Beauty & Fashion · Tips and Tricks

My Favorite Natural Deodorant Is On Sale

Can I be honest?

As much as I’ve been lamenting the never-ending winter we’ve had here in Massachusetts, a small part of me dreads one part of summer. And that part is sweat.

There’s no getting around it: I am not a dainty person who never perspires, and this has butt heads with my desire to use natural products for pretty much my entire life. Picture a scene: tween Amanda approaches her mom for deodorant after realizing that all the cool girls with straight hair and Co-Ed Naked t-shirts are using Teen Spirit, and not only am I not blonde OR tan, I do not have this essential product. Cut to the next day when my mom comes home with Tom’s of Maine … and eternal embarrassment, plus a not-insignificant amount of crying, ensues.

end scene.

18057698_1760005424015133_2915406978439434994_n

Nothing against Tom’s or any of the other natural brands I’ve tried over the years, but apart from being horrifyingly dorky for a pre-teen to sport at soccer practice, it just didn’t work that well for me at ALL. Fast forward to today, when many (many) years of trial and error later, I’ve finally landed on a product that smells really good, doesn’t bother sensitive skin, doesn’t require me to dip my hands into a jar of gunk, and most importantly WORKS AMAZINGLY, even on the hottest days. Even for power yoga, or the T without air conditioning, or that moment when you have to ask for a raise or tell off a mansplainer. I’m talking about Schmidt’s Naturals, from (where else) Portland, and it has finally made me a believer in vegan hygiene products. I use it every single day, and have stocked up on multiple scents and formulations so I always have what I need.

My hands-down favorite scent is Bergamot Lime, but I am REALLY fond of both bergamot and lime, to a degree that I don’t think is anywhere near normal. Got sensitive skin? My favorite gentle option is Schmidt’s Coconut Pineapple stick (again, two flavors I borderline freakishly love. See pretty much every post while I was pregnant). Of course, they also have plenty of fragrance-free options, too. jar_fragrancefree_2x_76b3b6df-e4f8-4752-a3f0-aa849e3fec18_500x500They offer a subscription program and select scents are also sold in stores nationwide, including the Target near my house (woohoo!) Their deodorants are free of aluminum and instead use natural ingredients — plant-based minerals like magnesium and baking powder — to neutralize odor-causing bacteria and wetness. I love that it was founded by a mom who was just looking to improve the personal products she used while pregnant!

Now through Saturday, June 3, take 30% off your order at Schmidt’s in celebration of their 7th year in business with code “ANNIVERSARY!”

In closing, I’ll leave you with this fairly unfortunate snapshot of my 90s self at a neighborhood block party. Hopefully, I had some kind of deo on alongside my sambas and bad bangs, but you really never know.

***

Boston Day Trip · kid-friendly · Travel

Sunday Driving North of Boston

Happy Wednesday everyone! We are halfway to a holiday weekend, or more than halfway if you’re taking off Friday like 90% of the people in my office. I can’t wait for three days home with my G! This Sunday we had a rare wildlife sighting — Mark Linehan, in his natural habitat, without having to work…ON THE WEEKEND. Naturally, we took advantage of it with a little day trip outside the city. For this adventure we chose to visit my all-time favorite ice cream stand, Erikson’s in Maynard. Sometimes childhood memories don’t stand up to present-day reality, but in this case that was not at all true and it.was.EVERYTHING.

Erikson’s is just a quick jaunt off of route 2 from the city, and from there you can take a leisurely ride around the northwest rural suburbs of Boston. Maynard, Stow, Bolton and Lancaster are the heart of apple-picking country and lie equidistant from Worcester and Boston, and Route 117 makes for a gorgeous Sunday drive any time of year, whether in spring with all the wildflowers, horses and goats on view, or during peak fall foliage. Continue on to Harvard, as we did, and stop in at the General Store for made-on-site lemonade, sandwiches and sweets. Then, enjoy them in a family picnic across the street on the town Common!

There’s lots of other fun things to do in the area. We love The Discovery Museum in Acton, the Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton, the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, and of course the dozens of farms and orchards that are open to the public year round, such as Honey Pot Hill, Bolton Spring Farm, and Nicewicz Family Farm.

