Boston Day Trip · kid-friendly · News · Tips and Tricks · Travel

August Day Trips from Boston!

It’s definitely late August now. Georgia has had her birthday party, my Florida squad has left town after their annual visit, and the fall calendar of meetings is already filling up at work (big, heavy sigh). I’ll share more photos of G’s party at the Stone Zoo soon, but here’s a sneak peek plus a couple snaps from some day trips that we have been taking while warm weather is still around us here in Boston. There’s nothing like summer in New England!  

We made trips to the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Gary’s Best Hot Dogs, Bedford Farms Ice Cream, the waterfront and shops in Newburyport, and a fun new restaurant called City Streets where they put cooked pasta on top of tossed salad — what?!? Sounds crazy, tastes really good.


Order like a native with the works: mustard, relish, onions and celery salt. Junk food overload not required but encouraged.img_8312Awesome waterfront dining in Newburyport at the Black Cow, where I sampled an amazing veggie burger, fries and cole slaw alongside a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio.We rolled up on the night of a gigantic classic car show, complete with propped hoods and blaring 50’s music. It was awesome!img_8234img_8236

This past weekend, we had the rare treat of Mark being off both Saturday and Sunday, so we decided to take a trip to Revere Beach, home of the famous international sand-sculpting festival, which takes place every July. We love this beach because, at 9 a.m. on a weekend morning, you can have the place to yourself, and there’s parking right on the parkway along the shore. On Sundays, the parking is free and pretty easy, especially if you arrive early! Georgia was over the moon that Mom and Dad were off work at the same time, which hasn’t happened probably since we flew to Florida as a family this past winter. She kept Mark busy building sand castles and wading with me in the low tide for hours, and we made it home in time for lunch and a nap. Sometimes I can’t believe we are lucky enough to live within 15 minutes of the subwayhiking, and the ocean.

I feel like we’ve done our best to make the most of our summer before Georgia starts preschool in early September. Where did my baby go?? In preparation for going to the “big kids school” after Labor Day, we all decided it was time to give up the pacificer, which G has used for naps and long car rides since she was less than a year old. Last Sunday morning, we set the binkies out on her window sill, and after church we came home to find that the “Binky Fairy” — whose arrival we’d been discussing together for months — had swapped her binks for a big girl preschool backpack and lunch bag, some sticker books, some fruit snacks and a couple new stuffed animals to cuddle. She even left Binky Fairy Dust! So far, it’s been over a week and she’s made barely a passing comment about wanting them, so I am ready to call it a success.

I also wanted to share that we lost a dear family member this past week — Georgia’s Great Granddad, who lived a long, full life and passed peacefully just a few weeks after turning 94. He was very special to both Mark and G, who always wanted to be held by her Great Granddad and lovingly referred to him as “my friend.” Here are a couple of my favorite photos of them together, from the year she was born and again this past winter. He will be so very missed.

I’ll be back after the services ~ hope you all have a very restful week ahead.

Blue Apron · News · Tips and Tricks

Finally! @BlueApron offers packaging return

Whenever someone asks me about the pros and cons of Blue Apron, I always tell them: it’s a cost effective, high quality, fun ingredient-delivery service to supplement your weekly meal planning, but it’s really hard to stomach all the packaging. They describe themselves as anti-waste because they only ship the exact amount of food you need for each meal, but with everything in its own box, bag or carton, it does feel as if you’re throwing away a lot of garbage as you cook. They’ve long had instructions on their website for breaking down and recycling the shipping and packing materials, but after trying all those suggested steps just once, I decided it was too labor-intensive and time-consuming for even a die-hard recycle-er. So I gave up, put the cardboard shipping box out with our paper goods on trash day, and threw away everything else. Until now!

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Enter the new Blue Apron package return system.

There are two options:you can still follow this guide to recycling the packaging at home, or you can send all the packing materials back to them at no charge for reuse and recycling on their end. This page has detailed instructions on how that second option works. We are definitely going to do this, especially since the shipping is covered by Blue Apron if you wait to send back two weeks worth of packing materials at a time. All you have to do is create a mailing label on their website.

It won’t solve the problem of how long it takes to clean all those little baggies properly for recycling, but it will take care of the worst offenders — the large freezer bag and jumbo reusable ice packs that I’ve had no choice but to thaw and discard up until now.

