organicglory

simple nibbles of natural goodness

Why don’t doctors talk to pregnant women about toxic chemicals?

I recently read something that I think most mamas would find disturbing.

Boston Globe via iStock

Acoording to the Boston Globe, reducing pregnant women’s exposure to environmental toxins was recently deemed ‘critical’ by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to prevent birth defects and other fetal health problems. But a recent survey of more than 2,500 physician members of that group found that fewer than one in five ask pregnant patients about any exposure they have had to unsafe levels of toxic chemicals.

“It’s not surprising that they’re avoiding these discussions,” said Dr. Alan Woolf, director of the pediatric environmental health center at Boston Children’s Hospital, who was not involved with the study. “Very few doctors feel comfortable in their knowledge of this issue to discuss it.”

A 2011 study found that pregnant women are exposed to at least 43 chemicals known to affect fetal development including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), and phthalates that interfere with hormones.

For this reason, ACOG recommended last year that its physicians “identify specific types of exposure that may be harmful to a developing fetus” during the first prenatal visit. Doctors should be asking about workplace exposures — such as chemicals used in a lab or factory — and whether a patient lives in an older home, which could contain harmful lead paint, or has undertaken do-it-yourself home renovation that involves toxic agents. (And a Huffington Post story about this study pointed out that many women are at increased risk for exposure during pregnancy precisely because it’s a time when many families move or undertake renovation projects to prepare for baby’s arrival.

Yet half of the obstetricians-gynecologists surveyed in the new study said they rarely take this kind of environmental health history.

“Doctors told us they have so many more pressing issues to talk about,” said study leader Naomi Stotland, an associate professor of obstetrics-gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Their patients may be cigarette smokers, drink alcohol, or eat fast food every day, which they need to deal with first.”

But those who serve highly educated populations often find themselves flummoxed by questions from pregnant patients about which cosmetics, cleaners, and sunscreens to use.

You can read the rest of the article here. In it, doctors went on to say that they don’t want to “stress their patients out” by mentioning environmental exposure issues, and that there are other concerns they’d rather focus on — such as getting more women to eat the “good” kinds of fish that are free of mercury. But some of the things that should be no-brainers during pregnancy, like avoiding aerosol room fresheners or antibacterial soaps and products containing triclosan, just aren’t on most women’s radars.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoiding environmental toxins at home. You can also visit the Environmental Working Group website for more resources.

On one hand, I can see the doctor’s point of view on this. Americans do seem to be riddled with so much extra anxiety around pregnancy and childbirth, and to be seen as adding to that — especially when so many patients deal with poor working conditions, food choices and home lives that are beyond their control — must be stressful for OBs. But I think lots of people aren’t worried about the issue of environmental toxins because they assume the government is protecting us from harmful ingredients, when the reality is quite the opposite. As consumers and as parents we have to be so careful about what we bring into our homes and bodies, and our income level shouldn’t preclude us from being empowered to make educated choices. It sounds to me like the doctors in this study who suggested enhanced training to equip OBGYN’s to discuss toxic exposure are right on the money.

How about you — did your doctor ever discuss this with you? What do you do to avoid contaminants in your food, cleaning products, home life or workplace?

Feeding toddlers

I’m back to feeling human again now that Georgia has resumed her status as a Baby Who Sleeps Through the Night. She even had a sitter Saturday night (Hi, Marty! a.k.a Grammy) and went down great for her. Hallelujah! Mom and Dad can go out on dates together again!

Now that we’ve gotten over that hump, it’s time to tackle the other stress of moving from infancy to toddlerhood: what the heck do you feed these kiddos? Well, a high school classmate of mine hit on a genius way to figure this out. Take pictures of their lunches every day, share online, and create a viral community to inspire other parents.

5 layer dip (Wholly Guacamole, tomatoes, smashed black beans, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese), vegetables to dip (yellow pepper, red pepper, partially steamed broccoli, carrots, cucumber), whole wheat pasta salad, blackberries, raspberries and strawberry heart, and 1% milk.

