differences of opinion; Lucas has two priorities: location and parking. He never wants to go very far. Firstly because we usually go in the afternoon, and secondly because we don’t know how the kids are going to behave that day which means if they’re not in the mood for the beach it’s a waste of time to drive for an hour just to leave an hour later. Lucas is from Denver which means that it still irks him that we have to pay for parking everywhere and doesn’t like having to walk very far from a parking spot to our destination (although, I think this is true for all people). He’s a very practical person. I am less practical, especially when it comes to beaches. My opinion is that I’d rather drive a little longer if that means the beach is much nicer! I also care less about parking, but maybe that’s because I am not the one who’s stuck carrying everything (sorry, Lucas).

With that in mind, here are some universal truths about all the beaches I have thus encountered in Boston.

  • The water is cold. Even in August.
  • You’re not finding a beach that makes you feel like you’re in Key West, sorry.
  • If you have a toddler between the ages of 6 months – 2 years you will change at least two sandy 💩 diapers per child.

Disclaimer: I am not a beach expert, just a mom living in Boston who has spent a lot of time thinking about which beach to go to!

Here are some of our most frequently visited beaches along with their pros and cons.

Nantasket Beach, Hull MA.

Nantasket Beach

Nantasket is a 30 minute drive from Boston and about 45 minutes from Eastie where we live! I’m gonna be honest: I do not like driving to the south shore. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because I dislike driving through the tunnel and the city when there are plenty of beaches on this side of Boston. However, if you’re already on that side of the tunnel – this is a worthwhile trip!

Pros: It is a good, family beach. It’s pretty clean, has ample parking (although depending on how busy it is, you may need to pay for parking – going on Memorial Day weekend meant it was packed and we had to splurge $20 to park in a grassy lot) and the water is clean! The sand is also pretty soft and fine.

This beach is located in a great beach town – there are quite a few bars, restaurants and ice cream shops in beachfront locations or walking distance from the beach. This is something a lot of beaches are lacking in and around Boston and something I don’t take for granted.

Also – and this could be a fluke, since we have only been here a few times – this beach has some serious waves! We saw a dozen or so surfers this weekend, while most beaches in Boston don’t get that kind of action.

Depending on where on the beach you park your fam, you can also go fishing – which is something my husband considers important.

Cons:

It’s a good beach and people know it – so it’s packed. Like, really packed. More than once one of the kids wandered into someone else’s space and you really need to stay on top of them – no wandering at this beach!

Another con – the tide! High tide reaches almost to the rocks, which pushed people out of the beach and squeezed them even closer together.

Bucket or Fuckit?

Bucket.

Winthrop Beach, Winthrop MA.

Winthrop Beach

I think Winthrop Beach is a hidden gem. Located in Winthrop, MA, this beach is tucked away from tourists and city dwellers, thanks to a lack of T stops near this beach. It’s mostly all locals and I don’t think they want to share.

Baby Mathias @ Winthrop Beach. You’re welcome.

Pros:

This is another clean, pretty beach, with fine sand and a vast beach – you’re not getting pushed off the beach from the tide at any time of the day. It’s quiet and family-oriented, and pretty empty during the week. Next to no waves makes this beach safe for your littles to hop into the water, which you can do with peace of mind; Winthrop Beach had one of the highest water cleanliness ratings in 2019, with a perfect score of 100%.

Nearby Deer Island has great fishing, with lots of striper bass; my husband and a friend caught two a few days ago.

Cons:

Parking is a big problem over here, especially if you plan on coming on the weekend. This is a big pain in the 🍑.

There’s also no shops or restaurants close enough to walk to, so pack a lunch or bring snacks!

Bucket or Fuckit?

If you only have access to public transportation or are going on the weekend, fuckit. But if you’re a mom looking for a quiet beach? Bucket.

Baby Liv @ Constitution Beach, East Boston MA.

Constitution Beach

Constitution Beach is a year-round favorite of ours thanks to a really awesome playground that they have (it frequents my stories). It isn’t the *best* beach but it’s a few minutes away from us and right next to the Wood Island T stop. Other bonus features? A concession stand, tennis, handball and basketball courts, and an ice skating rink.

Pros:

Everything I mentioned above, plus tons of free parking! This is a good all-around, family-centered beach. Plus, this is another beach that had great water cleanliness scores this year, with a 95% cleanliness rating.

Cons:

This beach is not a place for conversation, thanks to its location. You can see and hear planes landing and taking off at Boston Logan, which sits right across from the beach. Here’s a picture from the winter where you can see the planes pretty clearly.

The sand here isn’t the greatest, but the beach itself is clean.

Overall though? This is such a good place for a family outing!

If you’re local – bucket.

Revere Beach, Revere MA.

Revere Beach

Revere Beach has a bad rep. I think anyone from Boston (or who has lived in Boston for a few years) turns their nose up at Revere Beach, which is kind of the Coney Island of Boston. The oldest public beach in the states (est. 1896), this beach is probably the most busy beach closest to the city.

Lucas and I feel very differently about this beach.

Pros: it’s close to the city, and it’s a huge stretch of land, over three miles long. It’s accessible by two T stops on the blue line (Revere Beach and Wonderland) and there is parking all down the three miles of beach. There’s also a bandstand and a sprinkle of restaurants and ice cream shops. The beach itself is pretty wide and you won’t have a problem finding a spot to pitch your (beach) tent.

