Category Archives: reviews/giveaways

A prAna Giveaway! #JustBeYou

12 Cat04_03_VictoriaSt-1470As anyone who knows me knows, I love comfortable clothing, the outdoors, companies that value the environment and people, and quality products. So when Stonyfield and prAna teamed up to offer me an item from prAna’s organic cotton clothing line as part of prAna’s #JustBeYou campaign, I said, “Heck yes!”

I mostly know prAna from back when I used to climb. I have some very comfortable cotton pants that were my go-to climbing pants for years, back when I spent all my free time climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and camping (now I mostly just run . . . a lot — and that is how I #JustBeYou — or rather, just be me — these days, especially when I’m out trail running).

The company also makes outdoor, casual, and yoga clothing — for women and men. They follow sustainability practices and make really lovely, quality clothing.

6_20150302_PranaBanff-0835_1

27 Cat02_14_Anfora-05738I was allowed to select anything from their organic cotton clothing line. It was hard to decide, but I went with the Tyda Dress in black. It is incredibly comfortable and cute, and for colder fall days I can add a cardigan and boots (I’m a big fan of cardigans). Even colder days? Leggings and a hat. This is a year-round dress, for sure, and you will probably see me in it often ofter the next several months. IMG_6706.JPG

 

IMG_6720.JPGWhile my dress pairs well with a sweater and boots, it also pairs well with Stonyfield’s Oh My Yog! Gingered Pear yogurt (what’s more autumnal than gingered pear?). We all know of my abiding adoration of Stonyfield (among other things, the company supports small farms and good farming practices, and they have some darn good organic yogurt). Oh My Yog! is a three-layered of yogurt with enough fat and protein to keep this often-hungry person fueled. (I am training for an ultramarathon right now — I need easy and nutritious snacks all the time!!)

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You too can enjoy some prAna clothing. I have a discount code for you, but I’m also giving away an item (up to $99 value) from their organic cotton clothing line!

Giveaway and Discount Code
First of all, here is a discount code for 15% off at prAna.com!

Enter code: JBYF15INLC for 15% off on prAna.com between Nov 1-Dec 15.
Not valid for prAna Influencers, on Gift Certificates or with any other offers.
Valid November 1 – December 15, 2015.

And now for the giveaway. I can offer one of you any one item of clothing from prAna’s organic cotton clothing line (up to $99 value). Winner’s prize can ONLY be shipped to a U.S. address. 

Enter via Rafflecopter. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

#JustBeYou

#prAna

#Stonyfield

Disclosure: I was sent an item of prAna clothing and coupons for Stonyfield yogurt to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own. 

Homemade Ice Cream — It’s a (YayLabs!) Ball! #Review

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We like homemade ice cream as much as anyone, and we’ve owned our fair share of ice cream-making supplies: a really nice electric ice cream maker (which I sold after it fell into disuse for a few years when the kids were very young), a hand-cranked ice cream maker (fun but it took some effort and time, so I gave it to my friend for her country house), and then an electric one again (seldom used, sadly).

And then guess what I was asked to try out? Stonyfield teamed up with YayLabs! to send me a SoftShell Ice Cream Ball. It’s a soft-sided ball, like a playground ball. You put your ice cream ingredients in one end and in the other, ice and salt. You’re supposed to use rock salt, but I don’t have rock salt. I have kosher salt. That worked fine. I found that regular table salt worked fine, too.

Ball, yogurt. Pretty simple. Add ice and salt, then roll.

Ball, yogurt. Pretty simple. Add ice and salt, then roll.

You don’t need to get fancy with the ingredients. You can just add yogurt! Or yogurt and some sweetener. Or cream and a little sugar and maybe some vanilla flavoring. Or just fruit juice. You choose. Anyway, the first time we used it, I had on hand Stonyfield Organic French Vanilla Lowfat Yogurt. I normally only buy Stonyfield Whole Milk Plain, but I somehow had vanilla on hand. So we used that. I didn’t add anything to it, just put the yogurt in the ice cream side of the ball.

It has its own stand!

It has its own stand!

Then ice and kosher salt in the other side, made sure it was closed tightly (careful not to cross-thread it!), and we rolled it around.

Add ice cream ingredients here.

Add ice cream ingredients here.

Though it looks like a playground ball, you cannot drop, kick, or throw the ice cream ball, or the hard plastic inside will break. You do not want to break your ice cream ball. You want to sit on the ground and roll it around.

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We made it into a game, the boys and I, and rolled to each other. After 10 minutes, per the instruction book, I scraped down the sides (not well enough, it turns out) and we rolled it for another 20 minutes. The yogurt wasn’t quite frozen but it was good enough for us! According to the instructions, higher fat products freeze more quickly, which is probably why the lowfat yogurt wasn’t quite frozen yet.

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They were laughing the whole time except when I took pictures.

But it was good. The kids would have liked it a little sweeter, but they were OK with it as it was.