Tomorrow’s Lunch is a blog and Facebook page that shares what Maggie, my high school classmate and a Registered dietitian in Boston, makes for her two kids every day. It’s a model of variety, nutrition and fun, lovingly arranged:

avocado & chicken salad sandwich (yellow, orange & red tomatoes, red onion, a little lemon, cheddar cheese) in the shape of a bear, cucumber cups with edamame hummus and red pepper, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and nectarine suns, pear/spinach/mango yogurt, 1% milk.

I hope she keeps this up, because it’s genius.

Me? I’m stuck with an almost-one-year-old whose main food groups are cheese, cheese, and more cheese. I leave her with fresh food every day, and she’ll eat it…as long as cheese is served alongside. Some of her other favorites are strawberries, peaches, mangoes, nectarines, bananas, pineapple, zucchini bread, naan, rotisserie chicken, meatloaf, lasagna, cheddar slices, mashed potatoes, sweet potato, avocado (and guacamole!), applesauce, pancakes and bagels with cream cheese.

When she was teeny, we gave her bland things at first — organic whole grain oatmeal, prunes, mashed pears, pureed squash, etc. — and then moved on to letting her sample our “big people” food at dinner and on weekends, while sending her organic packaged food to day care and with the grandparents. We loved Earth’s Best, Ella’s Kitchen, Plum Organics, Happy Baby, and some Gerber organics.

Ella's Kitchen

Some of Georgia’s staples: cereal, curry and fruit/veggie puree.

Let me tell you, that organic baby food ADDS RIGHT UP. But there’s so much crap in some of the brands out there, it’s worth it to hunt for coupons and shop in bulk when things go on sale. You really have to be discerning with nutrition labels, and luckily Mark really took to that, so he weeded through to find the options free of corn syrup, juices, added sugar and salt, GMOs, etc.

Why organic? Because in order to meet that label, the crops can’t be genetically engineered, treated with pesticides, exposed to radiation, or produced with antibiotics. You can read more about this on Consumer Reports, which has a great guide to buying and making organic food for babies, who are at greater risk from exposure to the chemicals, practices and contaminants found in conventional growing methods. We already bought all organic produce for ourselves, so any time Georgia had homemade purees, we knew it was safe.

Around 9-10 months, she got sick of eating mushy food and became very curious about what we were eating. So, even before she could pick things up herself, we started letting her play with shredded chicken, bits of turkey meatballs, pizza crusts, ricotta, ziti, chunky soup, chopped fruit and hummus from the table. Now, she can put bread, cheese and baby cookies into her mouth and gnaw on them, which lets her feel independent and helps her teething as well. If your baby is teething all once like poor Georgia, we highly recommend this fashionable teething jewelry for mom, and putting frozen fruit into one of these fun contraptions for baby to suck on. Cold watermelon slices are working great for us lately, too (and luckily comes out easily in the wash).

(psst: If you bought a bunch of pouches and have a lot left over, Earth’s Best has a quick guide with tips on using up purees creatively – pancake topping? quick-bread filling? — that is adorable and helpful). We managed to only hang on to the pouch purees that she likes holding by herself now, so we didn’t really have to waste any food. Holding the spoon is still a work in progress for Georgia, so I try to give her thick things to practice with — mushy avocado is a favorite — to minimize the mess while still letting her work on mastering a spoon.

So far, she’s still open to trying lots of different foods, although certain things — red meat and anything too spicy — haven’t gone over too well. She also is pretty picky about what type of sippy cup she’ll use, so we have rotated through every option out there to keep giving her a chance to make up her mind. So far, the Ikea cup with handles seems to be the most promising. And pretty soon we’ll be transitioning her from formula to real milk (although by real, I hopefully mean an alternative to cow’s milk, if her pediatrician gives us the green light. I’ll keep you posted).

My baby is growing up! It’s sad, but it’s also exciting, because with new growth comes a new ability to be adventurous, both in food and in exploring the rest of life. Which is pretty awesome.