Cons: it’s not the cleanest beach, the sand is gritty and the crowd there isn’t the most family centric; meaning – while weed might be legal here now, I don’t want it around my kids. #isaidwhatisaid

But! Really, the city has done a great job trying to clean this place up. The water rating was 98% this year, pretty damn close to perfect, so even if you find some empty cans in the sand, know that the water quality is actually outstanding.

Revere Beach also hosts a Sand Sculpting Festival every July, and that brings out musicians, tons of food trucks and other fun activities for the whole family. In 2018 there were approximately 1 MILLION attendees, which is both amazing and claustrophobic, depending on how you view things. The sculptures are always really impressive.

Bucket or Fuckit?

There are better beaches. But the Sand Sculpture Festival is one for the Bucket list.

Nahant Beach

Nahant is about 30 minutes north of the city, but this long strip at the end of a peninsula is one of my favorites close to Boston.

My younger brother, last summer at Nahant Beach, MA

Pros:

The sand is soft and light, the water is clean, and there’s a fresh breeze that drifts back and forth over the sand. Another beach that received a perfect score on the water quality report, this one tends to be populated but not overcrowded. This beach feels more like a vacation beach and less like a city one because it’s placed away from anything else.

Cons:

It’s isolated. I like this, but this also means there’s nothing besides beach, not even a lone ice cream shop. Parking also cost $10 for MA residents and $20 for non-residents after Memorial Day, making it the only one on this list without any free parking. My husband thinks this one is overrated, but I appreciate that it’s secluded and that the clientele tend to be less rambunctious than those at Nantasket or Revere.

Bucket or Fuckit?

Toss up. I think it’s worth the parking cost; Lucas does not.

That’s it for now – and I’m only scratching the surface of the beaches in and around Boston! I’ll be writing another post soon, since there are four other beaches we venture to often that aren’t on this list!

Diaper Bag Essentials!

Baby Essentials, Collaborations

Today I received this diaper bag from Joone Co and it has exceeded all of my expectations!

Having three under three means that I need a diaper bag that is spacious and organized and this checks those boxes!

This bag is the Carryall Tote and comes in five colors. I chose Saddle!

It has plenty of pockets – THIRTEEN! With two insulated inner pockets for bottles, and two larger outer pockets for sippy cups or water bottles – and is still sleek and streamlined for a really appealing look. It’s made from oiled vegan leather and nylon so that it’s both stylish and easy to clean.

And while we’re at it, here’s a look at what’s inside my bag:

Ring slings are a must and I always regret not bringing one if I forget to pack it!

Blaise is exclusively breastfed, so this is a necessity since we are out and about a lot!

This is the Micro+ because my kids outgrow the Micro too fast. This is an older color but it’s called Saddle. Gathre has a sale going on right now for Mother’s Day so it’s a good time to snag one of these if you don’t already have one!

  • Pacifiers

I have three under three. I always pack at least three pacifiers in case of emergency.

  • Snacks

There’s always a few GoGo Squeez pouches in my bag because that’s the only brand of applesauce Mathias will eat. I usually pack Liv a granola bar or two as well!

  • Diapers + Wipes

We’re a Pampers family. For whatever reason my kids are super sensitive and these are the only diapers that don’t give them rashes!

  • Swaddle

You never know if a place is going to be cold – the hospital usually is! So I pack an extra blanket for B.

  • Extra G-Tube Supplies

I’m a special needs mom; that means bringing extra supplies. I always keep an extra bag of Nourish (Mathias’ food), an extra extension and a syringe with me, and keep an emergency G-Tube placement kit in the car in case something happens and it gets pulled out.

That’s it!

*This diaper bag as well as some other products pictured were gifted to me. However, I was not asked to write a blog post and all opinions are my own!

Say Hello to Spring with Raw Sugar Living

Beauty, Collaborations

65 degrees in New England is practically beach weather and after the long winter that we have over here I am more than ready to throw a swimsuit on and get some sun!

Well, mentally I’m ready. Physically I have quite a bit of preparing to do (new swimsuit for this postpartum body, a base tan and other beach shopping essentials are all necessary).

Luckily, Raw Sugar Living Sugar Scrub + Body Butter can prep and soften these legs that haven’t seen the sun in months 🙈 the beach is my happy place and the smell of this new Pineapple, Maqui Berry + Coconut is totally bringing me back to my honeymoon almost exactly four years ago in the Caribbean! #takemeback

Luckily I don’t need to go on a cruise to get these – they’re available at Walgreens!

I definitely recommend this particular combination of Pineapple, Maqui Berry and Coconut because it’s an ultra-reparative blend which can hydrate that rough winter skin! The combination of vitamin E and Aloe Vera helps to heal cracked and dry skin while Cold Pressed oils and the different fruit extracts visibly firm and repair. Skin is left feeling restored and more toned.

As if that wasn’t good enough, they also provide a bar of soap to a family in need for every product you purchase! So you can feel good on the outside, and on the inside ❤️ #RawThankYou #RawLovin #Sponsored

You can find Raw Sugar Loving products at your local Walgreens or online!

Getting Out of the House with Three Under Three

Uncategorized

Getting out of the house can be daunting with one kid, never-mind three. So how do I do it?

It’s really simple: I just do.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, or that everyone behaves, or that we don’t leave early or leave in a rush. But it’s 100% possible for any mother to do on her own – with the right attitude and the right combination of essentials.