What do you think? Does this change your mind about Blue Apron? Read my initial thoughts on the service here, and check out a couple Blue Apron recipes here and hereAnd have a great week! 

News · Tips and Tricks

Digest It: Food News for Fall

OK, so pumpkin stuff is everywhere, the temperatures are dipping below 60, Mr. Autumn Man is popping up on the Onion, and blah blah blah. Over in my house, we are in denial. Just say no to boots and tights! And people with jackets? Don’t even get me started!! Here’s where my brain’s at:


In that vein, I’m going deeper into denial by fixating on very summery recipes, food trends and news tidbits these days. A few things I’m finding helpful in pretending winter isn’t coming:

Shape Magazine’s Annual snack awards. So helpful in evaluating junk vs. worthwhile tidbits for in-between-mealtime eating. The best part is that they are categorized according to what you’re craving, from crunchy to creamy and sweet to savory. (Is anybody else craving ice cream with pretzels after reading that?) Some of my favorites from the list are Wholly Gaucamole’s travel packs, Blue Diamond’s Sriracha Almonds, Chobani’s Salted Caramel Crunch yogurt and Whole Foods Tropical Greens popsicles. Doesn’t that say summer? Or at least vacation?

thekitchn.com

In a tropical vein, I am always looking for a good mock Orange Julius recipe. Darn it if I don’t love those things, junk that they are! It’s like I’m right back at the mall doing back-to-school shopping in 1992. Find the recipe here.

nytimes.com

And this is super summer-y, but have you ever found yourself with so much extra cucumber from your garden that you can’t possibly hope to find a new way to eat it? Enter the trend over-taking New York, the “Smashed Cucumber Salad.” I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but it’s supposed to be a game-changer.

I’ve always loved House Beautiful Magazine, and this piece really hit home. I have the smallest refrigerator of all time — smaller even than my college apartments — and am always, ALWAYS looking for tips to make better use of it. I can’t even fit a gallon of milk on the top shelf, that’s how tiny it is! This list is pretty good, in particular this binder clip tip below. Great for freezing a bunch of those warm-weather fruits that just won’t taste the same when they’re out of season come winter.

Last but not least, if you live in Massachusetts, I have two fun things for you to consider! 

The first is a Pop-Up “Urban Apple Orchard” at the Ritz Carlton in Boston, starting this weekend and continuing at the hotel every weekend up to Halloween. They will be serving caramel apples, spiced cider, mini pastries and locally-picked apples by the full and half dozen, with proceeds benefiting The Food Project. Georgia and I agree: plentiful apples, and more specifically going apple picking, is one of the only worthwhile things about the weather turning colder. Also, making apple crisp, which is on our agenda for next month for sure.

And last but not least, if you’ve ever wanted a vanity or charity plate for your car but no cause really spoke to you, or you simply never got around to it, here’s your chance to get in at the first stage of a new licence plate supporting local food! Visit mafoodplate.org to find out more about how and when you can be among the first to sign up for a “Choose Fresh and Local” license plate. I’m going to do it, but first I have to replace the regular plate that got lost in a snow dune last winter. Which I’ve been meaning to do all summer.

And the other exciting thing I have on the calendar for mid-Fall is the Halloween Trick-or-Treat event at Stone Zoo, or “Boo at the Zoo” if you like! Let’s just say animals will be looking festive and so will Georgia.

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From what I understand there will also be a haunted maze (possibly too scary for a toddler; we’ll see), crafts, ‘ghoulish’ games and, of course, a costume contest. Probably we don’t have a chance there — we are going less creative this year as Minnie Mouse, which is Georgia’s favorite! And joking aside, giving animals items like pumpkins is more than a prop, it’s an enrichment tool for their development and well-being. You can learn more about that here.

Have a great weekend everyone and let me know what you’re doing to pretend summer is still here get in the mood for Fall!

Baby · Books · News · Tips and Tricks

New & Newsworthy

The weather in the Northeast right now is AMAZING! Obviously, I’m in a good mood. It makes me want to bust out my lighter recipes, dress in flats instead of snow boots, go for a walk and switch to iced coffee until fall. Georgia and Daddy are WAY into it. (Although, to be accurate, Mark never switches from iced to hot coffee, no matter how cold it gets in winter).