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Oh, I forgot, we added some chocolate syrup near the end. To the freezing yogurt, and to the ball, and to the floor…

Then we brought it up to Maine when we went to visit dear friends in a cabin on a lake way up there. We bought cream in town and used some sugar. I used a pint of heavy cream and maybe 1/3 of a cup of sugar. We had no vanilla flavoring or maple syrup, so sweet cream ice cream it would be!

We rolled it around, first my friend and I and her toddler, then the boys and men joined us. Eight people, ages 2.5 to 43, rolling this ball in a great game and having fun.

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I forgot to ask my friends for permission to put their kids’ photo in the blog post, so you just see my kids rolling it here.

I think that’s the best part of this ice cream ball — the time spent making a game of rolling it, laughing, passing to each other, taking turns, letting the littler kids get a chance. It’s community-building. I scraped the sides better this time, and when it was done, whoa. Beautifully frozen sweet cream ice cream.

It may not be our everyday way to make ice cream, nor the way to go if you want more than a pint (in Maine, we each got a few spoonfuls), but it’s fun, for sure, and we can take it camping with us! (Car camping, obviously, so we have a cooler for ice and yogurt or cream. I don’t backpack with that stuff.)

If you need a fun addition to your summer treat supplies or a brilliant hostess gift, try this ball. It’s fun. I just hope they come out with a full-silicon version we could use for dodgeball or kickball. Wouldn’t that be awesome — playing kickball and making ice cream at the same time?

 

 

Not Just Another Night at the Ballet: Boston Ballet’s Thrill of Contact

Hoots and whistles and standing ovations, oh my.

I wasn’t at a Sox game. I was surrounded by people in their Boston Opera House finery. All this madly delighted crowd appreciation was for the Boston Ballet’s “Thrill of Contact,” the final show of the season.

It’s spectacular.

As Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen says in a press release,

Thrill of Contact is a cool collection of dance in diverse artistic voices ranging from the iconic masterpieces of Balanchine and Robbins to exhilarating works that push our art form forward. This program is a culmination of the fascinating choreography and outstanding artistry our company has presented all season long.”

I’ve loved modern dance since college, when many of my friends were in the Drama/Dance Department and thus I frequently attended dance productions. Much of college is a blur, but those performances? I remember them all like it was yesterday.

I used to see the no-longer-extant Snappy Dance Company and other modern dance around the Boston area. While I’ve seen less and less dance in the past several years, I still yearn for it. 

So it was to my shock and delight on Saturday night that after an initial piece that was classical ballet and quite lovely (George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations), the scene changed with fremd, the world premier of this captivating piece choreographed by Jeffrey Cirio. The dances before and after were excellent, interesting, athletic, beautiful, and – in the case of the last one – downright funny.

photo credit: Boston Ballet

photo credit: Boston Ballet

But if you go to the ballet for any reason this season — and be aware that the season ends this coming weekend — go to see fremd (the word means “alien” or “strange”). If you are at all like me, with even the slightest craving for modern dance, this will scratch that itch. Yes, this is called a ballet, but it’s not at all what you might think of when you think of ballet. 

How to describe fremd? It’s fluid. Mechanical. Inventive. Innovative. There is an element of control, and an aspect that is very much not in control, or in and out of control. The main dancer controls the stage, and the others, who also control each other, parts of a machine trying to stay in sync.

It isn’t an uncomfortable piece, but there is what I can best describe as a remote sense of unease in the piece–a “dis-ease” that never feels threatening or awkward, for us or the dancers, but the parts must conform.

The German spoken-word poet whose voice rings out above the electronic beat does possibly contribute to that tiniest inner alarm bell.

photo credit: Boston Ballet

photo credit: Boston Ballet

fremd also reminded me vaguely of running, of a track workout.

In short, the feeling of happy relief I got from seeing this piece is still with me. I have a curious craving to go back and see it again, and maybe again.

photo credit: Boston Ballet

photo credit: Boston Ballet

fremd was followed by The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, called “the most difficult ballet ever performed(pnb.org), which premiered in 1996 with the Frankfurt Ballet. Four dancers were on stage, the two women in green with funky flat tutus that were like lily pads, the men in purple, the backs of whose costumes never failed to startled me. Of the two male dancers, one had powerful muscular legs, like a shot-putter (I realize I keep bringing this review back to track and field comparisons, but there are unavoidable — it was a very athletic evening of ballet).

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

The dancer with the ultra powerful legs had a stunning way of dancing on air. He didn’t exactly dance on air, but whenever his feet left of the stage, something very curious happened: Time slowed, or even came to a stop, and he was airborne, doing more footwork in the air than possible by the laws of gravity. He had demonstrated it in an earlier peace, but it was in The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude that it became even more obvious. I couldn’t figure out how he did it. Have you seen the German film Run Lola Run? You know when they speed up the film or slow it down when Lola runs? It was a bit like that, watching him dance: He was weightless.

Set to the final movement of Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, this magnificent display of classical technique celebrates physical mastery and precision…Intensely physical, the ballet is known as one of the most challenging to execute; it is an 11-minute burst of energetic and elated movement. The dancers’ powerful performance is a visible triumph as they seek exactitude as artists.