I had posted this photo two weeks ago on a Facebook group thinking that it was a really candid, imperfect photo and someone still used it in a “how can she do it, it’s impossible it’s not easy” way. But it is NOT impossible. I’ll reiterate what I said: if I can get out, with a two month old baby and a special needs toddler and one in between, so can you.

The most important thing? To be positive. That means preparing for the worst but expecting the best and going into it with energy and enthusiasm. My kids, as young as they are, pick up on my emotions. If I’m stressed, they’re more likely to start fighting. If I’m upset, they know. If I’m happy – they feel that too!

I’m not saying to go out every day. I’m saying on days when you feel positive, to take the risk! It gets easier!

The second most important thing? To be prepared.

That means different things. It sometimes means to bring changes of clothes to play dates (I woefully did not and Mathias got to sit in his diaper on the way home from this trip because he jumped in a mud puddle). It means to bring all the snacks and then some. It sometimes means bribing your kids with rewards.

Part of being prepared is having the right baby gear! In my case, there are a few things I ALWAYS have in my car:

1. My stroller

2. A ring sling

3. My Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock.

If I’m going out with all three kids I usually need a combination of these. If I’m going to the park or on a play date I usually bring my UPPAbaby Vista and a ring sling.

Since all of my kids are still little I can put whoever’s struggling in the sling. The weight capacity is 35 lbs and Mathias is the heaviest at 28, so I’ll be able to wear all of them for a while still!

This sling is called “Bella” and is part of Poppet Slings’ new 2019 spring/summer collection.

If I’m going to the supermarket, I bring my Binxy Baby shopping cart hammock and a sling in preparation for a meltdown.

I also come prepared with snacks for the kids and a list because honestly going to the store has to be in and out – no browsing is happening with three babies!

People ask me how it is to have three under three. Simply put: it’s hard! It is definitely hard and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I’m high energy and I can generally keep up with my kids! Physically I don’t struggle if I need to carry one or two at a time either. I’m the oldest of seven kids and I’ve spent my whole life around children. Wearing one kid in a sling makes it that much easier for me to carry two if necessary.

This is what works for me and I think it’s super important to find what works for you!

I’ve been so impressed with our Binxy and so many people have asked me about it! Here’s my link for 10% off. Thanks so much to Binxy Baby for gifting this product to me, I wish I knew about it when my other kids were babies!

And finally….

This is a joke but I’m totally guilty of thinking this! It is so hard to not compare ourselves or our kids to other people on social media. But the fact is that no one can do everything! I can’t. I said earlier what my strengths are. I am a high energy person. I will fight for my kids. I’m pretty social and am not afraid of meeting new people but I’m also very comfortable being alone.

My weaknesses? I’m indecisive. I avoid conflict. I don’t stick up for myself when others aren’t treating me well or claim credit for my ideas. I’m terrible – terrible – at keeping up with the laundry and staying organized. I care too much about what other people think.

Getting out with my kids means overcoming my fears that day. I take every trip one at a time, and don’t beat myself up over an imperfect outing because no outing with kids is going to be perfect. But it’s worth doing and anyone can do it!

So to you new moms that are worried about leaving your house, whether it’s your first baby or your second or third or sixth – you can do it! It gets easier! Some days are hard and some days are good and that’s just the way it is.

Baby Essentials, Part 1: DockATot

Baby Essentials, Collaborations

It’s been about two months since I posted because I’ve been a little busy…

Allison Wolf Photography

A late welcome to Blaise Tomasz Jablonski who was born on February 23, 2019 (who will, for the rest of his life, overshadow my own birthday). He is delicious and I promise I will get his birth story up here as soon as I can process it…

Allison Wolf Photography

Now that I’ve had my third baby there are quite a few different baby products that I consider “must-haves” and that I’m asked about on a pretty frequent basis! Other moms ask me about baby clothes a lot and that’s something I’ll address in another post, but the one thing everyone asks me is how the baby is sleeping.

Well, here’s the thing. When you have two toddler older siblings, there is a lot of chaos and noise, which makes daytime sleep harder than it should be for a newborn. Since he’s the third baby I can’t just lounge in my room while he sleeps in his bassinet so I am super happy that we have a DockATot Deluxe+ for him to sleep in!

DockATot is a multi-functional lounger, co-sleeper and playtime lounger! It isn’t stationary – I can move it around from room to room which is great because my kids are always on the go!

We literally use this EVERY DAY. I’m not sure if there’s anything else we use quite as much …

The DockATot is tested for breathability (OEKO-TEX certified) and is made from all natural, 100% cotton! It’s an ideal micro-climate for babies which makes it that much easier for baby to sleep soundly!

Livia was a little jealous. Actually, she went and lounged in the DockATot at every possible chance she had. Luckily for her, DockATot makes two sizes!

She had no clue what was in this box.

The DockATot Grand is for ages 9-36 months! Livia is 18 months and as you can tell from her unboxing reaction, she loves it!

Needless to say that these are a huge hit and we’ve already taken our Deluxe+ on the road with us when we visited my parents in New York!

I’m also getting emotional looking at these photos from the past month. Blaise has already gotten so much bigger! I think I’ll have to come up with a DockATot / Blaise hashtag for my instagram pictures so I can look at them all in one place. #BlaiseATot #DockABlaise

These are a definite must-have in my book and am really thankful that DockATot gifted them to us! Follow them on instagram @dockatot and check out their website, DockATot.