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hey, they fixed a pothole!
hey, they fixed a pothole!

So what else has caught my eye, made me think, or put me in a good mood lately? Well, for starters…

StitchFix is now offering maternity & petites! If you haven’t tried their personal styling services yet, you are missing out. It’s fun to get a box of goodies in the mail, and I promise you’ll find something great that you wouldn’t have picked for yourself.

Also, how cool are these kids room ideas? I love the camping tent, and the bunk bed that has the lowest level on the floor, since our house has pitched roofs upstairs that would make a traditional bunk bed impossible. I also recently found out that Land of Nod offers free design services! Definitely something to keep in mind if we ever need to turn Georgia’s nursery into her big-kid room, or if we end up having more kids.

Speaking of more babies, Crickets Circle just started a cool registry service that auto-fills their favorite products and lets you take it from there. They only recommend three options in every category, so if you are someone who needs help sifting through the clutter of online registries, this free website is for you!

Speaking of foolproof, this Kickstarter campaign has a genius idea for getting kids excited about vegetables. Tater Tats are “temporary tattoos for farmers and foodies,” and at $5 for a four-pack, they sound like an adorable idea for getting the whole family excited about seasonal, healthy eating.

On the tech side of things, what do you think of the new MacBook? Mine is five years old, so I’m watching the new models with interest. But I wasn’t too impressed with the $1300 price tag for a machine that no longer has a magnetized charging cable, a much-loved feature of Apple laptops, and no USB port. That means no charging your phone, Kindle, FitBit, etc., and no transferring files with a jump drive. And then there’s the Apple Watch, which I was shocked to find Mark interested in. Knowing what they cost, I think I’d probably look down on someone I saw wearing one haha.

I also just read this really helpful (and scary) article about 10 dangerous mistakes even experienced parents make with car seats. Watching YouTube installation videos instead of reading the manufacturer’s instruction booklet, anyone? By the way, we just bought a backup car seat at Walmart to have the grandparents share on days when we need their help at pickup, and so far we really like it! It’s lightweight and easy to install and has high ratings from Consumer Reports & the Baby Bargains Book.

On a more random note, did you know you can turn your handwriting into a font for free?

Also random: this little device that promises to make your fruits and veggies last longer in the fridge by neutralizing Ethylene gas. I just might try it!

Speaking of trying new things, would you ever consider adding rabbit to your diet? I’ve had it plenty — when I studied in Italy, it’s common there — and I have to admit it can be delicious, but I’m not sure it would take off here. Who knows? Maybe I’m wrong!

Finally, I’m considering trying out a wholesale natural food grocery service such as Thrive. Have you ever done so? I love that they have a mom & kids section where you can find organic baby food and formula brands such as Plum and Earth’s Best, plus home and personal care products, and that you can shop by diet type (vegan, raw, gluten-free, etc.) to filter out unwanted ingredients. Their $60 annual membership sponsors one low-income family and their products sell for between 25% and 50% off retail prices.

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Thrive is currently offering free shipping on all orders over $49, plus an extra 15% off your first order with code GPHAG0YD.

What I’d really love is for munchery to finally expand to Boston. You KNOW they would do a huge business here!!

Do you sense a theme here, of me struggling to cook my own meals?! It’s so sad, but it’s just a fact of life in parenthood. We probably eat takeout a solid three meals every week since having Georgia, and the rest of the time is a rotation of the same basic meals: kielbasa with baked beans and veggies (sometimes with a vegetarian option for me), some type of pasta dish with salad, a casserole-style meal like vegetarian shepherd’s pie, and then something easy using mainly Trader Joe’s ingredients. Sometimes we also do ” breakfast for dinner” one night. I’m lucky if I get to try new recipes once a week, and it’s only if Mark is around on the weekend to entertain G while I experiment at the stove! Sometimes she sits in the kitchen and watches me, or mimics what I do with her toys, or pretends to feed the cat or put away dishes.

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Well I hope you’re all enjoying the nicer weather today, even if it’s just a brief walk on your lunch hour or before dinner. I’m going to Zumba tonight while Mark does his Cardio Tap class, and lucky little Georgia is spending the evening with her grandparents. Have a great night and rest of your week!

News

New U.S. nutrition guidelines to recommend less meat?