A great path back to the city takes you via Route 2 or 62 through historic Lexington and Concord, where there are literally dozens of attractions and parks to visit — enough to make up their own separate day trip, in fact. You can stop by Minute Man National Historical Park, Orchard House (where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women), Walden Pond, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the Battle Road Trail, the Emerson House and the Thoreau House (pick your transcendentalist), The Old Manse & nearby North Bridge where the first shots of the Revolution were fired, and of course Lexington Battle Green, Buckman Tavern and Minuteman Statue. Near there is the famous Minuteman Bike Trail, which is super kid-friendly (and therefore extremely crowded on weekends) and which has lots of cute shops and places to grab snacks or ice cream nearby in Downtown Lexington. Of course, I don’t recommend doing any of these things with Mark unless you really, REALLY want to learn about colonial history…like in extreme, minute detail (but in a fun way!)

Oh, to be this carefree and happy every day. Life is magical when you’re three!

I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. We are equal parts excited about kicking off summer in New England and sad to mark yet another holiday we would have celebrated with Georgia’s Great Granddad. Living a thankful life every day is one way to honor his memory, and I hope you can find small ways to do the same in your own life this year. xoxoxo.

granddad cemetery.jpg

***

Baby & Toddler · Holidays · kid-friendly · Tips and Tricks

Georgia’s Favorites: Books for Age 3

As anyone with a three-year-old can tell you, preschoolers love to read the same books over…and over…and over…FOREVER. In the last year, Georgia has definitely switched preferences from reading a stack of board books every night to wanting to pick one longer story book from a pile we keep in our bedroom, and sometimes we have to stealthily sneak a new option in there to prevent us from going crazy!

Here are the ones she goes back to you over and over. What books do your little ones love? (Give us some new ideas…please! Haha).

3 year fave books.png

Clockwise, from top left: The Berenstain Bears, “No Girls Allowed” // Chris Van Dusen, “The Circus Ship” // Tomie de Paola, “Strega Nona” // Laura Numeroff, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” // David Litchfield, “The Bear and the Piano.”

No Girls Allowed

The love of Berenstain Bears is strong in our house. This is just one of the greatest hits as far as Georgia is concerned; she also asks regularly for The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, Too Much TV, Go To School (which adorably features kindergartners still doing crafts and napping!) and both the Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor (she loves the part where the doctor pinches Papa’s belly fat!) and Visit the Dentistwhich came in handy last week when we took G for her first big-girl cleaning! No Girls Allowed is a great for beginning conversations about inclusion, friendships, and empowerment of young women.

The Circus Ship

Georgia likes the circus and animals so much that we got this as a present for her 2nd birthday and it is STILL going strong. I first took her to see the circus in Boston when she was 20 months old, fully expecting her to wiggle and squirm and ask to leave early, and instead she sat there enthralled, cheering and clapping at all the right moments and asking when we could come back again. She got so obsessed that we had a circus party for her birthday that year, and this book — about a group of shipwrecked circles animals who cause mayhem on a tiny Maine island when they wash ashore — gives us just enough circus flavor to get by without the real thing.

Strega Nona

It was through reading Strego Nona that Georgia first learned she was a little bit Italian, and it blew her mind! Strega Nona is a classic and for good reason: it features magic, pasta, a lovable sidekick in the bumbling Big Anthony, and a “spaghetti belly” at the end that Georgia always tell us looks like a baby bump. (tell me about it). Equally adored as a bedtime story is Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, which has a few funny twists and a great lesson about hard work and patience.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin

This is second in a series of “If you give…!” books that toddlers love and I can totally see why. It all started with “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” which we also have, but for some reason this sequel featuring a silly moose who causes mayhem when you invite him in for a muffin is the one that captured Georgia’s heart. We got “Mouse” and “Moose” together as a birthday gift, and I’ve turned right around and given the pair to other kids, too, because they are such a hit in our house. See also “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake,” which we love because the kitty looks like our Tasha, and “If You Give a Pig a Pancake.”

The Bear and the Piano

This is charming, sweet, and so poignant that if you don’t tear up a little the first time you read it, there might be something wrong with you. A beautifully illustrated story about a Bear who finds a piano in the forest then becomes famous “in the big city” for his playing, this touches on friendship, loyalty, loneliness and the wonders of going away — and coming back home. We bought this for Georgia for Christmas just after inheriting her great-grandparents’ piano, so it definitely has special meaning for her as she’s learning how to play and sees her Dad going off to work in New York City now and again.