***

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Salad-spiration

Gotta tell ya, the heat zaps my appetite. Mark doesn’t like soups, which are my usual go-to for muggy nights when I don’t feel like eating, much less cooking. Things like gazpacho shooters, Sweet Potato Soup, and Fennel-Potato Soup with sour cream on top, Creamy Cauliflower Soup: yum! refreshing! But lately, I’ve been having a few light, creative salads instead. Start with your favorite greens and add a few of my favorite toppings, and you’re good to go. Some of my top combos:

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Greens topped with chopped tomatoes, taco strips, avocado, shredded cheese and cilantro, with creamy dressing such as Newman’s Southwest or Trader Joe’s Cilantro.

Avocado kale salad, shown with Lemon Pappardelle & Sweet Sausage. (Click image for recipe)

Kale, torn by hand and rinsed/dried, mashed with two ripe avocado and drizzled with two organic lemons. Excellent topped with watermelon, chicken, feta, tomatoes, parmesan, or walnuts.

Simple Caesar: 1/2 cup olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1 tsp mustard, 2 diced garlic cloves, squirt of anchovy paste (optional) and a splash of Worcestershire sauce (also optional). Whisk, and pour over chopped romaine lettuce. Top with freshly grated parmesan and homemade croutons if you’re in the mood.

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My Chipotle knockoff! I take kale, avocado, corn, pico de gallo, black beans, shredded cheese and a light vinagrette and toss it all together. Optional: add grilled chicken. By avoiding the sour cream and fatty dressing (not to mention the side of chips and guacamole) this stays refreshing and healthy.

The last one, I don’t have a good picture of. It’s a strawberry jam salad tossed over spicy arugula, and it is to die for!  I blogged about this when I was first getting started, so my photos are horrendous, but the result was delicious.

You take a green with some bite, like arugula, and match it with something tamer like mesclun mix to cut the sharpness (unless you really love straight arugula). Then you make a dressing out of olive oil (3 TBSP), balsamic vinegar (1 TBSP), and strawberry jam (2 tsp) plus salt & pepper, and mix into the greens, then top with fresh strawberries, goat cheese and almonds. I’ve always wanted to try tossing some mint on there, too! If you do that, let me know.

What’s your go-to salad for summer? Sometimes I just pick up a bagged version from Trader Joe’s or Target and space it over a few days, especially when I’m by myself for dinner while Mark is on nights. Luckily, these days he’s home fairly often in the evenings, and Georgia is over her 10-month sleep regression (as in her age, not the duration!) so we can even spend time together after supper. And you know what’s crazy? Even when she’s sleeping right upstairs, I still miss her. Because she’s awesome, and I can’t believe she’s only been around a little less than a year :)

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My BFFL! (that’s breast friend for life)

Bowties with Kale

I adapted this from the Pioneer Woman’s recent Kale Pasta Salad post. Like hers, mine tastes good cold or warm, as a main meal or as a side; unlike hers, mine adds roasted tomatoes, almonds in place of pine nuts, and kale that cooks a bit longer so it’s not as rough on my tummy. I also use copious Pecorino instead of shaved Parmesan cheese, because I just love that salty flavor! If you like kale, this will be a great addition to your arsenal of recipes featuring the leafy green.

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Bowties with Kale

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (PW uses more)
  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1 lb. bowtie (aka farfalle) pasta
  • 3 tbsp almonds, chopped (optional)
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes (approx. 14 oz.)
  • pecorino cheese, grated (I used a lot)
  • to taste: salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar

DIRECTIONS

Put on the pasta to boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat and crush both the nuts (if using) and the garlic cloves.

Cook nuts, adding garlic after a few minutes so it doesn’t burn, then add the kale ripped into small pieces and stir, cooking over medium heat until it wilts to the desired level.

Add can of roasted tomatoes to the pan, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring, until combined (just a few minutes). If desired, add a splash of balsamic to the pan for flavoring, and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta quickly and add to the pan with the kale mixture, reserving a splash of the cooking water if it’s too dry. If it’s really too dry, you can always add a splash or two of almond (or regular) milk to the pan.