I don’t know if you saw this over the weekend, but a slew of articles came out about the impending update to our government nutrition guidelines, better known as the food pyramid. In addition to the unsurprising findings that we consume too much salt and added sugar, the appointed nutrition panel’s initial report tackles the amount and type of meat in our diet for the first time — saying, in short, that for health reasons and for the good of the environment, we need to cut way back on red meat in particular, which has the highest carbon footprint of all the food we produce.

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Predictably, Congress and meat processors are pissed.

Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, a Republican from Alabama who is chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budget for the Agriculture Department, issued a formal warning in December to the panel charged with updating the food guidelines.

“Politically motivated issues such as taxes on certain foods and environmental sustainability are outside their purview, ” he told the Washington Post via spokesman.

“The Committee’s foray into the murky waters of sustainability is well beyond its scope and expertise. It’s akin to having a dermatologist provide recommendations about cardiac care,” said Barry Carpenter, CEO of the North American Meat Institute, adding that the recommendations “appear to be based on personal opinions or social agendas.”

But the panel isn’t backing down.

“Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact than is the current average U.S. diet,” the report says.

Americans are eating less meat than they have in the past, but they are still eating too much, according to the panel’s experts, and all that meat consumption is having detrimental effects on the environment. A study published last year in the journal Climatic Change reported that meat eaters contributed more to global warming than do fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans.

Beef is associated with more than twice the carbon emissions of pork, nearly three times that of turkey and almost four times that of chicken, according to the Environmental Working Group.

The World Resources Institute has estimated that poultry, pork, shrimp, fish and eggs are all much better sources of those two nutrients relative to the amount of feed and land required to produce them.

The government appoints a blue ribbon panel every five years to review our eating habits, examine areas that need greater guidance to improve public health, and recommend an updated list of Dietary Guidelines, which influence school lunches, food labeling, public policy and more. The panel’s experts said they aren’t forcing a vegan diet on the American population.

“But we are saying that people need to eat less meat,” Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members, told the Washington Post. “We need to start thinking about what’s sustainable. Other countries have already started including sustainability in their recommendations. We should be doing it, too.”

News · Tips and Tricks

Prepping for Blizzard

Superbowl? What Superbowl? The only thing on the news now is #Blizzardof2015. I refuse to call it Juno! I hate this practice of giving every major storm some ridiculous human-sounding name. If it’s so memorable, I think the year will do, a la the Blizzard of ’78. 

{ rant over }

Seen from space: already pretty astounding (courtesy noaa.gov)
Seen from space: already pretty astounding (courtesy noaa.gov)

We’ve had some pretty good storms since we moved into our house four years ago. And poor Mark has done the lion’s share of the digging, because I’ve been throwing up (morning sick), breastfeeding a newborn, or entertaining a toddler whose new trick is doing the worm backwards across the floor while yelling “wow, wow, wow!” every morning. Pray for my sanity.

Georgia: she was born ready.
Georgia: she was born ready.

How we prepare for big storms

  • Fill the gas tank in the car
  • Run the laundry in case the dryer vent is blocked for a few days
  • Put the shovels, gloves, hats and boots on the porch
  • Put ice melt on the front steps and sidewalk
  • Clean out (or, in our case, repair) the gutters
  • Put away the grill (as I’m sure everyone else did in October)
  • …unless you have an electric stove, in which case keep it handy in case you need it to cook
  • Buy batteries, candles/lighters, toilet paper and cat litter (both for her highness, and to coat the ice)
  • Fill any prescription medications or even over-the-counter necessities like infant Tylenol or Aleve for sore backs after shoveling
  • Stock up on bottled water, granola bars, fresh & dried fruit, peanut butter, english muffins, crackers, jam and canned goods like baked beans and veggies that don’t need refrigeration
  • Bring the summer cooler inside or onto the porch in case you need to store perishables when the power goes out
  • Keep an extra cell phone charger in the car as backup
  • Get out the snow shoes or cross country skis for post-storm transportation!

Mark and I are both born and raised in New England, so this is old hat for us. I grew up with a circular driveway and literally nothing, even our long tandem drive in Somerville, can compare to shoveling that torture. Our biggest issue now is living on a steep hill in a city where most people park on the street, so after a big storm like this it can be impossible to get out of the driveway for a few days. But I feel so lucky to even HAVE a driveway after parking on street for 10 years.