The final piece, Jerome Robbins’ The Concert (or, The Perils of Everybody) is a classic comic ballet from 1956. A commentary on human behavior, set at a piano concert, it’s very funny.

photo credit: Boston Ballet

photo credit: Boston Ballet

 Here are some behind-the-scenes videos, a trailer for “Thrill of Contact,” and another little video for you: 

Behind the scenes: Misa Kuranaga on George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations https://vimeo.com/126753178

Thrill of Contact Trailer: https://vimeo.com/127794407

Rethink Ballet: https://vimeo.com/126335931

Boston Ballet Institutional Video: https://vimeo.com/116565470

And now: The remaining shows of the season. This Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Go. Please. You’re welcome.

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015 at 7:30PM
  • Friday, May 22, 2015 at 7:30PM
  • Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 1:00PM and 7:30PM; Pre-Curtain Talk prior to 7:30PM performance
  • Sunday, May 24, 2015 at 1:00PM
  • Tickets start at $29. For more information, visit www.bostonballet.org or call 617-695-6955.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. 

Stonyfield OP Organic Protein Smoothies Fueling Me for Boston #Review

You may have heard I’m training for the Boston Marathon (seriously, I’ve gotten to the “completely annoying” phase of training, I think, and my taper only technically started yesterday!).

So there’s a whole lotta this going on:

Ran to work, took the train home.

Run 7 miles to work, take the train home.

And this:

grocery list: need magnesium

grocery list: need magnesium

And this ridiculousness:

What? I like shoes!

What? I like shoes!

 

And (best of all!) this:

 

YEAH FINALLY!!!!! (That's an official "runner's passport," which gets me my bib, shirt, bag check, and access to the Athlete's Village)

YEAH FINALLY!!!!! (That’s an official “runner’passport,” which gets me my bib, shirt, bag check, and access to the Athlete’s Village)

So when Stonyfield asked me to review their OP Organic Protein Smoothie, you can imagine that my answer was a resounding, “YES!” When I get home from a run, I often don’t feel like making myself a big pile of veggies and eggs, or even bothering to throw some stuff in the blender to make a smoothie. I want something quick, I want something tasty and high-protein, and I want to shower and move on….to stretch, play with my kids, do laundry (well, OK, let’s not bend the truth here).

Oh, hi, lovely stuff!

Oh, hi, lovely stuff!

The Stonyfield OP smoothies come in chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. I normally hate strawberry-flavored anything (including, sometimes, actual strawberries — it’s a long story for another blog post), but I like these. A lot. Anyway, I only tried the chocolate and strawberry, but I’d very happily try the vanilla, too. Thankfully, it seems to be increasingly available, meaning I can find it at the Stop & Shop down the road.

Besides being absolutely delicious, the 10-oz. strawberry OP Organic Protein Smoothies have 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of sugar (chocolate flavor has same protein, 19 grams of sugar). The sugar content led to a lively discussion on Facebook. So let’s bear in mind two things:

1) I hate a ton of added sugar.

2) I hate artifical sweeteners, including the “natural” ones like monkfruit and stevia.

3) Milk itself (and thus yogurt) has its own amount of naturally-occurring sugar, in the form of lactose. One 8-oz cup of milk has 11 grams of sugar. These smoothies not painfully sweet. And despite the fact that I cannot stand the taste of stevia, I actually didn’t notice it in these. My husband read the label and pointed it out to me. The smoothies contain some organic cane sugar (yay for real sugar!!!) and a little bit of stevia. The combination works for me. (I’d happily consume them without the stevia, too, because I think yogurt smoothies, like life, should be tangy and not so sweet.)

So I ran 17 miles and came home to gather this:

Cold Stonyfield OP smoothie, bag of ice for my ice bath, hard-working Garmin, and a mug of hot coffee.

Cold Stonyfield OP smoothie, bag of ice for my ice bath, hard-working Garmin, and a mug of hot coffee.

Ice baths suck in winter, by the way, in case that’s not totally obvious.

A week later — two days ago!! — I drove to Newton, got a ride out to Hopkinton, and ran the 21 miles back to my car with my running club, other running clubs, and a ton of charity runners. It was wet-snowing, and it was hilly, and it was fabulous. But at mile 16 or 17, I thought, “Oh, no!! I forgot to bring a smoothie with me!”

So when I got home, there was this:

Happy runner after 21+ miles, refueling.

Happy runner after 21+ miles, refueling. WHO’S EXCITED ABOUT THAT MARATHON IN 3 WEEKS???

And I also ate some pickles, and later enjoyed a beer or two while soaking in an Epsom bath (there’s that magnesium again!), and I am so ready for the big day on April 20. So incredibly ready.

Oh, and did you know Stonyfield is one of the big sponsors of the Boston Marathon? I’m not on the Stonyfield Marathon Team (that would be pretty awesome!), but I look forward to enjoying something Stonyfield after the run! (Yes, run; I’m not racing it, for a million reasons; I am running it.)