Top with tons of shredded cheese — I used pecorino, my favorite — and serve warm OR let cool and have later! This tastes good cold, as a main dish, or as a side. I think if I made it again, I’d add more garlic, but otherwise this came out just right.

I didn’t try giving this to Georgia because it contains nuts and is also just a bit too fiber-filled for her system, but I will when she’s older. Thanks to Georgia’s Nan for sharing all that yummy kale with us from her CSA!!

Baby Milestone Update

Because I know you’re wondering. We can now:

  • Stand, and pull self up to standing
  • Bend down to pick up a toy with one hand
  • Hold mom’s hands and walk around house
  • Cruise from coffee table to couch and back
  • Point with both hands
  • Pick things up pincer-style
  • Feed self with hands (short list of acceptable foods)
  • Crawl. Finally!

Things we refuse to do?

  • Feed self with a spoon
  • Put self back to sleep at 1 a.m. (this is a horrifying new problem)
  • Soothe self while teething without intervention from mom, dad or Tylenol
  • not scream in the grocery store
  • behave properly around the cat’s tail

I think I’m just getting a taste of the toddler years. So far, it’s exhausting!

Did you like this recipe? Share it! And if you just love kale, check out my cheesy kale pasta bake, kale chips and satisfying kale salad with avocado-lemon dressing. I just love that last one because you simply tear up the kale, mash a whole avocado into it by hand, then coat with a couple of fresh-squeezed lemons. Creamy and delicious!

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Five Foodie Things

Happy Fourth of July week, everyone! Mark is going to be working on the Freedom Trail this holiday weekend, so we are staying close to home for BBQs and relaxation. Georgia’s day care is also closed this week for summer vacation, so we have some small excursions planned (if the Hurricane stays away, that is). I’m so glad the hot weather has come to Boston finally! (Mark, not so much).

What else am I excited about this summer? Well, for starters, Edible Boston’s Summer Edition is out:

The place where I work got featured in a nice piece in Edible Boston’s spring issue, which was hugely exciting for me! I always pick this up whenever I can find it around town, so to get a clip in there was tops.

2) Second, Special K and Morningstar Farms both just came out with tasty new breakfast sandwiches that are reasonably healthy, vegetarian, and easy on the budget, which I’m trying to watch better, especially with G in day care. I like the Special K one best, in particular their two vegetarian options (pepper jack egg & cheese with veggies, and deluxe egg & cheese). I buy them at Target; I’m sure they are widely available elsewhere, too.

3) Have you heard about this new Kickstarter campaign for Saladshots? These are basically like those portable squeeze pouches of baby food or applesauce, but for salad dressing. The flavors sound awesome: mint basil, citrus ginger, rose petal, and more. They are gluten-free, kosher, low sodium, and use only agave sweetener. If I can find these, I am going to try them!

4) Dunkin’ Donuts just came out with a frozen coolatta  version of the Arnold Palmer, one of my favorite summer drinks (see the other one here). I’m sure this is a sugar bomb, but I am dying to try it. I might spend too much time at Dunks. (At least one Dunks store in the Greater Boston area also started delivering, which is brilliant but pure trouble).

5) Speaking of beverages, can you guess what alcohol is making a comeback, according to BostInno? Personally I wasn’t aware this ever went away. It’s always been my trusted sidekick, especially for summer.

Finally, I’m on a campaign for Big Gay Ice Cream to come to Boston. They expanded to Philly. Talk about the least cool place on the planet! What do they even have there? The Phillies? Whatever. A river no one can even pronounce? Whatever! Come to wear it all started, the only cold-weather city where people eat ice cream outdoors all year ’round. I basically stalk Big Gay Ice Cream on Twitter whenever I accompany Mark to New York for auditions, and I’d love to be stalked in return. Gauntlet. THROWN. 

Enough with that other city. come to MINE.

Are you still looking for something to do on the Fourth?