Frost + Flurries, Babywearing and Planning an Event on a Budget from an Industry Insider

Babywearing, Uncategorized

Lots of you know that I’ve been super involved in the babywearing community since I had Mathias. To give a little background information – I’m the oldest of seven kids and I have strong memories of my mom babywearing my siblings while I was growing up. She had one ring sling that was “super ugly” (her words) that she used for all of us (she likes to bring this up when she sees my sling stash). When I was pregnant with Mathias I knew I wanted a sling because I remember my mom being hands free, slinging and nursing and doing the dishes at the same time. Basically, being Wonder Woman.

In a nutshell: Instagram led me to find Wildbird Co. and I’ve been hooked on babywearing ever since.

Since I’ve been involved with Wildbird, I’ve co-planned two events with my friend Kiera Joujoute (@mrsjoujoute on Instagram). Last year we planned a “One of Every Color” shoot of every sling that Wildbird had released until that point and this year when Wildbird reached out to Kiera about hosting their first “Flock” event outside of California, Kiera asked me if I’d co-host with her.

In case you’re wondering why Kiera asked me, it’s because I’ve been working in the events industry in Boston for 3 1/2 years! I’ve worked as a jack-of-all-trades at Warehouse XI in Somerville and have gotten to know (and love) a lot of people in the industry. Working for a venue means that I’ve learned so much about event planning even though that hasn’t been part of my job description (thank God, because it is a LOT OF WORK! Props to all of you event planners out there!).

Some facts:

The Flock event that Wildbird had asked her to host was simple in theory: throw an event where the attendees could pick up limited edition slings (purchased in advance).

The things we had to problem solve:

  • How many people should or could we comfortably host?
  • How large scale of an event would we plan – and how many vendors would need to be involved?
  • How would we pay for everything?

Regarding the number of people, Kiera and I decided right away that we didn’t want to have to offer tickets lottery style. The original event that Wildbird held in California was opened up to everyone in the Wildbird VIP group on Facebook (which has around 30k members) so everyone could enter but only a few would actually be selected to go (via lottery).

But here’s the thing – Kiera and I wanted to hold a community event for the women in the New England area. The fairest solution, from how we looked at it, was to open it up to our local babywearing Wildbird off-shoot group which is composed of women from the New England region. We wouldn’t offer a plus-one option until after we knew we could hold more than just these mamas and their babies in the space.

The maximum capacity at Warehouse XI is 150 but with our setup we would really only have space for 100-115. Which, FYI, is a LOT of people.

We were not given a budget from Wildbird. They didn’t ask us to go all out and throw the event we decided to throw, but throwing a big event in February in Boston meant that we needed an indoor space, we needed to decorate, feed the attendees, etc…

We added $10 per adult ticket, $7 per child (over 12 months) and $10 per plus one, because we knew we would have to at least pay for the following:

  • Venue Fee
  • Food + Beverage
  • Decor

It did not add up to a lot, considering. But we wanted to make it affordable when the slings themselves already cost $90 or $120.

Here’s the breakdown of our budget.

Half went to food + beverages. We decided on donuts + hot chocolate because it felt appropriate for a winter event (Kiera came up with the name “Frost + Flurries”, which was perfect after the California event which had been titled “Salt + Sand”). Could we have ordered Dunkin Donuts and saved money? Yes. Does anyone like DD donuts? …. I don’t. Maybe I’m not a real Bostonian yet. But if I have the choice to order from Dunkin or Union Square Donuts, I’m picking the fancy, fluffy, fresh donuts. We got a 10% discount because they’re down the street from the warehouse and we’ve worked with them before, but they were not cheap.

#worthit

Kiera took on the task of gathering together all the hot chocolate supplies; everything was purchased at Costco or Target. The platters/decor for the bar mostly came from my house.

Let’s talk about the venue + vendors.

Because I work at Warehouse XI (and have worked for my boss for a long time, built the website, did all of her branding, etc…) we only had to pay a utilities fee. This was extremely generous of her because typically an off-peak 8 hour Saturday rental is $3,000.

Obviously, finding a free space is ideal. If you live in a region with beautiful weather, take advantage of that! That’s what Wildbird did for their first event. However, if that isn’t an option for you, here are a few tips:

  1. Venue fees are always lower during the week. Usually that means Monday – Thursday. Saturdays are typically the most expensive day of the week, with Friday and Sunday falling right behind, if they aren’t all the same price (weekend rate vs. weekday). What that means is that venues are more likely to have flexibility with pricing during the week.
  1. Do your research! And I mean looking across multiple platforms – not just google and yelp. Yelp won’t usually have bigger event spaces; Google ranks via SEO and depending on the website and how much traffic they’ve gotten, if they are using AdWords, etc, great venues might not show up until three or four or eight pages into google. Wedding Venues in particular compete with big directories such as The Knot, Wedding Wire, The Venue Report etc. when it comes to google rankings and it makes it hard for local vendors to always land on the first page! The Venue Report is probably my favorite place to look and usually will have links to new places too. Instagram is also a great place to look; at least check to see if the venue has an IG and it’ll give you an idea of their space and what they do there!
  2. Send out inquiries EVERYWHERE, even if you don’t think they will be interested!