[Disclosure: I am a Stonyfield YoGetter, which means I’m an ambassador for Stonyfield. All products were provided to me free for review; all opinions are my own honest ones. All the excitement is mine, too!!]

Stonyfield Pearls: Review

 

Photo credit: Stonyfield

Photo credit: Stonyfield

Oh hey, did I forget to mention that I’m now an official Stonyfield blogger? That’s pretty great, considering I have long relied on Stonyfield yogurt for breakfast, smoothies, snacks, and general yum. While I have been known to be fond of small-batch yogurt from biodynamic farms where I used to live, Stonyfield is one of those good, trustworthy brands I can count on finding in most places I shop. 

I know they’ve gotten really big, but they still care about farms and land and food and people. (I got to talk to Stonyfield founder Gary Hirshberg the summer before last, about all kinds of things, including how Stonyfield is dealing with the great common Greek yogurt issue of What To Do With All The Whey. He’s a likeable guy, even if we didn’t quite see eye to eye about added sugar.)

Anyway, being a Yo-Getter means I get to review Stonyfield products and get to write some other stuff for them, sometimes.

Of course, soon after being accepted into the program, I arrived home to find a large box marked “Perishable” on my stoop. I carried it in, ripped it open, and found a cooler stocked with Stonyfield Pearls.

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Hey, what crazy savage ripped open the box of strawberry-chocolate, on the right? Oh, that was me.

Normal bloggers who review things would probably video the unboxing, or at least take a few photos of it all before diving in like a starved wild animal.

Photo credit: Stonyfield

Photo credit: Stonyfield

However, Stonyfield Pearls are one of my favorite treats. I got to try them last year when they first hit the market. Do you know about these things? They’re marvelous. A ball of frozen yogurt encased in a soft-chewy “edible fruit skin” (think mochi, but a very thin layer of it, made of fruit). Amazing taste and texture and form factor. Our sitter had just arrived, so I invited her to dive in with me.

Wiki Art Card 4 copy

Photo credit: Stonyfield

Did it cross my mind at all that I should photograph any of this? Um, ah, well, somehow, no. A few days later, I felt a vague memory bubble up, something about reviewing — OH!!! whoops.

So, well, at least I turned my college-age sitter onto them, and she will tell her friends…

Keepin' it real. This is what one looks like in bad lighting after you've bitten it.

Keepin’ it real. This is what one looks like in bad lighting after you’ve bitten it.

Here’s some key info from Stonyfeld about the Pearls:

(RE)-INTRODUCING NEW STONYFIELD FROZEN YOGURT PEARLS

  • Scoops of Stonyfield’s decadent organic frozen nonfat yogurt wrapped in delicious, all natural fruit coatings.
  • They are deliciously inspired by how nature packages fruits-like the skin of a grape and a giant step towards a truly sustainable package 

BENEFITS

  • Exquisitely delicious
  • Only ≈ 20 calories each
  • Portion controlled
  • With melt-free and mess free skins, they are handheld and portable, opening up new possibilities for on-the-go snacking.
  • No spoon, no cup, no limits! 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

  • The patent pending WikiPearl® technology creates a delicious protective skin from natural food particles.
  • The skin protects the yogurt from the outside, enabling it to be washed, carried and handled without being damaged.  
  • Stonyfield is proud to be collaborating with the inventors of this technology, Harvard professor Dr. David Edwards and his Cambridge-based company WikiFoods

AVAILABLE FLAVORS

  • Peach & Vanilla
  • Coconut & Chocolate
  • Strawberry & Vanilla
  • Strawberry & Chocolate

LOCATION TO PURCHASE

  • Stonyfield Frozen Yogurt Pearls now available across New England at Whole Foods Market (except Providence store) and are located in the freezer aisle at $3.99 for two.

 2 FOR $6

TIME MAGAZINE’S TOP 25 INVENTIONS OF 2014

WikiPearl and Stonyfield were recently the proud recipients of one of TIME Magazine’s Top 25 Inventions of 2014.  http://time.com/3594971/the-25-best-inventions-of-2014/item/wrappers-you-can-eat/

Photo credit: Stonyfield

Photo credit: Stonyfield

[Disclosure: I was provided with samples of Stonyfield Pearls by Stonyfield Yogurt for my review. I was not otherwise compensated. All opinions are my own.]

 

Boston Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” Review and Giveaway

It’s December, which means downtowns are getting decked out with wreaths, lights, and bows. Christmas music becomes unavoidable. Also, it’s the season for The Nutcracker.

[UPDATE: Thank you all so much for reading and entering. I loved your entries and wish I had tickets to give each and every one of you. I randomly selected a winner, Rica, and if she doesn’t respond by noon on Wednesday, I will pick another winner. Wishing you all the best holiday season and New Year!! —OH, and here’s another giveaway for Nutcracker tickets on my friend Gilda’s blog! http://evan-and-lauren-a.blogspot.com/2014/12/12714-boston-ballets-nutcracker-and.html ]

We brought the boys to see a performance of it last year, put on by their cousin’s dance school. They were enthralled.

This year, we were offered the chance to see the Boston Ballet perform The Nutcracker at the Boston Opera House. In a word: Fantastic.