Boston Vegetarian Society is hosting a holiday picnic at Winslow Farm, a loving sanctuary for abandoned and mistreated animals, from 12 to 4 p.m.  in Norton, MA (south of the city). Like No Udder will be providing vegan soft serve ice cream, and the cost of admission ($10 for adults, $5 for children 11 and under, free for kids younger than 2) will benefit the farm’s veterinary care and food costs. A worthy cause!

Karolina, an alpaca rescue living at Winslow Farm.

Have a great holiday everyone :)

The vegetarian cookbook I can’t wait to buy

 I’m obsessed with Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy.

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

In it, vegetarian authority Deborah Madison is taking a new tack: admitting she now incorporates meat stock, bacon, eggs and more into her recipes, and suggesting that we do the same. This book is focused on knowing and appreciating vegetables — their origin, their botanical family, their natural food pairings — not plugging vegetarianism.

I saw a lot of myself in this book. It is geared toward flexible vegetarians and newcomers to meatless living. Though it came out last year, this cookbook was mentioned in a recent New Yorker piece about the shift toward “quasi-vegetarianism” overtaking restaurants, chefs, foodies and books (and, I suppose, magazine writers). From one-time purists forced into greater flexibility after life changes (like me), to those seeking simply to reduce their meat consumption a small fraction based on health or environmental concerns, the trend is clear: modern vegetarianism has evolved into a wide spectrum with Meatless Monday at one end and all-out veganism at the other … with ample room for customization between.

I think this is a good thing. It makes vegetarian cooking more accessible, and will go a long way toward dispelling the myths surrounding vegetarianism: that it’s expensive, that it’s for hippies or yuppies, that you have to shop at Whole Foods, that you can’t get enough protein, that you can’t safely raise children/be pregnant/exercise, that you can only eat out at special restaurants, that you’ll be Calcium deficient, that you’ll only eat beans, salads and tofu, and so on.

Vegetable Literacy inspires creativity, encourages experimentation, and is invaluable to anyone with a garden, CSA or farmer’s marketnearby. It’s as much a reference book as a cookbook, just like my other favorite, The Silver Spoon. It makes me all the more eager to pick up Deborah Madison’s update to the classic New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which was just released with 300 new recipes, bringing the grand total to 1,600 (!!) No wonder it’s considered the Bible of vegetarian cooking!

And, because I know you’re wondering, Georgia finally decided to feed herself this weekend! The food of choice was naan bread. She also drank water from a regular cup (having rejected sippy cups repeatedly, not that I’m going to stop trying) and took a few tentative steps holding onto the sofa and coffee table with just one hand (her left). She’s so big, and later today I’m going to be sending out her first birthday invitations. SOB!!!

 

 

Chicken & Rice

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Chicken & Rice: Pretty classic. Made with white meat, it’s healthful and delicious — with the added bonus of being simple to prepare. Uncooked rice, spices and water go in the bottom of a casserole dish, and you nest the chicken on top for 45 minutes to an hour and it all comes out moist and tender. (My preferred meat is Trader Joe’s organic breasts, but they do tend to sell out quickly, so what you see here is the manager’s special $2 off Purdue).

Doesn’t chicken just have an unfortunate way of looking pink when photographed? Presumably, if you know what you’re doing, this problem doesn’t arise.

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This is adapted from a good old fashioned Campbell’s Kitchen recipe. One reason I like it? It’s great for kids, and with my little one eating more and more of the table food we adults are having for dinner, it’s more important than ever for me to find recipes that all of us can enjoy.

Chicken & Rice

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can condensed mushroom soup (can be Campbell’s or an organic brand, such as Pacific or Amy’s)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice (I used Jasmine)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I cut mine smaller)
  • 1 packet onion soup mix (OR a mix of paprika and black pepper)

DIRECTIONS

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the dry rice, the seasonings, the water and the soup until well combined.

Pour into a glass baking dish and nestle the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture. Cover and bake at 375F for 45 minutes (or until the chicken is cooked through; mine took 45 mins on the nose).