Photo Credit: Abigail Jean Photography

  • This brings me to my next point: how to approach vendors about your event.
  • If you’re active on Instagram, whether as an influencer or a “micro-influencer” or what have you, chances are you have approached brands via DM or email about collaborations. That’s what successfully planning an event on a budget comes down to.
  • Obviously I had an advantage here of knowing vendors through my venue – but I still struggled to find vendors who were available on short notice or vendors who considered it worth their time. If your event is during wedding season (May – October), that will limit your options because the industry is busy and people don’t usually even have the time – which is why styled shoots are often shot during our off-season (December – April).
  • This event is, in a lot of ways, a styled shoot for the vendors involved. In the events industry, a bunch of vendors will collaborate on a styled shoot with a theme (let’s say, “Modern Industrial Styled Shoot”) in order to create content for their website, social media, etc. Everyone offers up their talents for free (sometimes a venue will have to charge a small utilities fee). This is what your goal is: to convince the vendors that this is an opportunity for content creation where they can receive social media exposure, from you, and the other vendors (and in this case – Wildbird).
  • My other suggestion is to cast a wide net. Ask a LOT of people and don’t feel bad if you get rejected. I also suggest asking vendors who are newer in their industries and have a smaller following on Instagram. Those are the vendors who need content and will likely work just covering the cost of product.
  • Sidebar – there’s always the option of finding a vendor that’s an “extra” fee that your guests can pay out of pocket if they want to. Maybe there’s a local macaron cart or a nail artist that you’d love to bring on but you can’t pay for them. That’s ok! See if there’s enough interest from your attendees. That’s how I approached Ashley from Abode Beauty Bar – I asked her if she’d be interested in offering a braid bar at the event for any mamas/toddlers and she said she’d charge $10/adult and $5/child. I brought it to the group and we had so many people interested that we had to start braids early!
  • Finally – ask vendors who you can connect to on a personal level or who can connect to your event. That means if you’re doing a babywearing event, ask vendors who are also mothers! Connecting on a personal level is super important because it elevates the worth of the project from just a photo op to something more.
  • That’s really what motivated me to make this event bigger and better than what was asked of us: it was personal. Babywearing is a huge part of my journey as a mother – brands aside – and finding a community of other mothers has been super important in my life.
  • When I finished school I realized that I didn’t know where I would meet people. Most people make work friends, but I was working as an interior designer’s assistant in a small firm. Some of my friends stayed in Brooklyn after we graduated, but it was still hard to stay in touch. When I moved to Boston we had almost no friends here (Lucas did, but I didn’t) and once again I found myself working as an assistant and had no “work friends” in sight. And then I became a mother and my friends from college were all still single or working or nowhere near motherhood, so I didn’t even have those friends to talk to or vent with or ask questions.
  • And so, the memory of my mother babywearing led me to some research on Instagram and that led me to a small group of 5,000 or so women on Facebook, which would virtually change my life…

    So doing this event as a celebration of motherhood, as a thank you to the women who have supported me in dark days, who have sent me unexpected pick-me-ups and comforted me when I received difficult news, as a reminder that motherhood is HARD but BEAUTIFUL – that mattered to me. I wanted to create something that represented who I am, who we are…what we represent, why a piece of fabric and aluminum rings matters…

    I hope that we did a good job – that everyone enjoyed the event and that all of our hard work paid off. I was really happy with how things turned out, even though I burned myself out and came home and dry heaved for five minutes because I was 36 weeks pregnant and spent all day on my feet, didn’t drink enough water and barely ate more than a donut all day – honest motherhood, right?

    Would I do it again? Not 9 months pregnant. But I would under the right circumstances. Until then, I’ll settle for my small group meetups at breweries (you heard me) and coffee shops and anywhere we can get away with bringing a small army of babies + toddlers.

    Venue: Warehouse XIPhotographer: Allison Wolf Photography

    Florals: Hafsa & Co.

    Lovebird Installation: My Sunday Afternoon

    Braid Bar: Abode Beauty Bar

    Tables: Lighthouse Woodworks

    Donuts: Union Square Donuts

    #bucketorfuckit: Ice Castles New Hampshire

    Adventures, Cities

    Lucas and I have been joking about the idea of #bucketorfuckit since the summer when his dad was talking about something on his bucket list that my MIL was not even close to excited about. Lucas said, “sounds like it’s on Mom’s fuck it list” and we’ve joked about this ever since.

    So for my first official installment, I present to you: Ice Castles NH.

    If you follow them on Instagram you’ll be WOWED by these stunning, gigantic, gorgeous ice structures. It’s like a maze that Elsa from Frozen crafted for #forthegram. I’ve been following them @icecastles_ since last year and have been begging Lucas to go ever since.

    Important Facts to Consider about the Trip:

    • The New England location is a little over 2 hours from Boston, so round trip you’re looking at about 5 hours of driving time between driving + stops.
    • It’s at the base of the White Mountains, so cell service on the way may be a little spotty. And it’s cold.
    • If you’re a Bostonian, a heads up: it’ll be probably 20 degrees colder there than it is here in the city.
    • You can’t bring a stroller (because snow) so if you have kids you need to wear them or bring a sled. Since I’m super pregnant, we borrowed a sled.

    Since this is an honest review, I’ll give it to you straight: my kids hate the cold. They are NOT fans. We went with friends and waited for them outside while they were parking/getting ready since we arrived a little earlier and that 15 minutes was too much for them. So if you have toddlers or babies: be aware of how much they can handle. Despite multiple layers and snow bibs and heavy coats, scarves, hats and gloves, they were just not having it.

    Exhibit A:

    SO. If you have kids, keep them in mind. Know their tolerance levels, because driving for four hours to spend 10 minutes inside a tourist attraction is kind of crazy. Our arrival time also overlapped with nap-time and I think that made a big difference in Liv’s response to the elements.