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

First, though, we went to one of the many Story Hours, hosted by Boston Ballet in and around Boston. Our story hour took place at the Boston Ballet School itself.

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A young dancer told the children the story of The Nutcracker. She showed us a pancake tutu and explained how it sticks out and stays flat. She explained about pointe shoes (they’re so hard at first that dancers must beat them on the floor, pound them with a hammer, and pour hot water on them to make them malleable enough to wear!). We got to touch tiaras and pointe shoes, and then she got the children up to practice some ballet moves.

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For more information about the story hours and where/when to find them, click here.

And then, after lunch, we were off to the Opera House! We opted to walk the mile from the studio to the Opera House, which got us there in the very nick of time. We didn’t get to see the orchestra warming up. Don’t be us. Get there early.

 

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

Here are some fun facts about The Nutcracker that intrigued me before we even got to the show:

Nutcracker Facts:

–        More than 300 dancers will perform in the new production.

–        Each performance has approximately 150 dancers involved.

–        There are 250 children in the performance, making up three or four casts (classical ballet students from the Boston, Newton and North Shore studios)

Sets and Costumes:

–        All of the sets and costumes are new, by award winning designer Robert Perdziola

–        The inspiration for the costumes in the production references the early 19th century Regency style also identified with the “Jane Austen period”.

–        Over 2,000 yards of net and tulle were used for the costumes

–        Over 200,000 jewels were used in the costumes, from 3mm diameter to 18mm long

  • Sugar Plums and Dew Drops have over 3,600 jewels on their tutus and bodices
  • Approximately 1/3 of the jewels are hand sewn

–        The Christmas tree is 42 feet 6 inches tall and there are 766 fiber optic points embedded in the big Christmas tree and there are 600 ornaments.–        The set changes include a series of reveals where scenes appear to iris out of one another.

–        To make three pieces of scenery move at once, the ballet’s technical staff built rigging and tracking systems on monstrous steel cages (in the show these systems are manipulated by one stagehand pulling a rope). [HOW COOL IS THAT??]

–        All of the sets were painted by hand and domestically made.

The sets were unbelievable—so ornate, so beautiful (and moved by one person, pulling a rope—I still can’t get over that part). So were the costumes. And of course, the dancers themselves were perfect, strong and skilled. The boys watched, totally mesmerized. Remember, they are four and six years old and not into ballet. We were all surprised when intermission came and we realized so much time had passed.

 

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

After intermission is less story, more pure dancing. Even if you, like me, are not a big fan of ballet itself, there’s the Arabian dance, Mother Ginger (with all her little polichinelles [which basically means “open secrets”]), and (our favorite) the Russian dance, performed by three very acrobatic men.

 

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

My boys’ favorites were (of course!) the battle scene between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker and his soldiers, though we somehow all missed the flinging of the slipper. I also was transfixed by the lovely snow scene. The boys also greatly liked the Nutcracker Prince’s soloing in the second act, as well as the acrobatic dancers in the Russian dance.

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

Photo credit: Boston Ballet

For a quick video of some of our favorite scenes, click here: Nutcracker Highlights.

This morning my little one wore his paper Nutcracker crown into school and proudly showed all his teachers and friends.

The Boston Opera House is gorgeous.

The Boston Opera House is gorgeous.

And Now, The Giveaway! 

I’m giving away four tickets to The Nutcracker at the Boston Opera House. Tickets are valid for winner’s choice of the following performances:

  • Wed, Dec 10 @ 7:30pm
  • Tue, Dec 16 @ 7:30pm
  • Wed, Dec 17 @ 7:30pm
  • Thu, Dec 18 @ 1pm
  • Thu, Dec  18 @ 7:30pm

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me why you want to see to see The Nutcracker. Make sure I have your email address!! LIMITED TO ONE ENTRY PER PERSON.

Note: This is a quick-turnaround giveaway! Winner will be RANDOMLY selected at noon EST Tuesday, December 9, using random.org. Winner will be notified by email. If winner does not respond within 24 hours to claim prize, another winner will be selected. 

UPDATE: Thank you all so much for reading and entering. I loved your entries and wished I had tickets to give each and every one of you. I randomly selected a winner, Rica, and if she doesn’t respond by noon on Wednesday, I will pick another winner. Wishing you all the best holiday season and New Year!! 

More Information about Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker:

         About Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker: http://bit.ly/1v9TMQn

–        Runs November 28 –December 31, 2014

–        All performances are at the Boston Opera House

–        Tickets start at $29

–        Tickets can be purchased online at www.bostonballet.org or over the phone at 617.695.6955

–        There are 44 performances

–        Show times: Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 5:30pm, all matinees are at 1:00pm

[Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets and lunch. All opinions are my own.]

Menotomy Grill and Tavern: Restaurant Review

I don’t go out to lunch. If I do, it’s because I’m working at a cafe with wifi and need to grab something to eat. But recently the Menotomy Grill and Tavern in East Arlington hosted a small group of bloggers for lunch (including me, hooray!). Menotomy Grill is a cozy restaurant with a Colonial tavern feel.