What we eat during the storm

I pre-cook dinners that can be eaten with or without power and taste good at room temp. A favorite example of this is my meat-free shepherd’s pie. We stocked up on whole milk for Georgia, and I’ve never been so glad to have our days of formula behind us. Even if we lose power, it’ll be cold enough to store the milk on the back porch for a few days. Then, we have a snow day tradition of pancakes, coffee and scrambled eggs! Our favorite mix is from Trader Joe’s (no surprise there):

Gone are the days when a 6-pack and a bottle of wine were our top must-haves for a snow day, but I can reminisce…and maybe sneak a sip or two after bedtime. If we don’t lose power, I’ll be working remotely and firing up the DVR, which we’ve loaded already in anticipation. I need to catch up on Downtown Abbey, people!

Stay safe, everyone!
Stay safe, everyone!

Our upcoming trip to Florida is starting to look twice as appealing all of a sudden. Keep warm, respect the travel ban, don’t over-exert yourself shoveling too much at one time, help your neighbors, and if all else fails, spend the day in PJs under a blanket fort 🙂

News · Tips and Tricks

2014 in review

It’s that time again — the year in review! Curious what my most popular dishes were in 2014? I hope you are, because most of them are playoff-ready recipes that I know you’ll want to have handy this weekend. We are a Pats household (obvi) and last week’s game against the Ravens was a real nail-biter, so we are pretty pumped for Sunday’s game against the Colts. 

But back to the year in review. OrganicGlory had a huge year in 2014. We grew to more than 1,000 followers (thank you!!), published more than 70 posts, saw a big uptick in comments, and had a couple of pretty big hits on Pinterest.

social media

The biggest hit on Pinterest, hands down, was my Brown Sugar Kielbasa recipe, which has become my all-time most popular recipe on any platform, and has made 30,000 impressions on Pinterest. One day in December, it got 3,771 views on this site, which is more people than I ever thought would read the blog in my entire lifetime. But no wonder! It’s so easy and delicious, and a good go-to for potlucks, holidays and game days.

crunchy numbers

Other popular posts this year? For sure it was my Shepherd’s Pie, my silly post about the Best Smoothie Container I’ve ever owned, and my tips on Beating Morning Sickness. That always enjoys a spike in traffic this time of year when lots of people are finding out they are pregnant with late summer and early fall babies 🙂 

Other recipes that do really well every year are this Kale Salad with Lemon-Avocado Dressing, Homemade Restaurant-Style Salsa, Vegan Spinach-Artichoke Dip and Pumpkin Bread from Scratch.

The cool thing about blogging is that you get to “virtually” meet so many people from so many different places. Because people read from such a diversity of places, I’ve also gotten to learn from them about ways they adapted, tweaked or improved upon my recipe ideas.

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One person added spicy brown mustard to the Brown Sugar Kielbasa; another tossed in pineapple chunks for the last half hour, and yet another added chili powder. I’ve heard from several readers who have used my strawberry-rhubarb crumble recipe as a pie filling, or who took the topping and put it on apple crisp (genius! why didn’t I think of that). One friend took my egg-free orange creamsicle cake as a base recipe, and added chocolate sour cream frosting and sprinkles to it; another time, she used the same recipe but baked it in a Bundt pan and drizzled the frosting, which is how I serve it from now on because it looked so much better.

hi, nancy!

All of this is to say, THANK YOU for supporting me, for leaving me feedback and ideas, for helping me hit 1,000 followers when my goal for 2014 was 100, and for coming back when I have rough patches with baby sleep, work or life and disappear for a week or two. Click here to see my full year in review for OrganicGlory, and now, enjoy a few other fun links to while away the rest of this afternoon until it’s time to go home.

The Kitchn’s most-pinned recipes of 2014

Did you know yoga is as good for your heart as aerobic exercise?

Healthy breakfast ideas I wish I had on Christmas morning

My new favorite workout pants

The 20 bands you need to hear live this winter

3 surprising ways Poland is actually more eco-friendly than the U.S. (two of these I do already, but the third I’m just not sure about).

That’s all I’ve got today ~ have a great week, everyone! And if you don’t already, help me make 2015 even more awesome by sharing my posts and following me on Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter. See you soon!