    Exhibit B:

    So. You can imagine with this situation that we basically ran in and ran out. But I’ll try and give my impression of the actual “Ice Castles” experience without letting the toddlers affect my judgement.

    First of all, it looks so tiny when you pull into the parking lot. Our initial comments were “that’s it?” and “wow that’s smaller than I expected.” It’s a lot bigger once you get up close.

    It is actually really stunning up close and once you’re inside it’s kind of magical.

    If you have older kids (5-10) they would probably LOVE it because they have the Frozen soundtrack playing and they have several Disney princesses on site for the kids to meet. They also have a quaint little hot chocolate cabin and a few ice slides, which are all so fun and full of winter magic.

    If we lived closer this would have been a perfect date spot and we would have really enjoyed it sans kids.

    But that’s not my life. I don’t think we lasted more than 10 minutes, and someone was always unhappy. So what’s my verdict?

    If you don’t have kids, or have older kids who are little snow angels who can handle the cold, and can make a day out of the trip and visit one of the nearby breweries (our original plan): bucket.

    If you have toddlers or babies (especially one with sensory sensitivities): fuckit.

    25 Days of Cookies Roundup

    Baking

    Christmas week really got to me – besides a very busy schedule the week before for Mathias, Lucas also was very busy finishing up everything at the shop and then we hosted! So I ended up slacking. I’m making up for it by posting my favorites here.

    First of all – I made so many cookies and didn’t even hit all of the cookies I wanted to make!

    From top to bottom:

    1. Rugelach

    My favorite of this bunch, and make my top 5 of the challenge. They’re flaky and not overly sweet, and look stunning and much harder than they are.

    2. Rosemary Olive Oil Chocolate Chunk Shortbread

    These are from Smitten Kitchen Everyday and I don’t think they’re online, but they are super simple, vegan and unexpected. Rosemary and dark chocolate, paired with a olive oil, are sophisticated while still remaining in the realm of a sweet rather than savory cookie. Worth trying to see if they’re your style (I love them, Liv loves them, Lucas does not).

    3. Whiskey Pecan Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies (slightly adapted – see my original post!)

    I liked but did not love these in comparison to other chocolate chip or pecan related cookies. I would make again, for the right occasion.

    4. Chocolate Pecan Cookies

    These are from The Dominique Ansel Cookbook so unfortunately I can’t link the recipe, but these were the only all chocolate cookie I made and also really one of my faves of the whole bunch. 10/10.

    5. Slice and Bake Peanut Butter Cookies

    If you’re a fan of Girl Scout Tagalongs, you will love these. I made the comparison to Lucas and he said yeah, but these are better.

    They’re really that good. The cookies are very simple to make but they’re multi-step, so you need a little bit of time. I made half the batch and put the other half of the dough in my freezer which is a win in my book. Will definitely make again.

    6. Babywearing Sugar Cookies

    The cookie recipe is from Sally’s Baking Addiction and was pretty much perfect, for a sugar cookie. I didn’t use her icing recipe because it required meringue powder (which I didn’t have). I doubled it and made a ton of cookies which I gifted and also ate. If you need a classic cutout cookie recipe, use this one. Also her tip here is to roll out the cookie dough between two pieces of parchment paper and then refrigerate for 1-2 hours; so you get your rolling out of the way. I froze mine for time purposes for 45 minutes and it was plenty, and then put my cut cookies in the freezer between batches. I did this for my gingerbread too and think it was an amazing tip since none of my cookies spread!

    7. Chewy Chai Masala Snickerdoodles

    These are the best Snickerdoodles I’ve ever made, and you should make them too. They’re soft and chewy, and the depth of flavor from the other spices makes these memorable. And they don’t need chill time, which is always a perk in my book. I’m never making a different recipe.

    8. Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

    This recipe from SBA was good but needs some edits. I would make again, but add baking powder.

    9. Vegan Green Monstah Whoopie Pies

    My vegan adaptation of the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, plus other changes. I liked these better than the non-vegan ones!

    10. Chewy Molasses Cookies

    These were soft and chewy but honestly they didn’t spread, and so failed the molasses cookie test. Would suggest a different recipe, or different molasses (I used Blackstrap because that’s what I had on hand, but it called for Grandma’s, but that should affect the flavor profile rather than their spreading).

    11. Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

    I think the fault is mine here; the recipe calls for brown butter and softened butter, but I walked away from my brown butter for too long and it solidified and I expect that that’s why I didn’t get a chewy cookie. These ranked #2 on The Pancake Princess Chocolate Chip Cookie Bake-Off and my cookies didn’t look like hers or Joy the Baker’s, so I know I made the mistake here. Would definitely try again.

    12. Cream Cheese Stuffed Red Velvet Cookies

    These were AMAZING and one of my favorites from this challenge. They are time consuming, but the finished product is a perfectly chewy red velvet cookie filled with a tangy cream cheese surprise and dang they are good. 10/10 highly recommend to impress your friends and family, but you need to plan this well since you need fridge/freezer time.

    13. Peanut Butter Cookies

    These are from Alton Brown’s EveryDay Cook, and are extremely simple: no mixer, one bowl, dairy free and gluten free. I’ve made these before and I’ll make them again; they’re a good recipe to make with kids!