Our local library has a massive used book sale every fall, and we go early and stock up on all the children’s books we can find. With two full-time working parents and weekends jam-packed with errands, swim lessons, church, laundry and cleaning/yard work, trips to the library are few and far between for us! But we love that we can pick up a whole year’s worth of new books for 50 cents each by planning ahead for the used book sale, which in turn directly benefits the public library. Here are a few more that we picked up at this year’s book sale and are really enjoying:

Caps for Sale

The Snowy Day

Blueberries for Sal

The Story of Ferdinand

Harry the Dirty Dog

A Chair for My Mother

The Story About Ping

We’ve been reading to Georgia every night since she was first born, even when she couldn’t react or probably even see much in the book. It’s helped us to have a predictable bedtime routine ever since, though that’s not to say she doesn’t try shenanigans all.the.time. She does, however, love reading — and, as a bookworm married to another bookworm, that totally warms my heart. 

Have a great weekend everyone!

This post contains affiliate links.

Blue Apron · Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Summer Squash Enchiladas

With gardens getting ready and fresh, homegrown produce just over the horizon, I’m teeing up some warm-weather recipes perfect for using up the bounty of squash, eggplant, greens, peppers and basil we’ll all have handy soon. This one originally came to me via Blue Apron (read more about my thoughts on the service right here) and I’ve enjoyed making it many times over since.

We no longer subscribe to the service, but for a while there it REALLY helped us get out of our takeout rut after having a newborn. Cooking was the one thing I couldn’t handle amid scarce sleep, pumping, packing daycare bags, washing bottles and (of course) playing with my new baby, and I could always count on Blue Apron to drop fixings for three meals off on my porch every week. It was one less thing to worry about, but eventually we got our groove back and started meal planning and grocery shopping (sans meltdown) again.

I did end up with some real keepers from the Blue Apron recipe archive. A few of my favorites: this Tomato Zucchini Quiche, this Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Pie, this Sirloin Steak with Smashed Purple Potatoes & Green Beans, these healthy Salmon Burgers with Potato Salad & Tossed Arugula, and (mmmmmm) this Chicken Piccata for Two, perfect for date night at home.

The key to this recipe’s unique flavor comes from the Tomatillos, or “Mexican husk tomatoes,” which are the sweet-tart ingredient that gives salsa verde its flavor. Cultivated since pre-Columbian times, they are elemental to modern Mexican cuisine and also played an important role in Mayan and Aztec culture.

They’ll stay fresh in your refrigerator with husks on for a couple of weeks, or you can remove the husks and seal them in plastic bags to keep even longer. They’re easy to find in any grocery store.

28210018622_659481e3f7_o28032388770_fe07c8c087_o

Summer Squash Enchiladas

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 Corn Tortillas
  • ½ Cup Jasmine Rice
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 Poblano Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Summer Squash
  • ½ Pound Tomatillos
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro
  • ½ Cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Grated Cotija Cheese+
  • 1 Tablespoon Mexican Spice Blend*

+Cotija is a dry, Mexican grating cheese, similar to Parmesan. A good substitute is Feta.

*Mexican Spice Blend is equal parts garlic powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin and dried oregano. You can also buy pre-mixed Mexican Seasoning from a supermarket brand such as McCormick. Carne Asada Seasoning is also a good substitute, and you can find a version by McCormick or Wildtree for a certified organic, unprocessed option.

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 475°F. In a small pot, combine the rice, a big pinch of salt and 1 cup of water and heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from heat and fluff the cooked rice with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl.

While the rice cooks, wash and dry the fresh produce. Remove and discard any tomatillo husks and dice small, then peel and mince the garlic. Using a zester, zest the lime peel then cut the lime into quarters. Dice the squash. Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and stems. Stack the tortillas on a plate; cover with a damp paper towel (or heat up in the microwave, then cover with a paper towel). Remove and discard the stem, ribs and seeds of the poblano, then small dice, immediately washing your hands and work surface.

In a pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the tomatillos and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes or until fragrant. Add 2 tablespoons of water; cook, occasionally smashing the tomatillos with a spoon, for about 10 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat then stir in half the sour cream and the juice of 2 lime wedges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the salsa verde cooks, in a medium pan, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the squash, poblano and spice blend and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes or until browned and softened. Transfer to the bowl of cooked rice.

Add the lime zest, half the cilantro, half the cheese and remaining sour cream into the bowl of cooked rice and vegetables and stir to combine. Place the tortillas on a clean, dry work surface. Spread about ⅓ cup of the filling into the bottom of a baking dish. Divide the remaining filling between the tortillas; tightly roll up each tortilla around the filling. Carefully transfer the rolled tortillas to the baking dish in a single layer, seam sides down. (**A good tip here: mist the tortillas with water to keep them soft and pliant and prevent them from cracking in the pan. As you can see, this happened to me on the day I photographed these, but the trick has worked for me every time since**).