Menotomy Grill fills a niche for Arlington: a restaurant where you can get a good lunch or relaxing dinner or go for drinks and watch the game (what game? I don’t know these sports-games-things–but you know, the game) on the big screen at the bar. I’ve previously been there to meet friends for drinks. It’s a place in Arlington to meet friends for drinks! I’ve been there for dinner with my husband and, another time, with my mother–and another time, with a friend–for dinner. It’s fine for dinner.

This was my first time having lunch there.

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OK, so maybe the ductwork undoes the cozy feel of this particular chandelier, but trust me, this place is cozy. #blamethephotographer

The place is called Menotomy Grill because it harkens back to when Arlington was called Menotomy [I can also tell you why the Jason Russell House is famous and what East Arlington used to be famous for (answer: lettuce); I know my Arlington history]. The American Revolution hit this town hard, and like the Warren Tavern in Charlestown (but with a more spacious feel), Menotomy Grill has some features that bring you back to colonial days: the stone fireplace, the wood tables and floors, and the iron/candle replica light fixtures. I’ll admit it: I am very partial to the light fixtures.

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The place has a lot of nice historical touches. You could spend a lot of time near the bathroom, studying the old maps of the town.

It also has a decidedly modern feel and upscale vibe.

Menotomy Grill has a decent wine list and a very good beer list, plus ciders and cocktails. I failed to take note of their current list at this lunch, as I had seltzer, but I’ve had wine and beer there at dinner and have enjoyed my selections.

Let’s talk about the food, right? That’s what we’re here for. I think among the six of us we ordered most of the appetizers. I would not have selected the Fried Dill Pickles ($7), since I don’t like fried food, and I’m a pickles purist, but they turned out to be mightily addictive, even if if you didn’t bother dipping them into the spicy remoulade they were served with (also kind of addictive). They didn’t need it. They were like the seared tuna of fried pickles: hot and tender on the outside, cooler and with more substance in the middle. The perfect meld of temperature and texture. I want to go back there right now, just thinking of those pickles.

We also tried the Chipotle Citrus Wings (served with peppercorn ranch, $11), which sounded good and looked pretty. IMG_3535.JPG

The wings had a nice kick to them but failed to deliver in other ways: they were almost soggy, and the meat wasn’t falling off the bone the way I like it to be.

We also tried the flatbread as an appetizer. Menotomy Grill usually has two flatbreads on the menu (Margherita ($10) as well as Grilled Steak and Caramelized Onion ($12). The day’s special flatbread was smoked salmon on cream cheese on an everything dough. The special sounded like a creative combo, but we decided to try the Margherita, which was fairly crispy and very tasty. The sauce was perfect.

The House Smoked St. Louis Ribs (with guava BBQ sauce and Napa cabbage/pickled jalapeno slaw, $11) was tasty. If you’re hoping for saucy ribs, these are not them, but they were perfectly cooked and nicely porky. The Napa cabbage slaw underneath the ribs was fantastic, and I could easily envision this dish as a salad tipped with some meat cut off the ribs.

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It’s hard to see the lovely salad under all the ribs.

Another blogger ordered the Wedge Salad ($9). It was everything you wanted in an wedge salad: crisp fresh iceberg lettuce, heirloom cherry tomatoes, a generous sprinkling of bacon cubes (I’d call them lardons), a confident splash of buttermilk bleu cheese dressing. Oh, and avocado. I don’t think it needs the avocado. It’s heaven on a plate, crunchy/creamy/crisp/fatty/fresh/salty/startling. I would go there just for that.

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We tried a bunch of sides (each $6). The House Baked Beans are good, the Edna’s Potato Sausage Stuffing thick and meaty and delicious. The Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Mustard are tender and tasty, though a touch more watery than I prefer (I like them simple, just roasted with garlic). We also tried the various fries: Sweet Potato, Herbed Parmesan, and regular. They’re all crispy and good.

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I’ve had the Grilled Vegetable Panini before, at dinner (lots of grilled vegetables and cheese). This day, we all tried the Menotomy Cheeseburger ($13), topped with cheddar, lettuce, red onion, and a smoked tomato jam (add a fried egg or bacon for additional charge). It was a good burger: slightly but not overly fatty, off-set by the crisped grilled bun and the startling sweet touch of the tomato jam. I’d go back there for that (and the Wedge Salad!).

The Greek Salad ($9) has a nice dressing and is big. Others ordered the Herb Roasted Chicken, the Grilled Hanger Steak, the Grilled Chicken BLT, and the day’s special sandwich (a grilled ham and cheese club with house-made chips) and reported back very positively.

We didn’t try the desserts. We had no room.

But I’ll be back, to the cozy Colonial-tavern space.

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[Disclosure: We were hosted for lunch. All opinions are my own.] 