    14. These were supposed to be Chocolate Snow Caps, from the Mast Brothers Cookbook. Total fail.

    15. Vegan Lemon Cookies

    I slightly adapted these, but I’m sure they are good both ways! They were soft, lemony and cakey and stayed soft for almost a week! Liv loved them! My slight edits are here.

    16. Bakery-Style Butter Cookies

    From Smitten Kitchen Everyday, these are actually super easy – just multi-step. And they’re adaptable in the sense that you don’t have to do sandwich cookies, but could pipe them into a variety of other bakery-style shapes with different fillings.

    17. Lace Cookies

    Sally calls these “easy” but I screwed up MAJORLY the first time I made the batter and it turned into a solid rock. The trick is not to overmix on the stove. Hoping to get around to showing you what these should and should definitely not look like step-by-step.

    18. Pignoli Cookies

    These are a favorite of mine and Lucas, but I made my cookies too big so we only got 10 out of this recipe instead of 14. I would also suggest more pine nuts – it calls for one cup but I ran out maybe 7 cookies in. BUT these are pretty dang bakery perfect: chewy and almond-y in a way that only almond paste can aid a cookie.

    19. Gingerbread Brownstone!

    I’d love to share more on this but didn’t take nearly enough pictures. I based this off of A Cozy Kitchen’s Cozy Gingerbread House, using a different royal icing recipe (again, no merengue powder). It wasn’t perfect but considering I freehanded it and baked/decorated it in one night, I’m not too displeased. Plus she posted it in her stories, so that redeems the architectural sloppiness.

    20. Ninjabread Men

    These are vegan and I did slightly adapt the recipe when baking (I used egg replacer instead of a flax egg, brown sugar instead of coconut sugar, and added 1/2 tsp of baking powder) but I liked these better than the gingerbread I used for the brownstone. I also rolled these out via Sally’s Sugar Cookie method and had no spreading!

    21. Vegan Soft Baked Sugar Cookies

    These were a simple, no-mixer, no-fancy-vegan-ingredients recipe and a pretty solid winner for Livia. I was skeptical at first (she uses oil, not a vegan butter replacement) but was really pleasantly surprised about how good these are. I would add an extra tsp of vanilla or a hit of almond extract to up the flavor but for kids this is kind of perfect.

    22. Christmas Chocolate Chip Cookies

    I LOVED these. I got some brown butter redemption (these came out exactly like the recipe) and only used dark chocolate m&ms (no chocolate chips). Kind of want to make these all the time and deeply regret not freezing any dough.

    23. Classic Madeleines

    I always thought Madeleines were hard; turns out they’re super easy and everyone should make them. They’re perfect with an espresso and an easy way to impress guests. 10/10.

    24. Seven Layer Cookies

    Also known as Rainbow Cookies, these are an Italian-American bakery classic that I make for Christmas every year. They aren’t hard but take time, but are so much better than any store bought (or frankly, bakery bought) ones. Plus they keep in the freezer for a long time, so you can enjoy them past the Christmas season (I think this year we finished ours in June….). These are my favorite on the whole list and a necessary bake for Christmas.

    25. Cannolis

    So I bought the shells in Little Italy and made the recipe up because I couldn’t find a recipe that didn’t include heavy cream or mascarpone which aren’t traditional Italian ingredients for this pastry! When I have time I’ll upload it!

    BONUS: Christmas Morning Cinnamon Rolls

    I follow The Pancake Princess pretty religiously and she did a cinnamon roll bake-off that had me curious. These ranked #2, but were a morning-of recipe. Definitely the best I’ve ever made (Lucas agreed) and strongly suggest that you try them. The frosting was a little on the sweet side (according to Lucas) but that’s an easy fix (less sugar!). Whipping the butter + cinnamon sugar together for the filling is a game changer.

    Boston’s Back Bay + Holiday Style

    Adventures, Cities

    On Sunday we took Mathias and Livia to the Prudential Center Mall in the Back Bay area of Boston to see Santa…well, the line was about 50 people deep and my kids probably wouldn’t have made it halfway through the line without one of them having a meltdown. So instead we ended up taking a stroll around the neighborhood to enjoy the holiday lights and decor.

    If you’re not familiar with Boston, Back Bay is an affluent neighborhood downtown best known for its gorgeous rows of brownstones and high-end shopping – kind of like if New York City’s Upper East Side had a baby with 5th Avenue. I have always been drawn to this neighborhood because the brownstones remind me of home. They’re a huge part of the architecture in Brooklyn and I think every city girl’s dream is to live in one. It isn’t necessarily on the standard tourist’s bucket list, but I always suggest it to friends who visit from out of town. This area is magical in a way that will make you fall in love with this city and its history.

    I always struggle with being both comfortable and fashionable when I’m pregnant and for the past three pregnancies I’ve always turned to PinkBlush Maternity.

    The thing with being a mother of soon to be three under three is that we are ALWAYS on the go. And if I’m going to be hauling around two toddlers with a huge belly, I’m looking for something that is going to be flattering and transitional without me having to do anything other than changing my accessories. I wore this dress all day – to the mall, to Pizzeria Uno, walking around Back Bay – and hat and a change of shoes brought me from day to night look with no effort. I plan on wearing this for at least one holiday event this season and have a few others I can’t wait to wear! You can find their dresses here.

    Oh, and a Back Bay resident who was walking his pug told me I looked fabulous, so that made me feel pretty good after failing to bring my kids to meet Santa.

    You can find my dress here and right now there is a sale for 20% off! They ship super fast and you definitely have time to get something before the holidays.