Evenly top the assembled enchiladas with the salsa verde and remaining cheese. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and heated through. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 2 minutes. Garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with the remaining lime wedges on the side. Enjoy!

If you’re ever looking for a recipe like this on a menu, they’d be called “enchiladas suizas,” which technically means “Swiss enchiladas” — so named, supposedly, for the Swiss immigrants to Mexico who brought their love of dairy to the new country’s cuisine, resulting in a range of recipes with European influence. Blue Apron filled this version of enchiladas suizas with squash, poblano pepper, and jasmine rice, topping them with a “salsa verde,” or tomatillo sauce with a dash of sour cream.

This dish pairs very nicely with a fruity, crisp rosé … perfect for summer!

Want to make this dish even more hefty? Add in some beans for a vegetarian option, or some poached shredded chicken.

If, like us, you’ve just planted your garden and can’t wait to start cooking with the fruits of your labors, pin this recipe to save for later! I have a long list of dinners I’m dying to try, and Pinterest is the only thing that keeps me organized 🙂 You can see my own recipes, plus the ones I’ve saved from other bloggers and am dying to try, on my profile.

summer squash enchiladas.png

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and Mother’s Day for all the moms out there. It was crappy weather in New England, but I had an amazing relaxing weekend with my babies. We took a drive up to Plum Island and grabbed dinner at a diner on route 1, and had a nice low-key lunch with my mom on Sunday, after which Gramma helped us pick out a big girl bed for G! We think we’ve decided on the one we want, and she is so excited to move out of her toddler bed as soon as we can order the new twin. (We are also excited for her to hopefully stop waking us up at midnight to fix her too-small blankets). On Thursday, Georgia’s school had all the parents in for an adorable Mother’s Day pageant with songs and poems, followed by treats in each child’s classroom. They all looked soooo proud of all the gifts they had made, including a miniature cake baked and decorated by each child to share with their mum that morning. It was just lovely and I never, ever want her to grow up from this sweet age.


Are you local? Don’t forget the Boston Public Market @ Dewey Square Plaza opens for the season tomorrow, right on the Greenway across from South Station! Check out a list of vendors here. They’ll have a farmer’s market plus prepared foods for lunch and dinner every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30 to 6:30, now through November 21.

***

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Shop Small+Local for Mother’s Day

If there’s one thing I have total respect for, it’s moms who own their own business. Working as a mama brings its own challenges, but running your own shop? That has to be unbelievably hard. We already have one self-employed parent in our family, and I see first hand the pressure that goes into lining up the next client or job, hustling 24/7 to stay trained and educated on the latest in your field, networking with others, and somehow carving out time for self care. This Mother’s Day, why not support a local, woman-owned business while purchasing for gifts for your loved ones? Here’s a list of some of my New England area favorites. Happy shopping!

il_570xn-1223347965_69f6

Artisan Jewelry by Amy Vander Els of Amesbury, MA @ amyvanderels.com

unspecified-4_orig

Honey infused with spices & herbs by Ariel’s Honey of Vermont @ arielshoney.com

il_570xn-976956508_gscp

Minimalist sterling silver jewelry by Boston’s Ashley Procopio on Etsy.

triple_ale_onion_savory_spread_wozz_kitchen_creations_sofi_1024x1024

Creative gourmet spreads by “Wozz! Kitchen Creations” of Bethlehem, New Hampshire, @ wozzkitchencreations.com.

gemstonenecklace08

Wrapped, knitted & woven wire jewelry from Massachusetts-based artisan Jennifer Yogel, @ localcolorjewelry.com.

il_570xn-990446566_91xn

Adorable custom tea towels perfect for pairing with any food- or beverage-based gift, by Medfield (MA) based Lucy Two Shoesetsy.com/shop/lucytwoshoes.

17759748_1704423896240507_8182025872336803515_n

Fresh flowers, tea blends, spices and hand-blended herbs by Amy at Soluna Garden Farm of Winchester (MA), solunagardenfarm.com. They also offer CSA shares, which I got my mom one year. It can be a really amazing gift for someone trying to kick-start a wellness journey, or anyone coming out of illness or treatment for a major health setback whose body is in need of extra nourishment.