Uncover and let sit and cool for 10 minutes, stirring and fluffing the rice. Serve with a side of vegetables and enjoy!

A few tips:

You can customize the seasonings to be anything you like here. I also like to pound chicken breasts flat and cut them into smaller pieces for easier portioning, but you can also leave them whole. You can also use frozen chicken but just adjust the cooking time up a little.

If you don’t like mushrooms or mushroom soup, you can substitute any other condensed “cream of” variety, like celery or chicken. Mark hates mushrooms and he really likes this!

Online, I saw a few people suggest steaming vegetables such as asparagus directly on top of the chicken during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking. I’d love to try that idea. If you do, let me know how it goes.

Others suggested subbing chicken or veggie stock for the water, but I’m not sure it needs more saltiness, which would be my only concern with that idea.

Several cooks added chopped onions to the rice mix, and others amped up the seasonings to have a little more kick, which sounds like it could be very tasty. You could even throw in some green chilis.

You can substitute brown rice as well, but I’d recommend either pre-cooking it a bit or extending the baking time.

If you like the flavor of onion soup mix and just can’t live without more recipe ideas, check out my onion roasted potatoes (good for breakfast OR dinner) and my easy apricot chicken. Warning: some babies really, um, respond to apricots in the diaper department! Of course that might be helpful advice for some parents. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Have I mentioned that I love this child?

Have I mentioned that I love this child?

Baby’s First Father’s Day

For this afternoon, just some photos from our first Father’s Day with Georgia. And a shout-out to my husband on his birthday today! You are the best dad and husband we could ever ask for.

Baby Shower Tea @ The Four Seasons Boston

My friend Chelsea had her baby shower last weekend at the Four Seasons. It was about 90 degrees out in Boston — kind of a harsh transition from all that cold and rain last week! — so I totally melted on the walk there, but once inside I had a Kir Royale in my hand within 5 minutes and all was right with the world.

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Here’s the best part. Five days later, Chelsea had her baby! It was definitely a surprise, but little Eloise decided 33 weeks inside mum was just long enough, and she made her entrance on Friday the 13th in the wee hours of the morning. My kind of kiddo! She’s also the second baby named Eloise that we know of this month alone, so we may have a sleeper hit on our hands for baby girl names in Boston! Our next door neighbors also chose Eloise, but they’re going to call her “Louie,” which I just love :)

Eloise the book: baby name inspiration for well-read parents?

Eloise, the book: baby name inspiration for well-read parents?

Before the drama of baby’s early entrance, we feted Chelsea with a classy afternoon tea, complete with fresh fruit, scones, clotted cream, miniature cupcakes, tiny sandwiches, cakes and more:

Gotta love fresh fruit served in a martini glass.

Gotta love fresh fruit served in a martini glass.

Delightful scones!

Delightful scones!

Mint and hydrangeas on every table. I got to take one home!

Mint and hydrangeas on every table. I got to take one home!

She got some great gifts for her little one (which, at the time, was a mystery gender) including a few of Georgia’s favorites: these blankets, these soft blocks, a Sophie the Giraffe teether, and all kinds of accessories for her stroller. Miss Eloise is going to be traveling in style!

We got her a starter set from the Honest Company, including newborn and size 1 diapers, baby wash, the all-essential stain remover (critical for getting diaper blowouts, throw-up and nose bleeds out of cute fabrics), along with wipes and diaper cream. I was nervous about gifting such small diapers, even though she specifically requested them, but obviously I needn’t have worried, since she ended up having a 4 1/2-pound preemie:)

I thought I wrapped this up good, no?

I thought I wrapped this up good, no?

We can’t wait to meet the little gal. Georgia is so excited to have a new playmate! As for the tea, I still think my trip to the Boston Harbor Hotel tea time wins out for experience and deliciousness (plus, that view!) but this was a really festive shower idea and I’d definitely go back. Next up: afternoon tea at The Langham; the French Room at the Taj Boston (formerly the Ritz), where they also do a Teddy Bear Tea and a traditional Holiday Tea at Christmas time; and finally The Courtyard at the Boston Public Library, which hosts a weekday afternoon tea that is supposed to be excellent. Then, I’ll have hit all the tea times Boston has to offer!