    This is a sponsored post.

    Vegan Green Monstah Whoopie Pies

    Baking

    First of all, I’d like to thank the academy…

    Actually I’d like to thank my extremely protective mother who refused to allow any dairy in our house for 8 years, and forced me to learn how to bake dairy free against my wishes. The first time I got to bake with real butter again was only after I got married.

    My youngest brother is severely allergic to dairy (I’m talking, can’t walk into an italian restaurant without wheezing and getting a runny nose) and we had quite a few scares when he was a baby because anaphylactic reactions are life threatening. So we went dairy free. And at 13, I already had a passion for baking (I think I wanted to be a pastry chef around age 7 or 8) and it was like…the end of the world. But I learned, slowly, and good thing I did because both of my children have had dairy intolerances as infants and Liv still hasn’t outgrown hers.

    A decade ago, vegan and dairy free recipes were not trendy or, honestly, available. I remember when Babycakes opened in NYC and my mom went there so excited because their desserts were allergy friendly and it was a safe place to buy something for my brother. But it was expensive. So that was a rare occurrence and instead we all learned that baking dairy free was not only possible, but could be just as good (or better) than desserts with dairy!

    I’ve mentioned before how things have changed so much since then and how many more options we have, but I am so grateful that vegan food has entered mainstream culture. And because of my mom’s drive to protect my brother at all costs, I learned how to adapt recipes and for them to not be total failures (usually).

    So! I made Red Velvet Whoopie Pies on Wednesday as part of our cookie challenge and they were very, very dairy filled. They tasted great – everything you would want from Red Velvet Cake, they were moist and rich and the cream cheese frosting was perfectly thick and a happy balance of not too sweet, not too tart. They didn’t rise as much as I would have liked and I brought that up to the other ladies in this challenge with me and they offered some suggestions.

    However, Livia has learned what cookies are during this time and was ~furious~ that I wouldn’t give her any. So I decided to adapt the recipe, not just to be dairy free but totally vegan, because why not go all in?

    I was elated because these were even better than the original!

    Look at that rise! 🙌🏼

    I am always hesitant about substitutes and the original recipe called for buttermilk. When you want to make a vegan milk “buttermilk” you add 1 tsp of vinegar to 1 cup of alternative milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. This was my first time using Bolthouse Farms to make buttermilk and it worked out really well!

    They are “velvet” whoopie pies and I went with green to distinguish them from the red non-vegan ones I made the day before. And in honor of Boston – I’m calling these Green Monstah Whoopie Pies.

    If you know, you know.

    Needless to say, Liv was a fan.

    Green Monstah Whoopie Pies

    Veganized / Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
    • 3 Tablespoons (15g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted vegan butter, softened to room temperature. I used Fleishmann’s.
    • 1 cup (200g) packed light brown sugar
    • 1 egg substitute – I used Namaste Raw Foods Egg Replacer but have no preference
    • 2/3 cup (160ml) “buttermilk”, room temperature; mix 1 cup of bolthouse farms unsweetened plant milk with 1 tsp of apple cider or white vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes and then measure 2/3 out. It will be clumpy – this is normal! *if you don’t want to use Bolthouse Farms, here are my suggestions: unsweetened almond milk or unsweetened coconut milk (not canned!). Other milk alternatives are usually too thin and will thin out your batter!
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • ~ 1 tsp gel green food coloring, I used a little more

    Cream Cheese Filling:

    • 6 ounces (170g) vegan cream cheese substitute, softened to room temperature. I used Wayfare (it is coconut based) because I like their flavor best
    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick; 60g) unsalted vegan butter substitute, softened to room temperature
    • 2 cups (240 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted (plus more for topping)
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Instructions:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (°C). Line at least one cookie sheet with parchment paper – I alternated my two in the oven but in an ideal world I would have lined three.
    2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
    1. In either a large bowl using hand-held beaters or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat on medium-high until fluffy and combined. Beat in egg replacer on high speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla and “buttermilk”. If it looks curdled at this point don’t worry!
    2. Add food coloring! Feel free to use more or less; I used a little more because it didn’t feel green enough. If you have to use liquid food coloring be prepared to use the whole thing to get the right color.
    1. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. It will not be a cookie dough; it’ll be pretty sticky/wet but still scoopable
    2. If you have time, let the batter rest for 15 minutes or stick the batter in the fridge until you are ready to bake, tightly wrapped (Saran wrap pressed against the batter). I did this between batches in the oven because I had to take a break for Mathias’ therapy and it scooped better a little chilled.
    3. Scoop onto cookie sheet, leaving 2-3 inches between cookies. You should fit 8 cookies on the sheet comfortably. I use a cookie scoop and if you don’t have one, you should!
    4. Bake for 10-12 minutes; my oven took *just* 11 minutes.
    5. Let them cool completely before moving them!
    6. Make the frosting – combine cream cheese and butter together until whipped. Add powdered sugar (sifted if you want, but I didn’t bother) and vanilla.
    1. Match the cookies up based on their size – one thing I love about using a cookie scoop is that they tend to be pretty equal. Spread cream cheese filling onto the flat side of one cookie and sandwich with the other. Repeat with the rest. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar over the top, if you want – it makes them prettier for pictures but messier to eat. Cover leftover whoopie pies and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or individually wrap the filled cookies and place in a freezer safe bag and put in the freezer for long term storage; according to the original author they should keep for a few months in the freezer!