Soup Time, Fall Cooking: Braun Thermometers and Henrietta’s Table [review]

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It’s my favorite time of year: Fall! And though I can’t exactly take my family out for hikes on leaf-strewn trails or go out apple-picking right now, I can still appreciate the beautiful bright colors in the trees and on the ground, and I look forward to cooking all the wonderful farm yields of the season once I’m fully back to cooking. I look forward to stocking up on pumpkins, squash, leeks, parsnips, celeriac, and potatoes.

I recently got to meet another huge fan of local, seasonal produce: Chef Peter Davis of Henrietta’s Kitchen, an outstanding local restaurant that supports local farms and really believes in good, local food. Braun Thermometers was in town for their mobile tour (more on that; read on) and had brought us all to the restaurant for their presentation.

The group of us got to go into the restaurant kitchen, where Chef Davis had tables laid out with fall vegetables: squash, leeks, roots, dark leafy greens. He selected a winter squash. Davis spoke of the importance of knowing where your food comes from (and say no to GMO!! <—he was emphatic about this). He has several local farms supply his restaurant.

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Isn’t it beautiful?

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While he spoke, he deftly split the squash in half, cleaned out the seeds, and put the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet and into the oven. Then he pulled out an already-baked squash, peeled it, and chopped it roughly. He put the chunks into a pot, where some diced onions where already translucent in butter.

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Another Davis imperative: Stock up now on fall vegetables such as squash, bake it, chop it, and freeze it for the coming winter.

Some stock, salt and pepper, and a little cream went into the pot, too, followed by an immersion blender. Quick and easy winter squash soup!

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And then we were lead back out of the kitchen to the dining room, where we learned about the newest Braun thermometer: the No Touch Thermometer. That’s right, no more multiple swipes of the forehead, or trying to get the ear thermometer positioned just right, or even using the super-easy Behind Ear Thermometer (also made by Braun). No, now all you have to do is point the light beam at your child’s forehead and press the button and you get a reading—-which, conveniently, causes the screen to light up in green, yellow, or red, depending on temperature.

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Braun is doing a mobile tour so you can try their new thermometers. “For every temperature taken with the new Braun No touch + forehead thermometer OR the Braun ThermoScan ear thermometer, Braun will donate the dollar equivalent to the local Children’s Hospital (so if your temp is a normal 98.6 degrees F, that’ll be rounded up to $1).” The Braun mobile tour is no longer in the Boston area; it looks like they are currently out in California. To find out when their tour will be near you, follow Braun on Twitter

Back to the thermometer, though. Think about this: You don’t have to wake up your sick child to use it. You don’t even have to touch your child’s head (except to sweep hair away from the center of the forehead).

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Keep an eye out for this vehicle; get on board to support your local children’s hospital.

So you’re wondering the connection between squash soup and Braun? Winter is coming. It’s practically here. Winter is cold and flu season. Soup helps you feel better, and thermometers help take your temperature.

This is the engineer who designed this thermometer.

This is the engineer who designed this thermometer.

Naturally, we all tried these on ourselves and each other before enjoying the most excellent lunch of (you guessed it!) winter squash soup, roasted salmon with an apple vinegar reduction, little greens, and roasted pears with pumpkin ice cream. Wow.

This is harder than it looks (taking the selfie, I mean; the thermometer is very easy to use!).

Do not attempt to take this type of selfie unless you are a trained professional [blogger]. (The thermometer itself is very easy to use!)

I wasn’t going to do this, but I have to, because lunch was so good:

Roasted salmon with apple-cider reduction, roasted root vegetables, and tiny greens.

Roasted salmon with apple-cider reduction, roasted root vegetables, and tiny greens.

Roasted pears with pumpkin sorbet.

Roasted pears with pumpkin sorbet.

Oh, and in the spirit of Peter Davis, yesterday for lunch I made soup with escarole from a nearby farm, a leek from our final CSA pickup, chicken stock, carrots (also from our CSA), and white beans I’d cooked last month and put in the freezer for future use. Excellent stuff, in all.

 [Disclosure: I was hosted by Braun and Henrietta’s Table for lunch and a cooking demonstration and received a gift bag, including a thermometer. All opinions are my own.]

Family Fun Getaway: King Richard’s Faire (review)

A few weeks ago, we did something very unusual (for us) on a Saturday: We went to another world, also known as King Richard’s Faire.

We parked in an unpromising large flat field and then entered a surprisingly shady and lovely forest glade filled with people in Renaissance-era costumes, bowing to the passing Queen and offering us guidance in Elizabethan English. A man sold pickles from a cart.

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Pickle Man

With sunlight filtering down through the trees, we gazed at all the costumes. My sons had some exciting sword and battle-ax sightings. The amount and stylings of cleavage was astounding and unexpected, to be honest. And you might get some leather-boot envy while there.

We stopped by the Kids’ Cove, a quiet space where kids can get a presentation about recycling or proper princess etiquette or else just chill out and have some quiet time. We made note of this space but, surprisingly, didn’t end up returning to it. 

We watched the tiger show from afar, then made our way to the jousting fields to watch a jousting challenge. Then it was time for lunch. Many food options are available—the obligatory turkey leg, of course, but also fish and chips, a chicken caesar wrap, pad thai…

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We ate at picnic tables near a stage, where a staged and jokey sword fight kept us entertained.