How about you — do you like afternoon tea? It’s definitely not for those short on time or money, as a typical afternoon tea costs between $35 and $55 per person before gratuity, and can last two hours or more. But I think it’s an elegant diversion from regular life, and you’ll leave surprisingly satisfied despite the daintiness of the menu. I know my mom is dying to take Georgia for tea when she gets big enough. Sounds like something really special for them to enjoy together!

As we head into that season of summer babies and the baby showers that precede them, here’s to health and happiness for all the new little ones coming into the world, and rest for their parents. I can’t believe how fast a year goes by, and that I’m soon to have a 10-month-old on my hands! Time really does fly with these babes :) seems like just yesterday …

Looking for gifts for a shower this summer? Check out my list of newborn essentials, plus my guide to eco-friendly baby gifts and the wish list of things I would have bought myself just after having Georgia.

Summer Food Fun

It finally feels like summer around here! Only took until June. Given the short warm season in New England, we are already making the most of it. Mark, in addition to his stage work, spends most of his daytime hours working as a costumed historic character offering guided tours of Boston’s Freedom Trail. I’d never taken one of his tours, so a couple weeks ago we rounded up some friends and went! Georgia seemed confused at first and didn’t really recognize him, but as soon as he took off his hat, she was ecstatic and insisted on being picked up :)

Last week we also went to the Scooper Bowl, an ice cream fundraiser for The Jimmy Fund, which my dad has been taking my brother and I to for probably 20 years. At some point we pulled Mark into the tradition, and last year I ate half my weight in ice cream because I was 7 months pregnant. So naturally this year we had to take Georgia! She gave ice cream a try (chocolate) but was not a fan. I can’t say I was that upset; I don’t really like to give her anything with sugar. I’m sure she’ll take to it eventually, if she’s anything like me! But she enjoyed being out on City Hall Plaza and boogie-ing to the music in her stroller while people watching. That kid just loves being in the city. And she gives my dad a captive new audience for his West End stories (“they tore down our whole neighborhood”) which is an inevitable rite of passage for anyone who accompanies him into town.

It’s almost time for Mark’s first Father’s Day. What are we doing to celebrate? Well, his birthday is just a few days later, so I’m rolling everything into one super celebration, kind of like what he did with my birthday and Mother’s Day. His show opens the same weekend (today, actually!) so he won’t exactly be around much to celebrate, but we will do the best we can to make him feel special. I’m going to make him cupcakes (maybe these?) with vanilla frosting, his favorite. He is literally a plain vanilla kind of guy when it comes to cupcakes.

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A rare Saturday morning off for daddy to snuggle his Georgia.

Speaking of dads…..did you know the number of stay-at-home dads nationwide has doubled over the last 25 years? I read that last week and was surprised! Mark isn’t home with Georgia full time, but as a dad who cares for her at least one full day every week, he definitely gets a lot of odd comments and looks when they’re out running errands together. He counts himself lucky to be able to have that one-on-one time with her. After all, they are best buds.

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We are taking my dad up to Woodman’s, “the inventor of the fried clam,” in Essex this weekend. That’s another tradition that we haven’t deviated from in years for Father’s Day. We go to Bearskin Neck in nearby Rockport, and then we load up with  fried seafood. What can I say, my dad likes his predictable routines! Speaking personally, this is pretty much the one time every year I allow myself a big ol’ plate of fried food, so it’s a noteworthy occasion in my book, too. I’m not sure what we’ll be able to have Georgia try, but whatever it is, we’ll take pictures! And if you’re ever visiting New England, Woodman’s really is the only place to go for a good fried clam plate or a buttery hot boiled lobster.

Dad in Rockport. Happy Father's Day! Photo by Brenton Mantone.

Dad in Rockport sporting his trademark corny sense of humor. Happy Father’s Day, everyone! (Photo by my brother, the talented Brenton Mantone)

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