***

Are you convenient to Boston? The Public Market has your back for last-minute, thoughtful gift ideas. Starting tomorrow through Sunday (May 11-14), they have a complimentary gift-wrapping station and plenty of specials for moms, including:

  • Make breakfast in bed with Chestnut Farms, offering bacon & eggs for $15
  • Finesse Pastries is baking delicious strawberry cakes called Poemes
  • Mother’s Day gift baskets are available at Red Apple Farm
  • Get a free $10 gift card for every $50 Red’s Best gift card purchased
  • Buy one package bacon or sausage @ Stillman Quality Meats, get half priced eggs
  • Find the perfect bouquet or flower arrangement at Stow Greenhouses
  • Try Sweet Lydia’s gift boxes and Mini S’mores Bouquets

On Mother’s Day itself, The Massachusetts Wine Shop is offering a free wine tasting for mom, and all moms who stop by the Soluna Garden Farm’s newly-expanded stall will get a free flower!

The market’s KITCHEN is also offering several classes this weekend that would be perfect quality-time gifts for you and mom.

unnamed (2).jpg

Have a wonderful weekend no matter what you do. XOXO

dessert · kid-friendly · Recipes

Semi-Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes

So my 35th birthday was this past Sunday, and Mark gave me a relaxing agenda: spa mani-pedi, dinner, and general relaxation including (but not limited to) showering uninterrupted. Georgia, being three, had other plans. She did let me bathe alone for a grand total of 20 minutes, but upon realizing we weren’t having a kid-style party at our house to mark the occasion, she demanded — as only a preschooler can do — that we make a chocolate cake together, and stat. I neither enjoy chocolate cake nor had many staples handy, so we got creative and raided the pantry for whatever we could cobble together. Considering the constraints and the last minute nature of her request, the results were nothing short of amazing!

Semi Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes.png

Inspired by a recipe I’d filed away from Smitten Kitchen, these mini chocolate cakes were just the thing to satisfy Georgia’s desire to make a birthday treat with little notice and very few ingredients on hand. They are heavy on butter, chopped chocolate and a critically important dash of salt, and I simply love the personal-pan sized dessert that results. These offer the perfect mix of gooey middle and crusty top, collapsing just a bit on themselves right after coming out of the oven. You mix it all by hand in one bowl and then let the batter sit on the counter for half an hour while you relax play Magna-tiles, and when they come out of the oven after just 25 minutes, they have a crisp shell that provides exactly the right amount of resistance to your bite. Don’t resist completely! Give in to this semi-sweet indulgence.

33565731854_b32f6d2aaf_o

We enjoyed them outside in the yard as a mini-picnic, because why not?

Semi-Molten Chocolate Mini Cakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, or bittersweet chocolate rough-chopped
  • 14 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon whole wheat flour (all purpose is fine too)

DIRECTIONS

Place the chopped chocolate and chopped butter together into a large microwave-safe bowl. In 15-30 second intervals, heat then stir the two together until fully melted and blended.

Place on a cool surface and whisk in the sugar. Then whisk in the salt and each egg, adding them one at a time and mixing fully into the batter before adding the next one. Stir in the flour and mix gently until blended into a smooth batter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place on the counter to stand and thicken at room temperature for half an hour.

Heat the oven to 325°F and coat a 12-cup muffin tin with baking spray (or use cupcake papers).

Fill each cup halfway with batter, then bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow the mini cakes to cool on a rack for up to 10 minutes before unmolding from the tin. The puffed-up tops will fall a bit as they cool, and this is normal! The cakes should be very fudge-y on the inside. Don’t leave them in the cupcake tin too long like I did the first time I made this, or it’ll be very hard to get them out. If you let them cool for 5-10 minutes and immediately pop them out of the tin, they should come right out.

33565722244_780a937206_o

As noted in the original recipe, these can also be made with about 2 tablespoons less sugar if desired, to produce a more noticeably bittersweet cake. That is another great option. How else to embellish these? Some fresh whipped cream, maybe, or some raspberries. To craft a more nuanced flavor, I used a mixture of chocolate — some semi-sweet baking chips, as well as some stone-ground Taza Mexican chocolate — and it was really delicious. I like to keep some Taza discs on hand for use in various recipes. I’m not a chocolate freak by any means, but I love their slightly gritty texture and flavor selections like cinnamon, salted almond, coffee, guajillo chili and more.

34022731400_c5ea965e38_o34407565575_eb46e13807_o

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

***