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We rode the user-operated pirate ship swing, wandered over to the Mud Pit and some bawdy humor there, then made our way back to the Tiger Stage to see the hilarious Garbanzo swallow fire. And juggle fire. And invite audience participation. He had us howling with laughter, and no matter what else you do and see at King Richard’s Faire, you must not miss his show. You’re welcome.

This guy. Don't miss his show.

This guy. Don’t miss his show.

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I’m serious. Do not miss his show. 1:30 King’s Stage, 2:45 Tiger Stage. Garbanzo: Fire Breathing, Juggling, Mayhem.

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Typical sight. And our helpful guide when we first arrived.

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I love the anachronism here.

I love the anachronism here. Note the period costume and iPhone.

 

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Stop by the Fairy Cove. It’s just magical, and the fairies are fey and lovely.

What I liked best was the setting, maybe: We were spending the day outdoors, in the trees. It felt like we’d entered another reality, and I liked that. We were all slightly out of our element in a fun way. We ended up staying about five hours, much longer than I’d expected us to stay, and we could have stayed longer.

We had a great time at the fair. There’s a lot to see and do, even if you just sit in one spot and people-watch. The fair has contests every weekend, and although you’ve already missed the Cleavage Contest and the Prince and Princess Costume Contest, you can still get to:

  • Sat., Oct. 4: Royal Ink Tattoo Contest
  • Sun., Oct. 5: Men in Kilts/Ladies in Bloomers Contest
  • Sat., Oct. 11: Children’s Fairies and Pirates Costume Contest
  • Mon., Oct. 13: Celebrate Columbus Day at King Richard’s Faire
  • Sat., Oct. 18: Adult Costume/CosPlay Costume Contest

The last day of the fair this year is Sun., Oct. 19.

Details: King Richard’s Faire is in Carver, MA. Tickets are $29 for adults, $16 for kids ages 4-11. Parking is free. The fair does alcohol: beer, wine, and (I think but am not sure) mead.

It’s really like entering another world. Try it. Just writing this makes me want to go back.

Family Fun Outing: Belkin Family Lookout Farm (review)

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We love to pick stuff. Tomatoes, beans, flowers, blueberries, apples.

Especially apples. We go apple-picking every fall, somehow to a different orchard each year, though we are slowly learning our favorites. I’m of the old-school “I lived in rural Maine, where cider donut stands appear at the edges of fields and where you go to the apple orchards just to pick apples” type, but I’ve grown fond of some of the add-ons, such as the “three little pigs” features (three pigs in a pen, with a straw house, a stick house, and a brick house) and the goats with ramps and corn dispensers.

And I’m a big fan of cider donuts, of course.

Many of the local orchards offer extras—-bouncy houses, trampolines, rides, hot dogs—because either we’re in an era of “agritainment” or else we just live near the city, and the farms compete for the city folks.

We’re there to spend the day outside and pick some local fruit, you know? And my kids love doing things like riding tractors, or climbing a big straw pyramid and having a straw fight. They’re having a big straw fight right now, in fact, on top of a big pile of straw bales at Belkin Family Lookout Farm.

I grew up on a farm, and my brothers and friends and I spent plenty of time building hay forts and having big hay fights. My children seem to be enjoying this just as much as I ever did.

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In July, the Belkin Family Lookout Farm invited my family for a pre-opening day media event. I think of apple-picking as a fall event, so it felt weird to go in July to pick peaches and the first apples (apples! Apples in summer!). We also picked early apples, which just felt really weird to me, picking apples in hot summer with Labor Day still a month away (but the apples were good).

The peaches were huge, soft, and perfectly ripe. They were juicy and sweet. I would have posted this sooner but the peaches were on their way out and I didn’t want to get you all excited about peach-picking only to find them gone.

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Have you seen James and the Giant Peach? The peaches were a little like that: so big that the kids and I broke one apart to share, juice dripping everywhere.

At Belkin Family Lookout Farm, you don’t trek around in the orchard. You ride a little train out to the orchard. You can also ride the train to the Children’s Play Area, where there are climbing structures, farm animals, a Lego house, a cute little caterpillar train to ride around on, and a picnic area. They also have face painting and live entertainment. You can’t bring your own food in, but you can buy hot dogs and gelato in summer (check the website for fall food offerings).

 

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My kids had a good time. Belkin Family Lookout Farm is definitely more on the “agritainment” side of things than the “old-fashioned simple orchard” side– there is an admission fee per person– but that’s OK. My kids absolutely love the playground, and they can climb big things there. They can run around and make new friends.

Belkin Farm is a beautiful place, and a very old working farm, and the Belkins bought the farm to conserve the land and keep it from being developed. That’s good stuff, right?

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We returned today, a beautiful fall day, and it’s just so lovely out here. The pumpkins are ripe in the fields, and the land has the calm feeling of farmland relaxing into the autumn harvest.

 

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[Disclosure: I was hosted by Belkin Family Lookout Farm for a media day. All opinions are my own.]